Architects Look to Animal Kingdom

Architects in the animal world may be able to show their human counterparts a thing or two, according to an exhibition at the Museum of Finnish Architecture in Helsinki.

Modern human homes have refinements like air conditioning. So do termites. The nest of a termite species in Africa is a tower 12 feet high housing 2 million termites, but it has no ventilation. Instead, the inside of the nest is split into cells of activity at the base and an empty chamber above. As the inhabitants move, the heat they make forces the carbon dioxide they exhale to rise.

The air outside is at lower pressure, so the gas is pushed out and fresh air comes in. This cools as it enters and falls into the nest's cellars, which in turn feed the active cells with a supply of fresh air.

The exhibition contains an example of animal adaptability - a Finnish magpie's nest made entirely of shiny stainless steel. It was found near a scrap yard.

Humans have already borrowed many animal techniques: Wasps taught the Chinese to make paper, and the potter wasp molds clay pots to store food.

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