Passive Cooling—An office building inspired by termite mounds
The humble termite may still pose a threat to wooden buildings, but in Africa their home has inspired a new, green, and efficient form of building.
Termites live in termitaria—towering nests commonly called 'anthills'. The ability of termites to control the temperature in these mounds has led to the building of one of the most green examples of architecture in the world.
The Eastgate Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe has no conventional air conditioning or heating but temperature is controlled year round using techniques from the termites.
Inside the mounds termites farm a fungus, which is their primary source of food, and it must be kept at 87 degrees Farenheit while the temperature outside can range from 35 degrees at night to 105 during the day.
Amazingly, the termites manage to do this by constantly opening and closing heating and cooling vents in the mound over the course of a day. The termites do this constantly to keep their temperature regulated.
The mainly concrete Eastgate Centre works in a similar way. Outside air that is drawn in is either warmed or cooled by the building mass. It is then vented into the building's floors and offices before exiting via chimneys at the top.
Eastgate uses less than 10 per cent of the energy of a normal building of its size, and the owners have saved $3.5 million just because they didn't have to install air conditioning. It also means the tenants pay rent that's 20 per cent lower than in neighboring buildings. All thanks to the termite.
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