Olson Hamilton-Smith

Design is often grounded in the requirements, environment and characteristics of an individual user. By applying the concepts of user-centred design – a framework which prioritises individual (and frequently human) perspectives in all steps of design inception, prototyping and implementation – with the theoretical insights of environmental philosophy, designers can support more sustainable and resilient systems. Instead of isolating humans as the primary user and producer, Biouninimity design tactics reimagine a world in which humans, non-human animals and other living organisms (plants, fungi and microorganisms) are given equal consideration. Biouninimity acknowledges the biological world and reflects upon how communication must exist for cohesion and unanimity to exist

Each species is itself a user, fulfilling a specific function, but with needs that must be accounted for to ensure the success of other components within the system. Segmenting and prioritising users may be necessary, but those users are never considered in isolation and the ecocentric process maps the interactions, preferences and needs between species as mutually constitutive.

The centring of ecological systems within design processes can improve quality and sustainability by:

  • Appreciating the complexity within the system and understanding, and therefore minimising, the inherent trade-offs in advancing one species at the cost of another.
  • Reducing the environmental impact of design processes by utilising resources and processes that connect all users to their natural environment.
  • Considering unconventional users, including non-human animals, as a central focus and mapping their interactions with other users to ‘design for the whole’.
  • An ethics of sustainability and reducing waste: taking only what is needed and conserving or recycling resources to sustain and protect the system as a whole

Designers pay attention to the interactions between these entities and their broader environment, understanding the ecological network within which they operate as a dynamic but generally stable system. The process “emphasizes the structure and functioning of the unit as a whole and highlights the fundamental interdependence of the components within it”.


  • What criteria is used to determine and prioritise the needs of different species within the system?
  • Does the degradation of one species justify the progress of another or even a majority?

Rubbish accumulation in Bengaluru, India and Zabbaleen Egypt created by an unprecedented and unsustainable population boom that infrastructure cannot support. This is an issue seen the world over particularly in large urban centres. These are a very physical representation of our lack of the perception of our world beyond the built environment.

Humans have an innate struggle with the concept of our own mortality, and a tendency to forget we are a part of an invaluable natural ecosystem. Our built communities are intrinsically bound to the natural, highlighted as threats related to commodities continue to arise. Biounanimity infers that communication must occur for the actors in the environment to continue to exist successfully and sustainably.

Related Links

Sustainable design

Biomimicry: “redesigning industrial systems on biological lines … enabling the constant reuse of materials in continuous closed cycles…”

Masanobu Fukuoka – The one-straw revolution

Published in 1975 and translated to English in 1978. Fukuoka blends the practical with the philosophical to radically challenge conventional farming methods. He advocates for minimal intervention with natural systems and shows how we can thrive harmoniously with the natural environment by harnessing it as a partner

Rooftop wind turbines- Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation building

In 2012 the world’s largest rooftop wind turbine garden was built on top Oklahoma’s Medical research building. 18 vertical axis wind turbines stand over 5.5meters tall and generate 4.5 kilowatts of electricity each, making a the building 0 emissions. This project blends modern technology with an appreciation for leaving a light environmental footprint, while still enabling the buildings users to function without a change to their behaviour.