Biomimicry Oregon, with generous support from the Bullitt Foundation, recently completed a pilot Genius of Place project for the lower Willamette Valley. The project was designed to practice and document a process to develop sustainable solutions to local challenges inspired by local organisms and ecosystems.
Project reports are now available!
- Project Summary : Nature’s Strategies for Managing Stormwater in the Willamette Valley: Genius of Place Project Report
- Step-by-step Report of Project and Outcomes: Genius of Place Process Report: Nature’s Strategies for Managing Stormwater in the Willamette Valley
The project team of six individuals investigated the following research questions:
• How can we reduce the volume of peak water in the city combined sewer system?
• How can we manage peak stormwater flows at building, district, and city scales?
Through a “bio-brainstorm” with local biologists and a literature review, the team identified 80 local organism and ecosystem strategies for managing stormwater. Seven strategies were selected for in-depth research in order to fully understand the mechanisms at play… just how does star moss absorb water, or how do beavers intercept and slow flows? The strategies from nature were shared in an “ideation” workshop with 44 stormwater designers, researchers, policymakers, and entrepreneurs, who enthusiastically participated in a brainstorming session drawing inspiration from the biology.
Workshop participants developed 30 novel ways to manage stormwater based on the lessons they learned from nature. Ideas to absorb rainwater ranged from “spongewood” to permeable sidewalks to “living signs”, and stormwater “trees” that could capture and re-distribute water. Green roof promenades could both intercept rainwater and provide the added benefit of helping people below to stay dry. There were ideas inspired by all of the local genius mentors that were described – beaver, downed wood, forest canopy, mistletoe, hydraulic redistribution, moss, and mycorrizhal fungal networks.
Written feedback showed that workshop participants believe the Genius of Place process is a useful approach to innovation and has real, applicable value to their work. During the workshop, one participant exclaimed, “I have an idea that I’m going to get working on as soon as I get back to my desk!”
The need has never been greater for life-friendly, innovative design. We have barely scratched the surface in consulting nature’s genius as a mentor to help. This project has refined tools needed to continue this exploration. There is still a universe to learn from nature about managing stormwater, as well as a host of other challenges to explore.
We hope to apply this approach to help solve other local challenges.
With every new challenge, we can begin by asking, “What would Nature do?” What challenges do you have?