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Patrons House of Lords Lunch 2014

Patrons inspired by biology lesson at annual House of Lords lunch

Michael PawlynThe 2014 CIBSE Patrons lunch at the House of Lords featured Michael Pawlyn as guest speaker.  Michael was one of the lead architects behind the Eden Project in Cornwall and is also a founder member of the UK Green Building Council.

In his speech, Mr Pawlyn called for biologists to be an essential part of any building design team. He explained how ‘biomimicry’ – where engineering solutions are based on natural phenomena – made the Eden Project possible and is now being adapted to commercial office buildings.

For example, the Bark Beetle is able to detect a forest fire from a distance of 80km – ten times the range of the best man-made fire detectors. He also explained how camel nostrils are highly effective evaporative cooling devices.

Passive cooling techniques based on termite mounds and solar shading inspired by the design of insect wings are already being applied in commercial building designs, Pawlyn explained. Also, there are now wind turbines able to generate energy at very low wind speeds thanks to an innovative blade design copied from whale fins.

The natural process of evolution refines solutions and Mr Pawlyn called for the industry to do the same thing with technology and ‘get rid of all our faulty products’.

‘These things have been in development for 3.8bn years and we should be looking at how this can help architects and engineers design for the next billion years.’


Mr Pawlyn said the word ‘sustainable’ was not inspiring and urged the building engineering sector to be more ambitious and aim for things that were ‘restorative’ instead.

Patrons Lunch 2014 Speakers

Using biology in the built environment ‘is not a gamble’ because the principles have been proven to work, he said. ‘We need to show some leadership and create a structure where the industry can adapt its processes for the future. These are not stabs in the dark – they are proven.’

He explained how biomimicry had made the Eden Project possible, particularly because the buildings were designed to adapt to the landscape rather than the other way round. The engineers also used a membrane for the distinctive domes of the Cornwall attraction rather than glass because it was more flexible and far lighter.

Mr Pawlyn told the Patrons meeting that his team had adapted these ideas for commercial office buildings and now insisted that each concept design team included a biologist. He also said it was important to ‘suppress the architect’s ego’ in order to create a more collaborative approach to projects.

The need for better supply chain collaboration was also stressed by Patrons chairman David Fitzpatrick earlier in the day. ‘Architects and building services engineers  must work more closely together if we are going to achieve our targets for high performing buildings,’ he said.

Lord O'NeillLord O’Neill of Clackmannan once more acted as the parliamentary host for the Patrons lunch, which was attended by over 100 Patrons and their guests, whilst longstanding Patrons supporter Lord Howie also attended.