Global architecture and planning firm HOK has formed an alliance with the Biomimicry Guild, a bio-inspired innovation consultancy co-founded by life sciences writer and educator Janine Benyus. Biomimicry—the science that studies nature's best ideas and imitates its designs and processes to solve human problems—offers a wealth of possibilities for improving the built environment. HOK's goal is to integrate nature's innovations and proven strategies into the planning and design of buildings, communities, and cities around the world.

HOK and the Biomimicry Guild have worked together before. The Guild has led several educational workshops for HOK's top design leaders and others in the firm. The two organizations also collaborated on an entry for the History Channel's 2008 "City of the Future" competition in Atlanta, applying biomimicry to a vision of Atlanta's future based on its current challenges. Although the entry didn't win the competition, HOK gained a greater understanding of how nature works and evolves and how those processes may be used to address city and community planning.

"As Janine says, we dated for a while and now we're going steady to see what happens. We're in the exploratory stages," says Mary Ann Lazarus, AIA, LEED AP, HOK's sustainable design director. "Our alliance is about design inspired by how nature performs." The partners currently are looking for the right projects with the right clients and the right scope to benefit from biomimicry.

Lazarus believes biomimicry will play an important role in the future of architecture—a key reason HOK is investing itself and its resources in the new partnership with the Guild. "We recognize that we need a new approach to the economy that's not going to be wasteful and flagrant. The same is true with the way we approach use of our resources," she says. "We're committing to try it out and scale it up."