Archive for the ‘Biomimicry’ Category

HOK Design Wins Chicago Living Building Challenge Competition

Designers from HOK’s Chicago office recently won the 2014 School Annex Design Competition created by the Living Building Challenge Collaborative Chicago (LBCCC). The LBCCC hopes this competition will encourage the development and construction of a fully certified Living Building in Chicago.

Project Location: Eli Whitney Elementary School Project Location: Eli Whitney Elementary School

HOK team members:Lindy McAra, Justin Warner, Meredith McBride, Olia Miho, and Farid Pour were tasked with designing the ultimate, sustainable classroom building to annex the overcrowded Eli Whitney Elementary School on Chicago’s southwest side.

From Left: Lindy McAra, Justin Warner, Meredith McBride, and Olia Miho From Left: Lindy McAra, Justin Warner, …

HOK’s Paul Woolford Explores Biomimicry for Wired’s Innovation Insights

The Mint Canopy

(This post on biomimicry by Paul Woolford, AIA, IIDA, LEED AP BD+C,  director of design in HOK’s San Francisco office, first appeared in Wired’s Innovation Insights community site.)

All around us, entrepreneurial organizations focused on everything from information technology to scientific research are continuously reinventing the nature of what they do. Yet design and construction firms — those of us charged with imagining and building the environments that help the creative people in these organizations remake the world — are largely designing and building the way we have for centuries.

One could argue that the last fundamental innovation in the built environment was the mid-20th century …

Paul Woolford: How Biomimicry Inspired the Design of NOAA’s Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center in Hawaii

Thanks to Paul Woolford, AIA, IIDA, LEED AP BD+C, design director in HOK’s San Francisco office, for this post describing the design of the new National Oceanic at Atmospheric Administration campus in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Scheduled to open in December, this will be one of the country’s most environmentally innovative national historic landmarks. Paul and WSP engineer Todd See will speak on, “NOAA Pacific: Preserving the Past, Sustaining the Future” on Tuesday, July 23 from noon–1:00 pm PT, as part of the AIA’s DESIGN[realized] series.

Our National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center project is in Honolulu on Oahu’s Ford Island, where the Pearl Harbor attacks occurred.

When it opens later …

Einstein wrote

Einstein wrote that his faith in humanity is restored, whenever he sees a grown man riding a bike.

I’ve always liked that statement.  There is a certain poetry to it.

There is also a certain poetry to a bike itself.  It is a model of integrated design and thinking.  Elegance of design, simplicity, refinement.    Resopnsive and adaptable. Functional yet exhilerating.    Sustainable, recyclable, efficient and practical.  An engagement of all the senses – movement, sound, tactile sensation.  Moreover, on the opertational side, are a series of individual parts, all performing at their optimum, to ensure success.   And at the centre of it all – often overlooked by many architects and designers – is the person.   Clearly, the bike is indeed a model we may choose to look to, when …


This was a big week and it ended with a harmonious treat.  I got to go to Chicago to participate in a day-long pre-Greenbuild conference of our own making to review, learn from and evolve our latest thinking  to come out of our collaboration with the Biomimicry Guild.  To unwind, I sat down and watched Super Nanny and What Would You Do? and just when I had had enough ‘reality’…Nate (my thrisis-savior soulmate/husband) flips the channel and we were sucked into some beautiful imagery of the world with Prince Charles talking about living more sustainably, returning to organic farming, building cities to be more life-friendly.

It was all sounding …


I am so excited to share this video fresh from our latest and greatest PechaKucha Night in STL a few weeks ago.  HOK’s very own Tim Gaidis was one of the biggest highlights of the night with his 20 x 20 presentation revealing the big paradigm shift in his life as a designer.  As you might imagine from the title, this had a lot to do with our alliance with the Biomimicry Guild. 

We had 12 other wonderful presentations at PK Night, some of which you can find here.  In addition to some great photography here, we also had the wonderful surprise of a sketch artist in our midst who captured another lively presentation and posted on his blog, here.  …

Join the Rebellion!

Here at HOK we work very closely with the Biomimicry Guild – heck, I sit right next to our resident “Biologist at the Design Table”, Taryn Mead.  We’ve done many projects together, and they’re great collaborators – They’re always on board with whatever we’re planning.





It is only fitting, then, that we get on board with what they’re now planning – The Great TV Rebellion of 2010.  Sponsored by the Biomimicry Institute, they are encouraging children (young and old) to get off of the couch and into the natural world for Earth Week. So – TAKE THE PLEDGE and turn off your electronic devices and go interact with …

BIM – not your mother’s architecture.

