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Science of Termite Mound: Why we should learn from them

Human beings are not the only architects on earth. In nature, termites are great eco-friendly architects.

The termite mounds found in Africa have a very unique appearance, as these termites construct nests that resemble towers reaching an impressive height of 26 to 30 feet over a long period. Considering their small size (approximately 5mm), it is truly remarkable.

A termite mound establishes the necessary conditions for a thriving colony of millions of termites. It is designed to shield the termites from the challenging external environment, defend them against ant attacks, and provide a continuous supply of fresh air to the subterranean depths.

Although it looks quite simple and unsophisticated from the outside, the mound boasts sophisticated interior designs. They also have a very effective cooling system, requiring no electricity at all.

Many scientists theorized that the mounds served as air conditioners, effectively regulating the nest's temperature, humidity, and oxygen levels. This regulation occurred through a perpetual exchange of warm air ascending from the colony's depths with cooler drafts descending from the surface. The tall height of the mounds played a crucial role in facilitating this convective exchange, powered by the colony's biomass emitting "hot breath”.

As the sun moves across the termite mound during the day, different parts warm up and cool down. This changes the temperature inside, creating airflow. Unlike relying on wind, termites keep things simple by using sunlight to control the air inside their nest. So, in a way, these insects, or at least their climate control, run on solar power.


Taking hints from these principles, the Eastgate Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe, is a human-built structure that incorporates a porous surface. This design enables the storage and gradual release of heat, akin to a termite mound, effectively reducing the building's energy expenses. Despite such innovations, the broad integration of natural processes in construction has been hindered by financial limitations.


There's a new technology that might change things: 3D technology that's cost-effective. It can make wax molds for concrete parts. Unlike older methods that mostly stick to straight lines, new 3D printing technology would enable the designers to add curves. This means designers can now easily blend aesthetic, structural, acoustic, and thermal elements into one design, taking inspiration from nature.

If we could learn from the termite mound and apply them in practice with new technologies, it could be a key to solving energy consumption issues and reducing carbon emissions in the real estate development industry.

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