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.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
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.
Posted by Leigh Stringer (aka Greenette) at 9:46 PM