Stopping floods with nature’s help
By Margo Farnsworth
What happens when an innovative designer seeks to build an industrial park to reduce flooding by using the water onsite? Designer Richard MacCowan and Biomimicry 3.8 Fellow Margo Farnsworth explore this question at the upcoming 7th Annual Biomimicry Education Summit and first Global Conference, keynoted by scientist, author, and Institute co-founder Janine Benyus.
MacCowan, a PhD candidate at Leeds Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom, began applying biomimicry – looking to and emulating nature for solutions – to a flood-prone project near Leeds, England. By combining strategies of plants and animals from different parts of the globe as a system, this “eco-industrial park” will benefit from the genius of the Elephant Foot plant, European Water Vole and Giraffe to capture, store and distribute excess volumes of stormwater.
“Nature is always optimizing – whether food gathering, regulating temperature or managing water. None of this happens without systems and yet, companies many times look only at individual organisms as they solve problems,” says Farnsworth, who also serves as advisor to MacCowan. “When using systems, one can look at a single organism, organisms in close proximity to each other or, as Richard has, unrelated systems with compatible functions.”
“Utilizing biomimicry at a systems-level can provide an interrelated series of solutions much like an ecosystem does with the potential for increased levels of resilience,” says MacCowan.
© Biomimicry 3.8
“Stormwater managers increasingly understand we can no longer treat stormwater as waste. With increasing water scarcity, millions of wasted gallons in unmanaged stormwater could be used to offset scarcity,” says Farnsworth.
The trans-Atlantic partnership formed to address shared challenges. The Construction Industry Research and Information Association notes 20 million UK customers experienced water bans and flooding costs of £3.2 trillion in the last decade.
In the US, new EPA figures estimate water storage costs between now and 2030 at over $35 billion with distribution costs surpassing $240 billion.
Fortunately, biomimicry is no longer an outlier as a solution. Biomimicry 3.8, the global leader in biomimicry innovation, has worked with Affiliate Universities such as Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, where Farnsworth teaches as well as companies such as Interface and Nike. At the conference, HOK’s Design Principal Thomas Knittel will describe how they have used biomimicry locally and globally in India, China and post-quake Haiti.
The Summit will host an international cohort of scientists, educators, innovators, and architects June 21-23, 2013 at the University of Massachusetts Boston, Campus Center. For more information, visit their site.
About Margo Farnsworth
Margo Farnsworth is a Biomimicry 3.8 Fellow and teaches Applied Natural Resources and Biomimicry Lipscomb University’s Institute of Sustainable Practices in Nashville, Tennessee.