Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Biomimicry: Natural Air Conditioning

We've written a lot abut biomimicry in the past - how nature is the best teacher for solving really complex problems while minimizing impacts to the environment. Here's one of my favorite examples.

Most think of termites as destroying buildings, not helping design them. But the Eastgate Building, an office complex in Harare, Zimbabwe, has an air conditioning system modeled on the self-cooling mounds of macrotermes michaelseni. Termites in Zimbabwe build gigantic mounds inside of which they farm a fungus that is their primary food source. The fungus must be kept at exactly 87 degrees F, while the temperatures outside range from 35 degrees F at night to 104 degrees F during the day. The termites achieve this remarkable feat by constantly opening and closing a series of heating and cooling vents throughout the mound over the course of the day. With a system of carefully adjusted convection currents, air is sucked in at the lower part of the mound, down into enclosures with muddy walls, and up through a channel to the peak of the termite mound. The industrious termites constantly dig new vents and plug up old ones in order to regulate the temperature.

Architect Mick Pearce collaborated with engineers at Arup Associates to design the Eastgate Centre, which uses 90 percent less energy for ventilation than conventional buildings its size, and has already saved the building owners over $3.5 million dollars in air conditioning costs. The Eastgate Centre, largely made of concrete, has a ventilation system which operates in a similar way. Outside air that is drawn in is either warmed or cooled by the building mass depending on which is hotter, the building concrete or the air. It is then vented into the building’s floors and offices before exiting via chimneys at the top.


YJay Draiman said...

ERV Energy Recovery Ventilation Systems Reduce Long Term Costs and Improve Indoor Air Quality

Is the indoor air your breathe is as fresh and healthy as it can be?

As building science professionals have known for some time, an effective ventilation strategy is an absolute requirement for all homes. Mechanical ventilators exchange air inside the home with fresh air from the outside. This helps to reduce indoor pollution levels, and greatly increases the comfort level inside the home.
Many ventilation designs are including Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs) to improve the system efficiency. Besides providing controlled ventilation, ERVs are able to filter, humidify, dehumidify, heat, or cool the incoming fresh air. The most popular design of ERVs utilizes a desiccant wheel to remove both heat and a significant amount of moisture from the incoming air, which reduces the load on the air-conditioning system. But while ventilators and ERVs can add tremendously to the comfort and efficiency of a home, they must be installed correctly.

One of the more recent developments in the ‘green’ technology industry is the creation of environmentally-friendly buildings that use energy-efficient technologies to reduce power consumption.

Energy consultants point out that creating ‘green’ buildings and improving the air quality inside such facilities utilizing ERV can and do go hand-in-hand. ERV Systems that reduce demand for energy while improving ventilation are increasingly in demand.

ERV – Energy Recovery Ventilation systems saves energy, increases indoor air quality, reduces contaminates and odors.

The use of ERV technology “energy recovery ventilation systems,” or ERVs. Such systems are designed to reduce energy consumption and improve indoor air quality (IAQ) by capturing and recycling building energy to humidify, pre-cool or dehumidify incoming air.

Compiled by: YJ Draiman, Energy analyst – Northridge, CA

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Unknown said...

Why don't we use geothermal cooling more in our home designs?
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Ferrugiamechanical ac repair in Magnolia is a licensed and insured air conditioner & heating company in Mangolia that offer instant heating and air-conditioning solutions.

Anna Schafer said...

As I mentioned, in the off grid modern prefab home, I open windows at night, and close up the house in the morning.furnace service and repairs

Kent Clark said...

To me, the best way to have natural air conditioning is to just open a window. That can make a bigger difference than a lot of people give it credit for. It is a very efficient way to beat the heat. Granted, the design of the home also has an impact. But, opening a window can make a big difference. http://amarilloac.com/services-ac-services.html

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