In the capital of Zimbabwe, a building called Eastgate Centre holds nearly 350,000 square-feet of office space and shops. It uses 90 percent less energy than a similar sized building next door.
Whats Eastgate Centres secret? Termites.
In the 1990s, Mick Pearce, the buildings architect, took his inspiration from mounds built by fungus-farming termites he saw on a nature show. The insects created their own air conditioning systems that circulated hot and cool air between the mound and the outside.
As architects and builders seek new and improved ways to cool buildings without using more energy in a warming world, a study of another type of termite mound suggests that Mr. Pearce wont be the last human to take design tips from these cockroach cousins.
We think humans are the best designers, but this is not really true, said Kamaljit Singh, an engineer at Imperial College London and an author on the study, published Friday in the journal Science Advances. We can learn from small animals.
[Like the Science Times page on Facebook. | Sign up for the Science Times newsletter.]
Dr. Singh and his colleagues used high-resolution scanning technology and computer and physical simulations to examine the microscopic structure of the external walls of African termite nests. In slabs that look solid to the naked eye, the team found a network of tiny, interconnected pores. Through principles of basic physics, these pores regulate ventilation, humidity and possibly temperature, within the mound and nest. These natural structures may offer inspiration for engineers and builders, emphasizing how comfort can be achieved through structure alone.
There are around 2,600 species of termites, and only about two dozen infest and destroy buildings. Many more are highly social builders aiming to protect their queens and ensure the survival of their colonies.
Carbon dioxide must exit so they dont suffocate in their underground nests, and oxygen must enter. The mounds termites build above nests are the lungs that make this breathing possible.
But there are different types of mounds. Termites that farm fungus build structures with chimneys and openings that work like windows. The structures of non-farming termites, like the ones the researchers collected in Senegal and Guinea, have no apparent openings. To the naked eye, everything looks blocked, said Dr. Singh.
But the pores are there, because the mounds are made from stacking pellets of sand mixed with spit and soil. Small spaces form inside these pellets and larger spaces, between them. Previous work with CT scans showed the small pores in the outer walls of these nests.
But with micro-CT scanners, the team saw deeper inside, with greater resolution and revealed the connections between smaller pores and biggers ones. That this microstructure was practically the same regardless of whether it was built of sand in dry Senegal or clay in wet Guinea suggested structure, not material, might be the key to ventilation.
When the team mimicked strong winds in simulations, structures without the larger pores couldnt breathe as well and accumulated more carbon dioxide. The researchers also drenched mound walls in water to mimic heavy rain. The big-pore-small-pore structure dried out faster.
Scott Turner, a physiologist who was not involved in the study said Dr. Singhs research revealed how these pores help manage gas flow and drainage.
If you look at the physics of gas exchange in the lung, its very much the same way as the termite mound is organized, said Dr. Turner.
Stirring from wind, much like a muscle contraction, allows gases to mix and reach important places like a termite nest or human blood. If you think about what the mound is, he said, its literally an organ in physiology thats constructed out of dirt by a bunch of little termites.
The team also thinks the pores may help regulate temperature. But Dr. Turner says in other nests soil does this; more research is needed.
Its also unclear how the termites work together to build these structures. They could coordinate actions through synergy, a kind of indirect communication system where the termites respond to chemical traces left behind by others, said Guy Theraulaz, a French biologist who also worked on the study. Its believed that a pheromone, or chemical signal in the spit on the pellets tells the blind termites when to build.
They dont have to really think, he said. They follow rules that result from evolutionary forces and function kind of like an artificial intelligence program.
Thinking or not, I personally wish that more people could be like termites and be comfortable with natural ventilation, said Maki San Miguel Paulson, an architect who consults on building envelopes the outer layers that keep air sealed inside buildings. Termites, she said, dont want an airtight environment. They want the air to flow through their building.
Builders typically focus on mechanical ventilation fans, heating and cooling that uses fuel and is easier to control. Eco-friendly buildings are typically smaller scale, because human comfort is difficult to achieve in systems dependent on varying climates. Wouldnt it be nice if people could do a building that does both? she said.
Dr. Singh and his colleagues hope future studies of nests from other termite species will reveal general design principles that can be scaled up for humans. And as Eastgate Centre shows, buildings inspired by termites dont have to look like termites built them.
