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The lead Eden Project designer believes lessons can be learned from nature in how we conduct business and construct our buildings. He points to technology that mimics natural eco-systems, like the remarkable Namibian beetle that creates its own fresh water. In presentations Michael shows how restorative design borrowing from 3.6 billion years of R&D now makes it possible for manufacturers and retailers to achieve zero waste – as Millennial consumers expect.
Described as an expert in regenerative design and biomimicry, Michael Pawlyn was one of the lead architects behind the Eden Project in Cornwall. Treating nature as a blueprint, he believes there are huge gains to be made by learning from how the natural world works. He established his firm Exploration Architecture to focus on high performance buildings and solutions for the circular economy. The company has developed a ground-breaking office project, an ultra-low energy data centre, a zero waste textiles factory and progressive solutions for green cities.
For every problem we face, from generating energy to manufacturing materials, there are examples from nature to give us inspiration. Importantly, these solutions are often more profitable than traditional approaches, as well as radically reducing the impact on the environment. In his book Flourish: Design Paradigms for Our Planetary Emergency, he and his co-writer explore what is needed to make the essential shift from ‘sustainable’ (which often involves little more than mitigating negatives) to ‘regenerative’ design (which aims for net positive impacts).
Michael’s work includes a carbon-neutral method for regenerating waste and the revolutionary Sahara Forest Project which mimics the Namibian fog-basking beetle’s ability to create its own fresh water. The scheme has the potential to reverse the process of desertification in the Sahara and other desert regions as well as generating large amounts of renewable solar energy.
As well as advances in architecture, design, engineering and materials, Michael takes a broader look at innovation and the future. Given the fundamental importance of everything from office design to manufacturing technologies to transport for any business, he also considers the changes specific industries might face.
Michael represented Grimshaw as a Founder Member of the UK Green Building Council, advises national governments and companies on future policy, and counsels the World Economic Forum on biodiverse cities. He has also founded his own architectural practice specialising in sustainable and biomimicry projects and started a global petition which commits all strands of the construction industry to take positive action in response to climate breakdown and biodiversity collapse.
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Not so much a futurist as one who’s actually helping shape the future, Michael shows what can happen when engineering and nature work in harmony to provide solutions to the seemingly impossible – like in his ground breaking Sahara Forest Project. He has a growing international reputation on the back of his TED speech, and he’s one of the few I could listen to again and again. JLA Agent Ben Arnold
JLA Speakers Breakfast