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Elena Brebenel

Published date
03 Jun 2019

Can biomimicry help design furnishings for the domestic environment that improve air quality?

College: Central Saint Martins
Supervisors: Professor Carole Collet, Professor Janet McDonnell, Dr Kate Goldsworthy 


My research practice is at the intersection of design and science and is driven by research into biomimicry. Biomimicry (bios ‘life’, mimesis ‘imitate’) refers to learning from nature, copying its models and using them to create innovative designs that improve our world (Benyus, 1998). My work focuses on indoor air pollution.

Context and background

In the domestic environment we are constantly exposed to the hidden effects of biotic (microbial) and abiotic (chemical) factors that cause poor indoor air and have a negative impact on our health. The World Health Organisation report on indoor air quality states that ‘indoor air pollution – such as from dampness, mould, chemicals and other biological agents – is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide’ (2009, p.XI). In this context the proposed research addresses the following question: can biomimicry help develop design prototypes for furnishings that generate better quality domestic air by diminishing or counteracting the harmful effects of indoor pollution?

This practice-based doctorate investigates models in nature able to efficiently deal with microbial and chemical pollution, and explores how these models can be used to address the problem of polluted indoor air. The aim is to generate knowledge specifically related to design involving biomimicry, which will be materialised through the creation of innovative biomimetic design prototypes for furnishings that will positively affect the quality of air in home environments.