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  • International Journal of Architecture, Engineering and Construction Vol 4, No 1, March 2015, 53-63

    Biomimicry Design and Construction Practices

    for Luxury Tourism Facilities

    Stephen Sewalk1,∗, Hazem Elzarka2, Charles Hellwig3 and Amrik Singh4

    1Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management, Daniels College of Business,

    University of Denver, Denver, CO 80208 United States 2Department of Civil & Architectural Engineering & Construction Management,

    University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45221 United States 3Real Estate and Construction Management, Charlemagne, Denver, CO 80209 United States

    4Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management, Daniels College of Business,

    University of Denver, Denver, CO 80208 United States

    Abstract: As luxury tourism grows in popularity, travelers seek unique, diverse, exotic and environmen- tally friendly destinations. Architects, engineers and constructors committed to increasing energy efficiency while raising the qualitative human experience of eco-tourism are using biomimicry to achieve their objectives. Biomimicy, the art of mimicking the best of nature to achieve designs pleasing to the eye, high-energy efficiency and minimum impact to the natural environment, allows the industry to create unique, aesthetically pleasing, sustainable travel destinations of super quality. This research paper identifies the characteristics of biomimicry and luxury tourism, how biomimicry design can significantly contribute to the development of attractive travel destinations that provide eco-luxury, comfort, and unique traveler’s experience, and presents several cases to demonstrate these concepts. The research concluded that biomimicry design and construction practices can improve both the performance and attractiveness of facilities in an environmentally friendly manner. Under- standing and implementing biomimicry adds value to owner’s facilities.

    Keywords: Biomimicry, sustainable design, luxury tourism, hotel construction, energy efficiency

    DOI: 10.7492/IJAEC.2015.006


    There are many reasons why various innovative strate- gies are undertaken by different industries, including: a motivation to stay ahead, keeping up with trends, being true to values such as quality, service to cus- tomers, and consideration of all stakeholders’ needs. As concerns for the environment have increased, there has been an increased interest in mitigate the dete- riorating natural environment in order to reduce the detrimental and catastrophic effects such deterioration may cause. Today, it is not surprising that all industries look to

    sustainability as inspiration in their efforts to reduce their impact on climate change, rising temperatures, flooding, uncontrolled pollution, and other harms af-

    fecting humans and world ecology. The same process is happening in the design, construction, and hospi- tality industries. While these industries collaborate on building tourism facilities, they can potentially im- prove both the performance and attractiveness of those facilities by utilizing biomimicry design and construc- tion practices. This paper will explore the possibilities of embracing bio-mimicry in said industries with a fo- cus on luxury tourism.


    Architectural design inspired and modeled from na- ture is gaining significantly in importance and recog- nition. This new practical approach is referred to as

    *Corresponding author. Email:


  • Sewalk et al./International Journal of Architecture, Engineering and Construction 4 (2015) 53-63

    biomimicry. With the ever-increasing population of the world, perhaps this approach is the perfect solu- tion to existing problems of the built environment com- bined with fast depleting natural resources and climate change among other human induced challenges. Biomimicry, as its name suggests, is derived from the

    word “bios”, meaning life, and “mimesis”, meaning to imitate. For the purpose of this paper, biomimicry is defined as the imitation or taking inspiration from na- ture’s forms, processes, and ecosystems to solve human problems (Klein 2009). Similar terms for biomimicry also include biomimetics, bioinspiration, bionics and biognosis. In fact, the principle of biomimicry is three- fold: to use nature as a model, to use nature as stan- dard measure, and to use nature as a mentor. This is explained in greater depth in the subsections.

    2.1 Levels of Biomimicry

    In the study conducted by Klein (Klein 2009), he pro- posed that to fully emulate nature, especially in the de- sign of the built environment, architects and designers should consider three levels/types of biomimicry. This includes the form, the ecosystem, and the processes of the natural world.

