Bionics in building – construction and climate control in nature
A lecture by professor emeritus Dr. rer. nat. Werner Nachtigall, University of Saarland,
Saarbrücken on 8 November 2012 at 6.15 pm at the Oskar von Miller Forum
Mankind has always taken inspiration from nature. Bionics – the conscious observation of
nature in order to gain new insights for developing and improving technical installations and
systems – goes beyond this.
As a pioneer of bionic research in Germany, Werner Nachtigall will explain how living
organisms build and acclimate and will link these phenomena to relevant technologies in the
construction sector. It is not possible to simply copy nature; it is rather a matter of studying the
extremely varied thematic structures, methods and development strategies and how they are
reflected in the present-day physical-technical pool of knowledge (“technical biology”). Taking
classical examples it will be shown that it is possible to abstract a principle of nature and then
examine whether it can provide inspiration for contemporary building technology (“bionics”).
Bionics in building neither means “back to nature” nor does it mean biomorphic building design.
Learning from nature
Besides known examples, such as the development of solar energy from polar bear furs and
termite-inspired air conditioning, additional approaches that further advance the fundamental
concept of “learning from nature” will be discussed. Radiolaria and dragonflies, honeycombs
and bones, spiders’ webs and biocompatible tyres show that lightweight construction is an
intrinsic principle of nature.
Werner Nachtigall was for many years professor of zoology and director of the Zoological
Institute of the University of Saarland. He headed many working groups dedicated to basic
science relating to the physiology of movement. He has always emphasized the importance of
bringing together different sciences from the fields of engineering and biological research. As a
pioneer of bionic research in Germany, he initiated the field of research dedicated to “Technical
Biology and Bionics” and established a course of study as well as an association bearing the
same name. He also played a decisive role in the establishment of the bionic competence
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