In celebration of ‘the Fifth of November’, aka ‘BIM Day’ I thought I’d post some ideas of what BIM (Building Information Modeling/Management) might look like in the future. This could be 20 years or 30 years, or never, but we should never stop thinking ‘what if’. In fact, recently I’ve been thinking about the possibilities so much that I’m getting scared that I don’t really know nearly as much as I should.

At any rate, I’m going to post possible future-casting ideas for the way in which we could be using BIM in the future to harness the power of the ‘building in vitro’. Some of these ideas are simply and process software related, but a majority of the focus is …

Zero Emissions Building Team Using Biomimicry as a Design Filter

The Zero Emissions Building design team is using use life’s principles as one filter for potential solutions. During the July 31 charrette, HOK Sustainable Design Director Mary Ann Lazarus described sustainable design ideas from nature generated in a session that included her and Tim Gaidis from HOK and Dr. Dayna Baumeister and Tim McGee from the Biomimicry Guild.


Their suggestions for the larger design team included:

  • Consider solutions that are locally attuned and responsive — derived from the local climate and place in St. Louis.
  • Use cyclical processes and closed loops (waste = food, for example).
  • Optimize rather than maximize. Get the most benefits possible out

Onward to Zero (Emissions)!


What does it take to design a net zero emissions office building? Because few of our clients are currently considering carbon neutrality in their projects, an HOK team — with help from some wonderful friends — is designing one through a series of virtual charrettes.

In response to Architecture 2030’s challenge to the global architecture and building community, HOK has committed to designing all buildings to be 100 percent carbon neutral by 2030.

The idea for the charrette is the brainchild of HOK Chairman Bill Valentine, who wants the firm’s people to gain the knowledge and experience required to design zero emissions buildings. This vision is being turned into reality …

Regulation and Spontaneity

Two trains of thought. The city planned by the people, and the city planned for the people.

What do you think? Is one more democratic? Is one more successful and to whom? Is there a difference in the individual good and the collective good and do we view them differently? (think hard about that last one)

Maybe it’s both, I don’t know. But I have my assumptions. Maybe there’s just the ‘public’ and ‘planned’ framework that’s the most important part. Like New York City in the 1811?

One more thought. In the scheme of things, ‘What would nature do?’ Develop a framework or organize a system that builds its own framework? Instead of the ‘overlay’ for the greater good, it could …

Sharing the Secrets of Resilience

news9_04 Community Hospital Of Monterey Peninsula  
They may be tiny and seemingly irrelevant, but Tardigrades just might have a few things to teach the “more evolved creatures” reading these words. Commonly called water bears or moss piglets, these segmented animals are so fascinating because they can survive the most extreme conditions: freezing, boiling, drought, radiation, etc., etc.

In short, they’re resilient.

Confronted by the extreme conditions of a global recession, we all might benefit from studying the wisdom of these 1 mm organisms, as well as other geniuses of nature and design.

We have created a …

Biomimicry in the house

We’ve read about it. We’ve implemented it into our projects. We even have an exclusive alliance in relation to it. On Thursday morning, with Janine Benyus (co-founder of the Biomimicry Guild) in town for a lecture series at Washington University, biomimicry took over the HOK St. Louis office.
In advance of the arrival of the esteemed Benyus and her studies in the world of biology, several members of the St. Louis office created a biomimetic product gallery to entice other colleagues in the design studio to contemplate bio-inspired design. Items included PAX Fan prototypes, Stocoat Lotusan self-cleaning paint, Columbia Forest Products PureBond hardwood plywood, even a Speedo Fastskin FSII brief (the …

Inspired by Nature’s Genius

Time magazine named her a “Hero of the Environment,” TED invited her to speak at its influential conference…and HOK St. Louis welcomed Janine Benyus to our home to share her wisdom on biomimicry (the science she pioneered).

HOK is working with Janine and her Biomimicry Guild team to integrate nature’s genius into the planning and design of buildings, communities and cities worldwide. 

Keep your eyes peeled for our overzealous photographer, who peppers Janine’s comments with FLASHES and makes his official cameo appearance at about :55.

After enriching all of us with her genius, Janine visited Washington University to inspire the next generation of architects, planners and urban designers.

Gregg Lynn and Imaginary Forces – New City

In 2003 I traveled to Aspen on an adventure to attend the International Design Conference in Aspen to listen to some of the most intelligent individuals I’ve ever had the privilege of hearing. Some of the names there were Gregg Lynn, Natalie Jeremijenko, John Maeda, GRAFT, UN Studio’s Ben Van Berkel, and Imaginary Forces. There was a lot that went on that weekend, but I wanted to focus on two of those names for this post; Gregg Lynn and Imaginary Forces.

