Biomimicry Chicago: Deep Roots Initiative

Biomimicry Chicago’s Deep Roots Initiative seeks to catalyze a paradigm shift in the built environment in the Chicago region. Together with a diverse network of stakeholders, we aim to establish a science-based definition of sustainability for our region alongside an interactive tool of place-based nature-inspired solutions to empower the industry to measure impact, allocate resources and innovate to create a truly sustainable and resilient future.


draw upon our deep ecological and cultural roots to (re)connect communities and their inhabitants with native ecologies and each other to create a shared vision


set audacious regional science-based goals for our built environment based on the performance of native ecosystems, and discover nature-based design principles to help bridge the gap


develop an interactive tool tailored to help stakeholders of the built environment hold a holistic perspective while exploring practical and innovative nature-inspired solutions

Next Steps

After our successful kickoff workshop, Biomimicry Chicago has developed an evolving process outline for implementing our initiative which includes the following next steps:


Key to the success of our Deep Roots Initiative is the guidance and participation by stakeholders in the Chicago region. We are currently working with several prominent leaders in the built environment to develop this initiative, and we are continually seeking additional individuals and organizations to partner, help guide, develop and participate in our initiative. If you are interested in learning more and being a part of this work, please see the "Get Involved" section below.


As our initiative gets underway, Biomimicry Chicago will organize working groups to focus on researching different aspects of the Deep Roots Initiative. Working groups will focus on one of the following categories:

  • Water
  • Carbon
  • Materials
  • Biodiversity
  • Community connections
  • Biomimicry educators

With Biomimicry Chicago's guidance, working groups will help prioritize ecosystem functions for our region, develop ecosystem function metrics, research native "champions" - native species that have unique solutions to achieve functions - as well as finding deep patterns across species, and brainstorming application ideas.

Working groups will have a chance to apply their work to a challenge in the built environment, culminating in a showcase of their work including an opportunity for the network to experience and play with their ideas.  In addition, working groups will be integral to the development of our Deep Roots Initiative toolbox for practitioners (see below).

We are looking for volunteers willing to lead and/or participate in these working groups. All expertise and skills are needed including research, graphic design, design idea generation, facilitation, etc. as well as of course knowledge of our local ecology and species of all sizes.


Because a primary goal of this initiative is to move beyond ideas and develop accessible and practical tools, Biomimicry Chicago is working with current partners to apply the Deep Roots Initiative thinking in case studies. We are using case studies to help refine and prioritize our list of ecosystem functions, develop industry baseline metrics, identify data collection needs, and apply results to our ecosystem metric framework. Please reach out to us if you have a project - either existing or in development - you would be interested in including in our initiative to further develop our ideas.


Biomimicry Chicago envisions a re-imagining of the Genius of Place report into an online interactive tool designed for use by practitioners of the built environment. As we further refine our ideas through the content generated by our working groups and application to case studies, Biomimicry Chicago will work with stakeholders to develop a biomimicry tool that enables practical use to achieve innovative solutions during the design process at the project, municipal and regional scales. We aim to also include guidance within the tool on how existing standards such as LEED, Living Building Challenge, Envision and Sustainable Sites can be used to reach our audacious goals.

And of course, we'll need help! While this step in our process is further down the road, we are looking for people with relevant skills who might be interested in helping to guide the process. If you are interested in helping us develop the tool, please reach out to us.

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