Termite Mounds Reveal Secret to Creating “Living and Breathing” Buildings That Use Less Energy

Among the approximately 2,000 known species of termites, some are ecosystem engineers. The mounds built by some genera, for example Amitermes, Macrotermes, Nasutitermes, and Odontotermes, reach up to eight meters high, making them some of the world’s largest biological structures. Natural selection has been at work improving the “design” of their mounds over tens of millions of years. What might human architects and engineers learn if they go to the termites and consider their ways? In a new study published on May 26, 2023 in Frontiers in Materials, researchers showed how termite mounds can teach us to create comfortable interior climates for our buildings that don’t have the carbon footprint of air conditioning. “Here we show that the ‘egress complex,’ an intricate network of interconnected tunnels found in termite mounds, can be used to promote flows of air, heat, and moisture in novel ways in human architecture,” said David Andréen, PhD, a senior lecturer at the bioDigital Matter research group of Lund University(Sweden), and the study’s first author. The open-access article is titled “Termite-Inspired Metamaterials for Flow-Active Building Envelopes.”
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