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I’ve talked some about SEED magazine in my posts and especially their collaboration with MoMA for the ‘Design and the Elastic

Biomimicry in Foie Gras?

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I’m not even going to try and lie. I hate foie gras. I don’t like the smell, the taste, the texture, or the idea. All around I just think it’s a pretty disgusting food. (I’ve even tasted it at the most coveted of restaurants in Atlanta)

Having said that, I watched this lecture anyway from Dan Barber about his experience with a farmer of Geese in Spain. I don’t want to give too graphic of a summary about how foie gras is typically produced (it involves force feeding) but this video was rather interesting in that this farmer of geese allows them to gorge themselves (instead of force-feeding) by pampering them with a huge farm …

HOK DC Green Team Sponsored Presentation – HOK & Biomimicry


Here in DC, a few of us really love Biomimicry.  In light of our partnership with the Biomimicry Guild, we wanted to share this love with our office.  Earlier this week, we did :)

My day began with a LEED team meeting for a project in DC.  It went well; this team is really on it.  Half an hour before the 12PM presentation on Biomimicry was supposed to begin, we’re sitting in the same conference room we needed for the presentation.   After everyone finished a good run

Going Green | The Loom | Discover Magazine

Going Green | The Loom | Discover Magazine

My lie about Greenbuild

I know. I promised to try and frequently blog and post pictures from Greenbuild. I failed. Not for lack of effort. More like lack of time. Maybe next year.

As I look back on this trip, the most amazing thing about this event is the people – a people inspired by change. Everyone is cordial, welcoming and friendly. Everyone’s looking for answers to the growing questions surrounding sustainable design. Many answers are provided.

With my first trip to Greenbuild in the books, I’d like to walk you through it from my perspective as an exhibitor and not an attendee.

Monday, November 17, 2008
6:20 am – Flight leaves for Boston via DC. Much coffee needed.
11:15 am – Flight lands in Boston. Tim Gaidis and …

ah, GreenBuild

I just wrapped up a long week at GreenBuild, the penultimate green building conference in the U.S., possibly the world. Yes, I am exhausted, but also invigorated.  Big props to the USGBC for a superb conference that was extremely well organized, even in the face of about 30,000 attendees. Also, for having the adorable, lovely and giant-hearted Archibishop Desmond Tutu speak at the  opening plenary. Often at conferences we get the rockstars with the bigtime resumes and egos to match. Desmond Tutu was a breath of fresh air: he described the audience as ‘the cat’s whiskers’ and echoed the buoyant feeling of the crowd, optimistic about the future of green under a new U.S. Administration (shout out to Obama). …

guild alliance

Just wanted to make sure that we put this out there for the “powers that be” since I don’t think it’s been directly linked to on this blog. 

A while back, HOK announced its partnership with the Biomimicry Guild all over the place, but it’s still worth shouting from the rooftops!

Learning to Design for Life

HOK has announced an alliance with the Biomimicry Guild that is intended to help integrate nature’s innovations into the firm’s planning and design solutions. To jumpstart the process, 21 HOK designers from all over the world recently convened at Biosphere 2 outside Tucson, Arizona, for a weekend immersion study in biomimicry. The Biomimicry Guild’s Dayna Baumeister and Taryn Mead led the session, which was designed to introduce the concept of bringing nature’s wisdom into every phase of the design process.  

One common misperception for people being introduced to biomimicry is that designers will simply use nature as inspiration to shape a product’s form. The goal for this weekend was to provide hands-on experience using life’s principles to inform …

Biomimicry Workshop at Biosphere 2

My weekend Biomimicry Workshop at the Biosphere 2 in Arizona.

This was the view from our dinner table the first night at the workshop, with a prickly pear margarita in hand, my first night in Arizona.

As a closet biologist (attribute given to me by the Biomimicry Guild), I find nature incredibly fascinating. Before commencing my studies at the UPR’s school of architecture, I studied general sciences with an emphasis in genetics, physics, and geology. So you can just imagine how crazy my first year projects were. I used formulas like v=d/t to build a “habitable space” that when moved would “gain” time and thus travel through the space/time continuum. I used the second law of …

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s a…

HOK Designers are Bioinspired by Arizona Sunset

November 2 Sunset over Biosphere

…Sunset.  More than 20 of HOK’s green-minded designers convened at Biosphere 2, just outside of Tuscon, AZ for a weekend workshop in Biomimicry. Tonight, we were all awestruck by the color and sheer majesty of the sunset over the mountains of the desert southwest.