There is a danger to see beautiful forms and shapes in nature and simply copy them, said Mr. Pearce. Were not copying forms. Were copying the process that made the form.
Continue reading here:
What Termites Can Teach Us About Cooling Our Buildings ...
- HAPPY HANDYMAN: Simple projects that are money savers - Houston Chronicle - November 23rd, 2020
- From Gombe to the Union's Hawking Fellowship: A look at Jane Goodall's remarkable career - Varsity Online - November 3rd, 2020
- Palace invasion: When the gods go on protest - Guardian - October 30th, 2020
- Sixt generates positive earnings in the third quarter; in view of the currently drastically worsening effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, no forecast... - October 22nd, 2020
- A New York Times op-ed tried to elevate Black women, but it failed to address Louis Farrakhan's bigotry - JTA News - Jewish Telegraphic Agency - October 22nd, 2020
- Here's a list of September inflation rates for Canadian provinces - Yahoo Canada Finance - October 22nd, 2020
- Letters to the editor, Oct. 14, 2020 | Letters To Editor - The Daily Courier - October 16th, 2020
- 2021 Audi E-Tron GT to get RS hero and jet sounds - CarAdvice - October 13th, 2020
- A Day in the Life of the Grand Strands Snake Chasers - grandstrandmag.com - October 8th, 2020
- Teche Sketches: 'Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things' - The Daily Iberian - October 6th, 2020
- Rajnath Singhs China performance shows why Modi and Amit Shah need him - ThePrint - September 26th, 2020
- The saga of Decriminalization of Electoral Politics in India and the way forward - 244th Law Commission Report - India Legal - September 21st, 2020
- Handloom Day announcements look like a mix of the good and the bad, but are mostly foggy - The Indian Express - August 22nd, 2020
- The CarAdvice team name their favourite car they've ever driven ... and more - CarAdvice - August 22nd, 2020
- Termite Control Products and Services Market Competition Landscape by Key Players, Growth Strategy, Business Opportunities, Trends and Forecast Study... - August 20th, 2020
- Termite Monitoring Service Market Projected to Witness Vigorous Expansion by 2020-2026 | , DoMyOwn, Specialist Termite Control - Bulletin Line - August 17th, 2020
- A Spokesperson Died After A TV Debate. Will We Do Nothing? - NDTV - August 14th, 2020
- Column: Avoiding self-care can be just as damaging to loved ones - Alton Telegraph - August 6th, 2020
- The Bible doesn't allow divorce on grounds of mutual love that has died - Brunswick News - August 6th, 2020
- Restrictions on religious shops, mrityubhoj and expensive weddings - Avenue Mail - July 6th, 2020
- Letters to the Editor | Local Editorials and Opinion | tucson.com - Arizona Daily Star - July 5th, 2020
- From Hormonal Balance To Preventing UTI, The Many Ways Khus Roots Can Benefit You - NDTV Doctor - June 24th, 2020
- Repairing Termite Damage: Can Termite Damage Be Fixed? - June 21st, 2020
- Conservative Jews: Do you care about Israel? Then vote Trump out - Forward - June 21st, 2020
- Millions of Indians suffered because of administrative failures on a criminal scale - The Indian Express - June 15th, 2020
- Donald Trump is having a bad week. He must find an Amit Shah of his own - ThePrint - June 4th, 2020
- Nokia 5.1 Plus now receiving Android 10 in the latest update - News Lagoon - May 29th, 2020
- Termite Control Market Recent Trends and Developments, Challenges and Opportunities, key drivers and Restraints over the Forecast Period 2020-2026|... - May 23rd, 2020
- Termite infestations in your home: How to find, treat and ... - May 16th, 2020
- When termites swarm, don't hide; track them down ... - April 30th, 2020
- Seth Green bio: age, height, net worth, wife, movies and TV shows - Latest News in Nigeria & Breaking Naija News 24/7 | LEGIT.NG - April 30th, 2020
- Baiting Vs Liquid for Termites, Which one is better ... - April 27th, 2020
- The Rich Are Fleeing the Plagued City, Again - TheStranger.com - April 18th, 2020
- The worst holiday destinations, according to Telegraph readers - Telegraph.co.uk - April 18th, 2020
