Systems Winner 2010
AskNature is a free, open source digital library founded on the principle that truly sustainable solutions will always be inspired by nature.
It recognises the necessity not only to learn from and mimic our biological mentors, to practice biomimicry, in building a better future, but also to raise awareness of the need to conserve the species and ecosystems we must continually learn from.
p>The unique database www.asknature.org launched in November 2008, captures 3.8 billion years of life’s most sustainable ideas and formats the biological research by function so that architects, engineers, designers and business people alike can look towards nature for design strategies to apply to their own challenges.
AskNature offers commercially viable design solutions. For example analysing the frequency-modulating acoustics of a dolphin could help to develop an early warning system for oncoming tsunamis and it educates users on the benefits of and the need to preserve biodiversity.
The database also profiles successful biomimetic products, such as Calera’s carbon-sequestering cement, which uses a process inspired by looking at how marine skeletons form by precipitating minerals from seawater at ambient temperature and pressure.
Together these commercial and environmental functions are helping to create the new economy and better future the Earth Awards is striving to nurture.
Megan Schuknecht, AskNature Site Manager said, “Through AskNature, designers and engineers can easily pursue relevant scientific knowledge by considering ‘How would nature solve this?’ and can formulate designs for the health and well being of all life.”
Initial scientific research was complied by the Biomimicry Guild and donated to The Biomimicry Institute, a non profit organisation that collaborated with a varied team of specialists to develop the AskNature website.
These experts include biologists, chemists, designers and IT experts. The website was designed by global design company IDEO.
This free global resource does not require registration to use, though user accounts can be set up by those wanting to contribute comments, images and biological strategies collected through personal research and experience. Currently there are 5,500 profiles already sharing their ideas inspired by nature.
Megan Schuknecht explained, “The team behind AskNature share with The Earth Awards an aspiration to create a truly sustainable future and inspire the next generation of designers to be both innovative and life-friendly.
“We hope our involvement in the awards will raise awareness of this free resource and the essential link between conserving and learning from nature in order to live sustainably on this planet for the long term.
“Our ambition for AskNature is to bring together and grow our collaborative network of contributors from various and exciting fields to add to the content and share ideas that will provide the building blocks to create a more sustainable world.”