From termite mounds to a mid-rise masterpiece.
By learning from and emulating nature’s genius, people worldwide are designing solutions that make great leaps towards earth-friendly products, systems and buildings. One of my favorite examples of a biomimetic building is the Eastgate Centre in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.
Temperatures in the subtropical highland climate of Harare swing from 7 to 28 degrees depending on time of year. To take a biomimetic approach, the design team took a noun and made it into a verb. Rather than asking ‘do we use an air conditioner?’ They asked, ‘how can we regulate temperature?’ And then observed the surrounding nature for solutions. With this question and observation, the concept for the building was born.
Termites have been passively cooling their homes since they took up a diet of bacteria. The variety that grows on rotting wood. Their mounds need to be kept within a very slim temperature margin to keep their food alive. Dead bacteria are neither tasty nor nutritious, so the genius termites have designed a breeze-catching mound with a series of flues and vents to keep their homes just right. The termites regulate airflow and temperature by opening and closing tunnels throughout the day.
By applying this concept to the Eastgate Centre, the building’s energy costs are reduced by 35% as compared to a comparable air-conditioned building in Harare and the capital cost for the ventilation was 90% less!