Termite-Inspired Air Conditioning
Architect Mick Pearce collaborated with engineers at Arup Associates
to build a mid-rise building in Harare, Zimbabwe that has no
air-conditioning, yet stays cool thanks to a termite-inspired
ventilation system. The Eastgate building is modeled on the
self-cooling mounds of Macrotermes michaelseni, termites that
maintain the temperature inside their nest to within one degree of 31
°C, day and night, - while the external temperature varies between 3 °C
and 42 °C. Eastgate uses only 10 percent of the energy of a
conventional building its size, saved 3.5 million in air conditioning
costs in the first five years, and has rents that are 20% lower than a
newer building next door.
The TERMES project, organized by Rupert Soar
of Loughborough University, is digitally scanning termite mounds to map
the three dimensional architecture in a level of detail never achieved
before. This computer model will help scientists understand exactly how
the tunnels and air conduits manage to exchange gases, maintain
temperature, and regulate humidities. The designs may provide a
blueprint for self-regulating human buildings.
Product Overview: Biomimetic architecture
Inspired by: Macrotermitine termite
Lead Researcher: Scott Turner
Lab/University: SUNY / Environmental Science and Forestry
Eastgate Center in Harare, Zimbabwe. Photo: Michael Pearce/Aga Khan Trust for Culture.