The book of the mimicry of the living

A ‘chatty letter’ that didn’t make it (Or the environmental credo of the biomimicron)


A few weeks back I applied to what I thought of as ‘my dream job’. I didn’t get past the paper application stage, but that’s just how things seem to go. For the application I was asked to write a ‘chatty letter’ explaining why I wanted to work for [Unnamed company] and why I thought I would be a good fit. To make it clear I have NO BAD FEELINGS towards said company, who may well be reading this. It was probably a slightly long-shot anyway.

long shot

The act of writing this chatty letter I found quite interesting, and obsessed me for a few days. I have never written so many vastly different drafts of a document in my life. I had dull academic ones, ones that were slightly too sycophantic, very arrogant ones which made me feel sick writing. In the end I took them at their word and sent them what follows. I post it here because I don’t think I have ever managed to so concisely document both my background and environmental thoughts, and felt it might give a little more context to what I write here, especially as my stats page and twitter account seems to indicate I have at least 30 readers who I have never met. So I guess thanks [unnamed company], at least I got something constructive out of the application process 🙂

To [Unnamed engineering firm, advertising for building energy/performance job]

I decided I wanted this job 8 years ago. A, then new, building development near my parent’s house frustrated me. While a local councillor ‘promised’ that when they knocked down one home, there would be only one built, in the end there were 7. With no gardens or space to speak of this struck a chord with a 17 year old that was already keen on biology and geography and had recently become aware of climate change scientifically. I reasoned that there must be a job making buildings better. At the time I just didn’t know what it was.

Taking a BSc in Environmental Geoscience I hoped would give me the required background to become an environmental consultant, though at interviews I was told I needed contextual knowledge of buildings, and they were right. I could understand the environmental context, but not the operations and processes of the functioning building. I worked locally in landscaping and for a bonsai tree nursery, learning the jobs as I went from the owners and saving until I started the Environmental Design of Buildings MSc. Once there I loved working in a developing, cross-disciplinary environment. One of my first MSc projects required me to try and quantify outdoor comfort. I found existing models lacking, and so developed an original adaptation of Fanger’s indoor PMV model using NASA solar data instead of Mean Radiant Temperature.

At the same time I was also giving free I.T. teaching and troubleshooting to friends and family, even going as far as to write a ‘computer guide’ for my family to use while I was away during my BSc. This has now developed into more than a hobby. I began to ‘tutor’ more regularly, with elderly neighbours requesting I show them how to print and email, teaching Autodesk Ecotect to a struggling MSc course mate and recently actually being employed by a North London college  teacher to bring her up to speed to teach an adult GCSE IT course. Teaching has required me to not only understand the topic, but also to understand how the other person sees it. I realised if I could do that, then finding the meeting point where I could help others understand became much easier.

In the last 6 months all of these elements; building energy modelling, environmental science, teaching, exploring new disciplines and their interaction, have come together in 2 forms. “Biomimetic lessons for building ventilation” was the title of my dissertation. In it I wrote case studies examining how organisms breathed and manipulated their environment to help. I then selected the most promising ‘templates’ and tested them in Autodesk CFD simulation. After these base models had been quantitatively corroborated against published biology literature I developed them to be more suitable for application to human construction, with some success.

I loved the opportunity to work on such a cross-disciplinary, technical project. I became so fascinated by this field I made plans that last month turned into The Biomimicron. The Biomimicron is a blog I author in my spare time, mostly focussing on the application of biomimicry in design. In it I attempt to introduce not only biomimetic products in a light hearted way, but the underlying process of developing functional biomimetic designs, to a wider audience.

In the first paragraph I emphasised ‘scientifically’ because I think there is a difference between being aware of a concept and being aware of the numbers and the processes the data is derived from. If you understand a concept, it is still abstract in a way. You are removed from it though a lack of context. If you understand how the concept was developed however, it suddenly becomes tangible. It becomes something you can quantify, work within, and, most importantly, influence.

I hope you can see from the above my motivation to pursue this career and my self-determination for its development. I am a technical person, with an understanding of building and environmental sciences, possessing the skills to combine disparate scientific disciplines and ability to communicate these ideas to a range of audiences. I look forward to hearing from you.

David [RGP]

That poor first world problems girl. She wanted to make a positive contribution. Maybeshewill.

Author: davergp

Environmental Geoscience BSc. Environmental Design of Buildings MSc. Bonsai Hobbyist, Woodland Enthusiast, Environ-mentalist.

4 thoughts on “A ‘chatty letter’ that didn’t make it (Or the environmental credo of the biomimicron)

  1. “ ‘Biomimetic lessons for building ventilation’ was the title of my dissertation. In it I wrote case studies examining how organisms breathed and manipulated their environment to help. I then selected the most promising ‘templates’ and tested them in Autodesk CFD simulation. ”

    Dave, you reminded me of my friend Victoria Bezemer, who defended her thesis a few years ago titled “How can biomimicry assist in furthering sustainability of commercial buildings in the tropics’. Victoria did a very thorough research of the Eastgate Centre case study and I bet you would really enjoy speaking with her on the subject. Let me know if you would like Vic’s contact.

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