B+H Biomimicry at Year Two

Reflecting on a Vision of Regenerative Futures

December 13, 2023

Written by: Jamie Miller, Director of Biomimicry

November 30th marked the two-year anniversary of B+H Biomimicry. To celebrate, we thought it’d be a good opportunity to reflect on our journey so far by sharing some highlights and painting a picture of our vision for the future.

Over the past two years, our journey has been driven by a profound motivation to redefine the relationship between the built and natural worlds. The decision to join B+H and the larger SJ Group was easy. We recognized that the influence, breadth of talent, and global reach were key ingredients to catalyzing a movement towards regenerative design and greater harmony with nature.

Nurturing Communities Through Purposeful Planning

In our inaugural years, we focused primarily on planning. This was intentional as we had already established a great relationship with B+H’s Planning & Landscape team, but also because we understood that this was where we could have the greatest impact on climate change. We know that maintaining intact ecosystems is the most cost-effective way to stabilize our climate and that together, we could create communities that harmonize with nature, learn from nature, and let nature lead.

The Living Story methodology has been instrumental in shaping our approach and aligning our designs with the unique qualities of each place. By discerning what nature wants, supports, and permits, we’re building not only structures but contributions to the ecosystems we inhabit.

Biomimicry In Action

Beyond just planning and landscape, the past two years have provided some incredible opportunities to showcase the versatility of biomimicry:

  • The India House project, which allowed us to craft a biomimicry-based design standard, setting a benchmark for sustainable architecture that could (and should) be evolved in the near future.
  • A confidential mixed-use tower, which united a multidisciplinary team across the SJ Group to apply biomimicry at multiple levels and win the project.
  • The CABN Off-Grid Community project in Augusta Township which aimed for net-zero living and through our Living Story, helped our clients expedite the approval processes of their innovative approach in a rural setting.

Bengaluru House in India harnesses biomimicry, permaculture, and ecological engineering to help the landowner push the boundaries of habitat design.

CABN Vision Plan

  • A collaborative project with Espace Tonik where we are helping design a structure in a forest as a way to shift our perception of design and place.
  • The Kaua’i Federal Credit Union project, which has us leading the predesign of an economic resilience centre and in doing so, developing extensive engagement with Traditional Indigenous Knowledge holders (i.e. those who have proven to thrive on an isolated volcano).

These projects have helped us understand the value of introducing biomimicry at a project’s inception, aiding our clients in understanding the context, shaping the vision, and establishing the principles/guidelines for regenerative design. However, notable projects, such as the vision plan in Gabon, the Metis Crossing infrastructure master plan, and the award-winning New Lowell Vision Plan, serve as exemplars for how biomimicry could be carried all the way through. They underscore the biomimicry is not merely an “add-on” but an integral mindset that can seamlessly integrate throughout B+H’s existing practices.

Global Engagement

More recently, we’ve moved away from isolated biomimicry projects to integrate biomimicry more consciously into collaborative pursuits. This includes, the recent George Brown College master plan, which is being led by Gail Shillingford, as well in multiple pursuits with our Group of Companies from around the globe.

The award-winning vision plan for New Lowell demonstrates how biomimicry can be carried through a project.

Looking To The Future

Recognizing that biomimicry thrives through interdisciplinary collaborations, the future of B+H Biomimicry is rooted in a sustained global effort. We see the immense opportunity to leverage the transdisciplinary perspective of the SJ Group and to enhance our focus on using biomimicry to build a bridge of reconciliation and collaboration with Indigenous people. Our hope is to shift towards more architectural pursuits, believing that institutional projects and competitions, and a specific focus on the upfront predesign stages is where we can have our biggest impact. We also want to continue to push our practice from the peripheries of urban centres to bring biomimicry more prominently into urban environments, where we see an opportunity to blur the (expensive) contrast between the built and natural environments.

Additionally, we aspire to bring biomimicry into interiors, pushing the practice of biophilic design to create healthier buildings and deeper connections between occupants and their surroundings. The goal is to blur the contrast between built and natural environments, fostering a seamless integration, and reconnection with nature.

A critical component of our future strategy is to demystify the practice of biomimicry within the SJ Group. We know that understanding biomimicry is a barrier to its growth. As such, we are developing educational opportunities or our talent and from this, establishing a core team, a Mastermind of sorts, to expand our outreach, thereby increasing project opportunities. Our aim is to propel SJ Group and B+H as global leaders in design thinking, leading the transition to a regenerative approach.

Our Philosophy

At the core of our pursuits is a philosophical perspective that views humans as contributors to their place rather than mere occupants. We recognize the interconnectedness of all living systems and believe that our built environment should actively contribute to the ecosystems it inhabits. Shifting away from the notion of “doing less harm,” we envision buildings that, like our breath and bodies, feed the ecosystems around them.

The hope in all of this is that biomimicry helps us recognize ourselves as not necessarily a bad species, but just a very young one. With our conscious engagement with Indigenous Leaders, biomimicry can provide us a pathway to learn not only how to survive on this planet, but to thrive.