Sustainability | Ecotrope

Biomimicry Groups Sprout Up In The Northwest

Ecotrope | Dec. 3, 2012 3:42 a.m. | Updated: Feb. 19, 2013 1:28 p.m.

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Regional networks of the national group Biomimicry 3.8 are starting up in Oregon and the Puget Sound area.

With grant funds from the Bullitt Foundation, they’re looking for ways to tackle storm water problems with solutions gleaned from nature.

“It’s basically local solutions to local problems,” said Mary Hansel, of Biomimicry Oregon. “It means looking at living creatures and plants to provide guidance and models for locally attuned, sustainable solutions.”

Both groups received $10,000 to launch their own local projects, which are taking two approaches to finding better ways to manage storm water.

The key for both groups is studying how nature manages water and applying similar design principles to the built environment.

“We’re doing local research on how local geniuses deal with excess flows,” Hansel said. “Organisms shop locally. They get food locally, build shelters locally, and they have to adapt to the conditions in which they live.”

Bioswales and green roofs are examples of biomimicry concepts.

“That’s a great starting point,” said Hansel. “We want to push it and see where else we can take it.”

Alexandra Ramsden is working on the Puget Sound Biomimicry project. Her group is delving into how nature handled storm water before the Seattle metro area was built.

“Before the city was built, very little water would run off because it was absorbed,” said Ramsden. “Now it hits the city, picks up nastiness and runs into the Sound. We’re looking at how we can learn from nature to address this problem in the city.”

The Puget Sound group is first working on how nature did the work of filtering and absorbing rainfall and storm water in Seattle. Then, Ramsden said, they hope to calculate the impact of replacing an entire road or certain parking spaces with water-absorbing green space and look for other solutions.

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