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Buildings designed by termites

By Phil MercerContributor for The Christian Science Monitor / August 7, 2008



Some of the world’s best sustainable designers are termites. That’s the gist of recent talk by Zimbabwean-born architect Mick Pearce. He foresees a “biological age” of future construction projects that’s now within reach.

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This next step in ecoarchitecture looks to nature for clues on how to build more energy-efficient buildings. “Like blood circulating in our veins, inside the termites nest it is air that’s moved by external temperature and pressures,” says Mr. Pearce, who now works in Melbourne, Australia. “The nest is a system like our bodies. It’s self-regulating temperature-wise, and that, in a way, is an excellent model for a building.”

Pearce points to a recent project he finished in Harare, Zimbabwe, that employs vertical ventilation tunnels to cool the building – consuming a tenth of the energy used to air-condition similarly sized buildings. He also designed Council House Two, one of Melbourne’s most energy-efficient offices, to rely on the sun, wind, and thermodynamics for heat and AC. It uses 15 percent of the energy and 30 percent of the water used by normal buildings.