Are our cities turning into termite mounds?!

No, but they may someday be modeled after these mounds. Some buildings, after all, are already modeled after termite mounds. The most known example is called the Eastgate Centre, located in Harare, Zimbabwe. Designed and overseen by architect Mick Pearce alongside engineers at Arup Associates, the Eastgate Centre was completed in 1996.

Imitating concepts found in nature is called biomimicry, and what the Pearce was after when designing the Eastgate Centre was harnessing the cooling/heating system found in termite mounds. Days in Zimbabwe can have extreme temperature fluctuations, ranging from 35° F at night to 104° F during the day. During the course of a day, termites will open and close vents located all around the mound in order to maintain a constant temperature. The Eastgate Centre works in a very similar way, having vents encompassing the building.

So, how does this work? And what are the results?

Outside air is drawn in from vents, which is then either cooled or heated by the building’s mass, dependent upon which is hotter. The air is then directed to each floor by a series of ventilation systems and finally redirected out of the building via chimneys. The ventilation system used at the Eastgate Centre uses 10% of the total energy typically used by buildings of similar size, with some estimates predicting even lower energy expenditures. Upfront savings has been estimated at $3.5 Million due to the lack of needed cooling systems, and all these savings has crept down to the tenants, who pay on average 20% less than those of surrounding buildings.

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