Breeding Better Buildings

Rafal Kicinger and Tomasz Arciszewski in American Scientist:

Fullimage_2007927165756_846To create dramatically new kinds of structures, engineers can mine many different sources of inspiration, but the natural world offers perhaps the richest lode. Indeed, engineers have probably drawn ideas from nature for millennia: A fallen log may have inspired the first bridge; a cave entrance, the first archway. And as scientists gradually began to understand the mechanisms governing various biological processes, engineers of all stripes were able to apply this knowledge to building complex devices. (The most famous example of such “biomimicry” may be Velcro fasteners, the idea for which came from the observation of sticky burdock seeds.)

We hope to heighten civil engineers’ appreciation for biology by suggesting that they go one step further, not only imitating natural shapes and forms but simulating nature’s evolutionary and developmental processes to arrive at their designs. Below we describe some computational methods that we have developed to design the support structures for buildings by imitating the action of genes and DNA.

More here.