Limited Heat Gain

Al Bahr Tower 

Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE

Creator: Aedas Architects 

Status: Built

Inspiration: Adaptive flowers 

Function:  Limited heat gain


Organism strategy: In nature, many flowers open and close their petals according to the circadian clock. More specifically, plants precisely time the onset of flowering to ensure reproductive success. 

Design strategy: The principle of adaptive flowers was translated to the Al bahar towers to reduce glare and solar gain entering the building. The shading screens fold and unfold in response to the movement of the sun, reducing solar gain by up to 50%. 


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Visual by Aedas Architects

Algae Tower 

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Inspiration: Tree canopy

Creator: UOOU Studio

Status: Conceptual

Function:  Limited heat gain , Energy generation/carbon capture


Organism strategy: Trees depend on sunlight to generate energy and grow. The leaves absorb CO2, which is converted into energy sources and oxygen under the influence of sunlight

Design strategy: In the algae-tower, micro-algae are used to simulate this process. Under specific conditions, the microalgae generate biomass when exposed to sunlight. This biomass can then be converted into a biofuel, providing a renewable energy source.

In addition, the production of biomass creates a green cover on the building’s facade, providing shade and increasing thermal comfort. In times of little sunlight, the transparency allows the sunrays to naturally heat the interiors.


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Visual by Uoou Studio

Urban Algae Canopy

Location: Milan, Italy

Inspiration: Tree canopy 

Creator: ecoLogicStudio

Status: Prototype

Function:  Limited heat gain , Energy generation/carbon capture


Organism strategy: Trees depend on sunlight to generate energy and grow. The leaves absorb CO2, which is converted into energy sources and oxygen under the influence of sunlight.

Design strategy: Similar to the Algae Tower design, Urban Algae Canopy uses live algae to produce shading. The structural design creates a green canopy that functions as a living shelter. The design co-evolves with the seasons and with the environment. In addition, the algae can be harvested and processed into a dietary supplement called spirulina.


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Visual by ecoLogicStudio

Biomimetic Office Building 2

Location: Switzerland

Inspiration: Spookfish

Creator: Exploration Architecture

Status: Conceptual

Function:  Limited heat gain , Light Optimization


Organism strategy: Spookfishes have a unique optical system with four eyes that use mirror-like structures instead of lenses. These eyes enhance vision in the dimly lit sea. The two extra eyes use tiny crystals as mirrors to direct reflected light into the fish’s retina, increasing vision power.

Design strategy: The building mimics the structure of the Spookfish eyes, using mirrors that reflect incoming sunlight to darker parts of the building. This enhances natural light diffusion and reduces the need for artificial light sources.


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Visual by Exploration Architecture

The Eden Project

Location: Cornwall, UK

Creator:  Grimshaw Architects

Status: Built

Inspiration: Honeycombs & soap bubble

Function:  Limited heat gain , Light Optimization , Material Usage Optimization , Structural Efficiency


Organism strategy: Hexagons and pentagons  (among others) are mathematical shapes that find their origin in nature. This is referred to as the Fibonacci sequence and is demonstrated by many organisms, such as sunflowers, nautilus shells, and pine cones. In nature, these shapes provide several benefits, including optimal sunlight exposure, spatial distribution and structural strength.

Design strategy: The Eden project is the world’s largest greenhouse, located in Cornwall, England. The series of bubble-shaped domes, inspired by spherical pollen structures, are quite an eye-catcher in the English landscape. The dome elements are made of a light, transparent polymer, enabling sunlight to enter the space and reducing heating costs in winter. Using natural geometry such as hexagons and pentagons, the developers were able to create the spherical surface. 


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Visual by Grimshaw Architects

Institut du monde Arabe

Location: Paris, France 

Creator: Architecture Studio  

Status: Built 

Inspiration: Human eye

Function:  Limited heat gain , Light Optimization


Organism strategy: The colored part of the eye, the iris, helps regulate the amount of light entering the eye. When there is bright light, the iris contracts the pupil to let in less light. When there is little light available, the iris will dilate the pupil so more light can enter the eye, enabling better vision. 

Design strategy: The facade of the Institute du Monde consists of several hundred light-sensitive elements called mashrabiyas. The photoelectric cells and mobile parts open and close based on the amount of sunlight. This helps regulate the amount of light and heat entering the building. 


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Visual by Fabrice Cateloy

HorizonScan_Green leaf
Media-ICT Building 

Location: Barcelona, Spain

Creator:  Cloud 9

Status: Built

Inspiration: Phototropic Plants, Jellyfish

Function:  Limited heat gain , Light Optimization


Organism strategy: Phototropic plants direct their leaves to catch as much direct sun as possible. These plants move their leaves through the day to maintain the optimal angle of sun.

Jellyfish emit bioluminescence in the darkness. Emitting light can serve a variety of purposes, including putting on a visually appealing show.

Design strategy: Responding to the strength of the sun, the cushion-like elements will inflate or deflate. The cushions are made of ETFE membrane, as seen at the EDEN project, and are computer controlled. This means the membranes allow only the desired amount of light and heat into the building. During the night, the building emits light in a luminous fashion reminiscent of jellyfish.

Keywords:  Phototropic


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Visual by ​​José Miguel Hernandez

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