- News, Finance and Lifestyle - Yahoo Singapore News - April 12th, 2020
- Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis Drug Market is Expected to Thrive at Impressive CAGR by 2026 & Top Key Players are Roche, Boehringer Ingelheim,... - April 9th, 2020
- Letter: Editorial cartoon was not a collectable one - The Westerly Sun - April 9th, 2020
- 15 ways to practice social distance in Jersey and still have fun - New Jersey 101.5 FM Radio - March 20th, 2020
- Get 2nd opinion on termite inspection - SFGate - March 19th, 2020
- Stevens: Is there room for extremists on social media? - Oregon Daily Emerald - March 12th, 2020
- Anacapa View residents forced to pay for years of neglect - Tri County Sentry - March 10th, 2020
- Leaky boot among host of car troubles - SowetanLIVE - March 3rd, 2020
- Bangladesh is doing well - The Navhind Times - February 23rd, 2020
- Wikipedia Is the Last Best Place on the Internet - WIRED - February 22nd, 2020
- Commentary: 'Parasite' became an Oscars success story overnight because of years of Asian American support - The San Diego Union-Tribune - February 15th, 2020
- Your letters to the editor: Shame on Evers for ditching Pence - Madison.com - February 1st, 2020
- Letters: The democratic freedom to decide Britains policies is the fundamental point of Brexit - Telegraph.co.uk - January 31st, 2020
- Modi-Shahs Delhi dislike found its new target just in time for election Shaheen Bagh - ThePrint - January 29th, 2020
- The thin line of healing - The Hindu - January 27th, 2020
- Why there is a need for Home Improvement? - RecentlyHeard.com - January 24th, 2020
- On the job in Illinois - The Baxter Bulletin - January 20th, 2020
- The case for ... making low-tech 'dumb' cities instead of 'smart' ones - The Guardian - January 15th, 2020
- Modi-Shahs BJP govt has failed Indias youth and is now stuck fighting them - ThePrint - January 13th, 2020
- The Modi-Shah BJP government has failed and is now fighting India's youth - Daily Gaming Worlld - January 12th, 2020
- 7 Mistakes To Avoid While Renovating Your Living Room - RecentlyHeard.com - January 4th, 2020
- Rollins, Inc. - ROL - Stock Price Today - Zacks - January 2nd, 2020
- What went right in the past decade around the world - The Times - January 2nd, 2020
- Burt Prelutsky: Beware the Unelected! - Patriot Post - December 16th, 2019
- A threat to the idea of South Asia - Dhaka Tribune - December 16th, 2019
- So that nobody can be somebody - Telegraph India - December 15th, 2019
- Mistrust and confusion - The Hindu - December 15th, 2019
- Defend against Chronic Wasting Disease this fall | Sports - Richmond Register - December 1st, 2019
- How the BHU students were demonised and the ones who refused to be secularised unfairly called bigots - OpIndia - November 20th, 2019
- Wood Destroying Insect Inspection Reports | Arizona ... - October 30th, 2019
- Cheap DIY Termite Treatment, save - forums.whirlpool.net.au - October 7th, 2019
- Primitive Technology: Termite clay kiln & pottery - YouTube - October 5th, 2019
- Gorongosa National Park - Wikipedia - October 4th, 2019
- Housewraps, Felt Paper and Weather Penetration Barriers ... - October 4th, 2019
- Second Opinion Termite & Pest Control - Yelp - September 13th, 2019
- Pacific Termite - 46 Photos & 78 Reviews - Pest Control ... - May 17th, 2019
- Opinions On Termite Stakes For DIY Pest Control - Pest ... - May 4th, 2019
- Nix Termite - 63 Photos & 214 Reviews - Pest Control ... - April 25th, 2019
- Termite Biz - 21 Photos & 132 Reviews - Pest Control ... - April 12th, 2019
- Termite Ceiling Damage Signs and Symptoms | Terminix - March 16th, 2019
- Go Pest Bendigo - Termite inspections & treatments - March 12th, 2019
- Top 6 Best Termite Treatments | Updated for 2019 - March 9th, 2019
- Borax, Fleas and Misconceptions | Thrasher Termite & Pest ... - February 12th, 2019
- Termite Control South Africa - pestcontrolpros.co.za - February 2nd, 2019
- Termite Dream Meaning and Interpretations | Dream Stop - January 26th, 2019
- Termite Chemical Information - Termite Specialist - January 24th, 2019