Plants and architecture: The role of biology and biomimetics in materials development for buildings

R.T. Durai Prabhakaran, Morwenna Spear, Simon Curling, Peter Wootton-Beard, Philip Jones, Iain Donnison, Graham Ormondroyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (SciVal)


This paper reviews plant-inspired biomimicry for novel materials applied within architecture and building elements. Bioinspiration is considered at a materials level, and examples explored through increasing scale, towards elements and components for application at the building level in new designs and approaches. The review of plant biology mechanisms indicates that a single plant attribute can give rise to many biomimetic concepts. It is common for these to overlap, providing different routes to interrelated technological or design challenges. By focusing on six specific plant inspirations (self-cleaning, self-healing, cell wall structures, plant movements, cellular structures and branched structures) the paper highlights established and emerging approaches in bioinspired materials. Several areas are identified where additional research is needed to progress from materials and small assemblies up to building element or full structure. One is service life, and may necessitate that self-cleaning and self-healing concepts are re-visited for new inspiration applicable to new generation materials. Multi-functionality will become increasingly important. Scaling of concepts from small prototypes to full elements also poses challenges in both the materials selection for stresses incurred, and the alteration of geometry to fit the structural form while retaining the biomimetic function. A holistic approach of multiple inspirations is often required.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-211
Number of pages34
JournalIntelligent Buildings International
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2019


  • Building materials
  • biomimicry
  • multi-functionality
  • plant biology


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