Biomimicry: Biomimicry – Pinecone
An examination on how a building facade system be able to provide optimal thermal comfort throughout a day by reacting dependently towards rain.

Name: Maximilian Lim Jake Yang



The paper aims to answer to question: How can a building facade system be able to provide indoor thermal comfort by reacting dependently towards rain? It explores the application of the biological workings of the pinecone as a building façade through model making. 

Biomimicry System
Structural Characteristics of Pinecone

  • When humidity is high (damp), the fibre tissue outside the scale contracts, whereas when humidity is low (dry), the fibres of the tissue inside the scale expand, causing he scale to open and close (Song et al., 2015).

  • This allows the seeds to be dispersed over longer distances (Bae & Kim, 2020).

  • The hygroscopic nature of the pinecone scales can be categorized as a passive mechanism (in order words, it does not require energy to move).


Water Transport Pathway

  • Water droplets flow toward the center of the pinecone.

  • The sloped and curved form of the scales allows water droplets to flow towards the centre.

  • The pinecone closes quickly once enough water has been absorbed in its system before the entire structure gets damp.

  • The slope of each scales allows for efficient water collection or its centre (Song et al. 2015).



Karl Niklas (1980) studied the aerodynamical behaviour of pine cones and its ability to receive pollens. When the scales open, it also allows its seeds to disperse in long-distances whereas when the scales are closed, it prevents seeds from short-distance dispersal. 


Materiality and its Effects Towards Open/Closing Mechanism

  • Pinecone scales is composed of a ‘bilayer architecture’, where the first layer is made out of tissue that provides stiffness, whereas the second layer generates high strain (Duigou & Castro, 2016).

  • The bilayer characteristics of each scale allows it to swell once it dampens. This causes water movement and evaporation processes to occur in the tissue – which in turn – allows for the opening and closing of pinecone scales. 

Description of the Project

Malaysia being located close to the equator enables the experience of a warm and humid climate condition every day. Excessive heat and high air temperature are natural occurrences if buildings fail to achieve comfortable indoor temperature. Occupants’ behaviour and activities contribute to the effect of urban heat island at local metropolitan areas through their actions towards building energy consumption and carbon emission (Ismail et al., 2012). HVAC units increase local greenhouse gas emissions through increased energy use and leak hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are much more potent that carbon dioxide. With this said, there are countless of methods to maintain a comfortable internal environment without the lethal use of HVAC units.  The stated facts only stress the confirmation of the hugely negative impact humans create towards nature. With this, it is of immense importance that people must ‘work together’ with nature, rather than ‘work against’ nature. “Biomimicry offers an empathetic, interconnected understanding of how life works and ultimately where we fit in” (Deluca, 2009). It is a practice that mimics the natural strategies used by the organisms alive today The study of pinecones provide a potential solution to the problem. Producing a façade system based on the nature of pinecones could be an alternative solution to the use of HVAC units. This brings forth the research question: How can a building facade system be able to provide indoor thermal comfort by reacting dependently towards rain? Henceforth, the study aims to explore the application of the biological workings of the pinecone onto a building façade. To achieve this, it will be explored through the process of model making.  

Background Study
Introduction to Pinecones

A cone is an organ of coniferous trees, such as pine trees – found in almost exclusively in the Northern Hemisphere. Pine-cones open in hot and dry weather and close in moist and cold weather. This is common to all coniferous trees and helps the trees reproduce (Colin & Julian, 1997).