Using Biomimicry to Support Resilient Infrastructure Design

Alysha M. Helmrich, Mikhail V. Chester, Samantha Hayes, Samuel A. Markolf, Cheryl Desha, Nancy B. Grimm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Infrastructure must be resilient to both known and unknown disturbances. In the past, resilient infrastructure design efforts have tended to focus on principles of robustness and recovery against projected failures. This framing has developed independently from resilience principles in biological and ecological systems. As such, there are open questions as to whether the approaches of natural systems that lead to adaptation and transformation are relevant to engineered systems. To improve engineered system resilience, infrastructure managers may benefit from considering and applying a set of “Life's Principles”—design principles and patterns drawn from the field of biomimicry. Nature has long withstood disturbances within and beyond previous experience. Infrastructure resilience theory and practice are assessed against Life's Principles identifying alignments, contradictions, contentions, and gaps. Resilient infrastructure theory, which emphasizes a need for flexible and agile infrastructure, aligns well with Life's Principles, addressing each principle and most sub-principles (excluding “breakdown products into benign components” and “do chemistry in water”). Meanwhile, resilient infrastructure practice only occasionally aligns with Life's Principles and contradicts five out of six principles. As resilience theory advances, Life's Principles offer support in broadening how infrastructure managers approach resilience, and by using biomimicry, infrastructure managers can be better equipped to deploy resilience for complexity and uncertainty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2020EF001653
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Life's Principles
  • biomimicry
  • infrastructure
  • resilience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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