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Bio Mimicry in Design

Bio Mimicry in Design

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Published by Leslie Chandler

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Published by: Leslie Chandler on Dec 16, 2009
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08/28/2010

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Tyler DennisonDecember 9, 2009Design History 201Design Case StudyBiomimcry: Sustainable Solutions for Urban PopulationsLife has been evolving on Planet Earth for billions of years. Through thisevolutionary process life forms have adapted to their surrounding environments,using unique solutions to ensure their species prolonged existence and nicheswithin their ecosystems. The richness in biodiversity and the complexity of ecosystems depend on the ingenuity of organisms to use their settings andabilities to their advantage. Human evolution has largely depended onadvancements in the consciousness and intellect. We have evolved to usematerials and resources for our benefits, analyzing and controlling our surroundings to improve and perpetuate our species existence and. As weconstruct expand and evolve in our terrestrial environments our actions have anoticeable, often severe impacts on the ecosystems we inescapably coexist with.Using our evolved intelligence to examine and understand natural processesallows biomimicry to harness the power of nature to solve unconventional humanscenarios. Applying evolutionary practices of the planet’s species to our problems and challenges helps us to better understand the systems we live in,adapting our societies to better sustain ourselves and our environments. Thispractice and study of biomimicry allows humans to design around our environments instead of adapting the environment for design and civilization.
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While biomimetics has led to many inventions designs and practices mostimportant ideas boldly stand out from the pack. Termite-mound inspired self-cooling buildings are a highly applicable sustainable biomimetic design for theurban centers of humanity.Sustainable practices are the cornerstone of biomimetic theories. In naturespecies don’t consume their ecological capital, they fit into their surroundingsinstead of seeking to harness and manipulate their environment. The TERMES(Termite Emulation of Regulatory Mound Environments by Simulation) projectand the resulting building design enact the sustainable principles of biomimeticdesign a welcome solution considering powering conventional buildings accountsfor almost half (forty percent) of all energy produced and consumed by humanity(Architecture). Termites require a consistent temperature of 31 degrees for survival. As temperatures in Zimbabwe fluctuate from 35 degrees at night to 104degrees during the day, termites dig a kind of breeze-catcher at the base of their mound cooling the air by means of chambers carved out of the wet mud below,sending hot air out through a flue to the top. They constantly vary thisconstruction by alternatively opening up new tunnels and blocking others toregulate the heat and humidity within the mound. Janine Benyus, a leader in thefield of biomimicry, sets out the principle dynamics of natural design: “Natureruns on sunlight, Nature uses only energy it needs, Nature fits form to function,Nature recycles everything, Nature rewards cooperation, Nature banks ondiversity, Nature demands local expertise, Nature curbs excess from within, andNature taps the power of limits” (7). TERMES uses high tech 3-D digital scans of 
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termite mounds to gain understanding of how the tunnels and vents regulateairflow and maintain a consistent temperature (Baumeister). This data helpedprovide illuminating evidence allowing architects to design several buildingsmodeling the termite mounds. Architect Mick Pearce designed the EastgateBuilding in Harare, Zimbabwe mimicking the termites’ the passive heating andcooling system. This system keeps the building fresher and cooler with lessenergy. The Eastgate building employs the mass of the building as insulation andthe daily temperature fluctuations outside to keep its interior uniformly cool. Fanssuck fresh air from the atrium, blowing it upstairs through hollow spaces under the floors and into each office through baseboard vents. As the air rises andwarms, it is drawn out of the building through 48 round brick funnels on the roof.During cool summer nights, big fans circulate air through the building seventimes an hour to chill the hollow floors. By day, smaller fans circulate air twice anhour through the building. As a result, the air is fresh, much more so than from anair conditioner which recycles 30 percent of the air that passes through it.“Eastgate’s ventilation costs one-tenth that of a comparable air-conditionedbuilding and it uses 35 percent less energy than six conventional buildings inHarare combined. In the first five years alone, the building saved its owner $3.5million in energy costs.” (Lefaivre). This cooling system follows most, if not all of Benyus’s rules of nature. Not only does Pearce’s city center naturally cool, curbexcess from within, fit its form to its function, and use only the energy it needs butalso it draws on local expertise. A Harare local, Pearce no doubt was familiar with the termite mounds that rise out of the Zimbabwe savannah. Looking
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