Biomimicry Chicago’s mission is to learn from nature, cross-pollinate innovative ideas, inspire locally attuned design, and accelerate the path to a more sustainable Chicago. Toward that end, we:
Facilitate a growing network of professionals and students
Design and facilitate biomimcry-based workshops
Partner with local design organizations to bring biomimicry content to the people who will use it
Speak to public and private audiences
We are deeply embedded in the local design industry and current and past collaborators include the United States Green Building Council – Illinois Chapter, the American Institute of Architect Chicago Committee on the Environment, and the Living Building Challenge Collaborative: Chicago. We also reach out to local institutions and non-profit groups to provide content and experiences for the general public, including Great Lakes Chicago Bioneers, the Oak Park Conservatory, The Lurie Garden and the Chicago Center for Green Technology.
Biomimicry Chicago is a local node of The Biomimicry Institute's Global Biomimicry Network.
Cultivating a Vision for Cities as Living Systems
Biomimicry is the practice of drawing inspiration from nature to solve the sustainable design challenges we face. Paul Woolford of HOK’s San Francisco office defines the challenge of our day very succinctly: “Like nature, we need resilient, zero-energy, zero-waste, regenerative environments that are aware, responsive and can learn to adapt to their occupants and surroundings.”
Attuning our buildings and cities to the context in which they operate is simply good design, and this often overlooked practice is especially relevant when we are challenged with adapting to regional and changing climate conditions.
By looking to natural models, we are able to leapfrog the gap between current design practice and restorative solutions, saving time and money in the long run.
Through our Deep Roots Initiative, Biomimicry Chicago aims to develop a biomimicry-based mindset and framework to assist designers, policy makers, and community stakeholders create buildings and communities that are well adapted to Chicago. We call this applied learning from the “Genius of our Place.”
 HOK’s Paul Woolford Explores Biomimicry for Wired’s Innovation Insights
Opportunities for Collaboration
We envision a variety of pathways for this project to have an impact on the design (and redesign) of buildings, communities, and regional cities. Building on the work we have done, we are engaging local sponsors and partners to provide focused challenges, information, and monetary resources. Potential avenues for collaboration include:
Catalyze case studies as proof of Concept
Partner with local institutions to investigate and showcase the local genius on a particular site
Partner with local universities and corporate sponsors to design and facilitate a series of events centered on local solutions to the global biomimicry design challenge. This year’s challenge is centered on climate change with a $100,000 prize to the prototype round winner
Partner with local design firms and trade groups to develop solutions to a particular challenge, such as energy conservation, CO2 sequestration, water treatment, and resilience to climate change
Partner with local non-profits to assist them in solving a particular challenge they are facing
Develop a comprehensive ‘genius of place’ guideline and tool
Convene round-table discussions with the design and business communities to determine which challenge is the most pressing and achievable for our region to take on
Bring together applied biologists, interpretive naturalists, and natural historians to bring a depth of knowledge about our local ecosystems and native organisms
Use biomimicry methodology to abstract nature’s strategies into language usable by non-scientists
Invite designers to brainstorm new and innovative solutions by looking at natures strategies
Partner with local research institutions to develop environmental performance metrics
Package the above information in a way that makes it accessible to designers, businesses, policy makers, and community stakeholders in a variety of media
Partner with research institutions to make Illinois’ historical land plats usable by the general public
Commission artist projects that engage the public hearts and minds
Develop teaching materials for educators to share these lessons, with the next generation
And many more!
Amy Coffman Phillips is the founder of The B-Collaborative, an education and design consultancy, serving to catalyze and facilitate exciting, nature-based projects. Amy makes presentations on biomimicry, facilitates workshops and brainstorming charrettes, and develops projects for clients looking to learn from nature to facilitate regenerative design. She co-developed a Naturally Resilient Workshop for businesses looking to integrate biological resilience strategies into their strategic planning, and is facilitating the development AskPlace Chicago. Amy is a licensed architect, LEED BD+C, MBA and Co-Founder of Biomimicry Chicago.
Rachel holds a Master of Science in Biomimicry, and is a Certified Biomimicry Professional (CBP), Envision Sustainability Professional (ENV SP) and project manager with over 13 years of experience in the environmental field focusing on sustainability, innovation and due diligence. Rachel is a systems thinker with a deep understanding of sustainability challenges from innovation and design through operations and end-of-life cycles. She develops and facilitates biomimicry-based sustainable innovation workshops and design charrettes, conducts original biomimicry research on the topic of disruptive innovation, and provides other related services including private and public speaking engagements. Rachel recently started Think Biomimicry, a blog and resource website that aims to enable people to shift from biomimicry-based ideas to implementation to game-changing disruption.