Greener than Oz


 It was an unlikely conference room, a barren hill 150 kilometers southeast of Mumbai. But that’s where the three partners met: financiers from Bharat Forge, the world’s largest chassis components manufacturer; planners from HOK, a major international design firm; and a group of biologists from the Biomimicry Guild, a consulting group that looks to biological engineering for design solutions.


Together these three teams had planned to transform the surrounding landscape, a thirsty wasteland, into one of the world’s greenest cities, a thriving industrial metropolis of some 2 million people, designed to perform just like the ecosystem on which its being built — a city greener than Oz, so to speak.


For inspiration, the biologists examinied the rocky landscape, the scrub grass and the desiccated thorn bushes for clues on how the genius of life had come to thrive in this forbidding environment.


“The genius has left this place,” they concluded. Then everyone laughed and went on planning, recalls Dhaval Barbhaya, HOK’s lead planner.


The project, however, is no joke. Called Khed Special Economic Zone, the city is being heavily marketed as the first urban area to be designed from scratch according to the principles of biomimicry — a concept that many corporations have used for product development, and that HOK has applied to its architecture....


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