    2.1.1 Natural Form-Inspired Design

    The environmental designers first conceptualized biomimicry from nature’s forms. The building design- ers seek inspiration and ideas from the natural world then interpret and apply it in the realm of design. The objective of the natural-form-inspired design is to mim- ic or copy the appearance or feature of the natural envi- ronment in the physical design. However, this concept lacks and does not incorporate nature’s processes and ecosystem. Hence, researchers in this field proposed to refer to this as “biomorphic” instead of biomimicry. Some examples of this natural-form-inspired design in- clude the Herb Greene’s Prairie Chicken in Norman, Oklahoma that was inspired from grassland natural ap- pearance, and the Beijing National Stadium landscape that was inspired from the shape of a giant upturned bird’s nest. Other examples include the Cactus build- ing of Qatar and the vertical farm in New York City modeled in the form of a dragonfly’s giant wings.

    2.1.2 Natural-ecosystem-inspired design

    In the second level/type of biomimicry, building design- ers are inspired by and mimic the natural ecosystem. In this case, the designers incorporate in the design the principle of “ecology”. This approach not only em- ulates the appearance of natural dwelling places when designing a building but also tries to imitate and ap- ply the activities that take place in the natural world. This includes the nature’s interaction and relationship between the habitants and the environment. To draw inspiration and idea from nature, the architects and

    building designers study the organisms living in the natural environment in order to understand their rela- tionships with the environment they live in and with other inhabitants. This level of biomimicry aims to achieve a design that is self-sustaining. Examples of natural-ecosystem-inspired designs in-

    clude the Altamont Pass Wind Energy Project in San Francisco, California and the Windjammer wind tur- bine. Both projects have integrated the unique charac- teristics and wholeness of the natural ecosystem as well as the relationships among nature, people and tech- nology in their designs (Klein 2009). Other examples include the vertical farm in New York City, concep- tualized to imitate a real farmland, and whose struc- tural form is similar to the wings of a giant dragonfly (Kain 2011). The Kepos Eco Hotel in Florida and the Songjiang Hotel in China, are yet other examples of natural-ecosystem inspired designs.

    2.1.3 Natural Processes-Inspired Design

    In the third level/type of biomimicry, the designers in- corporate natural/biological processes in the design of the built environment. The design of the built environ- ment is conceptualized to be similar to the processes that take place in the natural world. Examples natural-processes-inspired designs include

    the Pearce Eastgate Project inspired from termite mounds that have the ability to produce natural heat- ing and cooling and the William McDonough’s Green Tower inspired from the natural functions of a tree.

    2.2 Principles of Biomimicry

    Biomimicry significantly changes the current views on built environment designs. It makes physical built en- vironment closer to nature through using nature it- self as a design. The application of biomimicry in the design of buildings significantly benefits the architects and sustainable designers. By integrating the princi- ples emulated and inherited from the natural world, they can create a physical built environment that is self-sustaining. The design can incorporate sustain- able systems for energy use, water consumptions and recycling of resources. Biomimicry includes three prin- ciples: to use nature as a model, to use nature as stan- dard measure, and to use nature as a mentor.

    2.2.1 Use of Nature as a Model

    The biomimicry principle of using nature as a model means that building designers emulate nature’s pro- cesses, systems, materials, aesthetics, structures and element to solve design problems more efficient and sustainable. The architects and building designers take ideas through studying and investigating the levels of nature such as the form, ecosystem and the processes, discussed earlier in the paper. After such investigation, the architects, abstract the design concepts they learn


  • Sewalk et al./International Journal of Architecture, Engineering and Construction 4 (2015) 53-63

    from the natural world and then apply those concept- s in the realm of building designs. The purpose is to create replicas of their natural models and most impor- tantly to create self-sustaining buildings (Reed 2004). Some examples of using nature as a model include

    the Beijing National Stadium and the Eastgate Center in Zimbabwe. The Beijing National