In towns and cities around the world, architects are always trying to design and develop buildings that are visually pleasing, energy efficient and long lasting. Their ideas are communicated by an almost infinite range of factors, from budget and engineering constraints to historical and aesthetic concerns.
But perhaps surprisingly, the natural world can also be a direct source of inspiration.
For example, Anders Nyquist redesigned a school in Timrå, Sweden, inspired by termites.
“This is a biomimetic idea,” Nyquist, who has been working as an architect since 1962, told CNBC’s Sustainable Energy.
“Termite nests are collectors of the sun … When the sun shines on towers, nests, you heat the entire nest.”
Nyquist also has termites We dug a network of underground canals into our nests to cool the incoming air.This helped inspire Laggarberg’s 1995 design Swedish school.
The basement of the school building is used as an “air supply pipe”, and an air intake is provided in a place away from the building itself.
On the ground, other sustainable features of the school include brick walls that can absorb heat, plants used to clean the air, and windows that provide ventilation during warm weather.
“When the sun shines on the roof, the air slowly rises to the chimneys at the top of the building, which connect the classroom to the ventilation system,” said Nyquist.
“This means that when it reaches minus 20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Celsius) in winter … it can heat the air up to plus 2 degrees Celsius … and that means we are saving energy. “I will,” he says. Added. “This is also part of the summer cooling system.”
The school wasn’t the first time Nyquist designed a project with sustainable principles in mind.
In the 1960s he began working on development near the Swedish city of Sundsvall.
“We bought 18 hectares of land and planned a village,” he told CNBC. The focus of the scheme was sustainability, self-sufficiency, and the environment. It features villages with their own water supply and small sewage treatment facilities.
“We can’t make a difference until we get a good example,” Nyquist continued. “My little village here is a good example, and Laggarberg School is also a good example of how you can be inspired. “
The power of biomimetics
Alessandro Bianciardi is an environmental engineer and co-founder of Planet, a startup with a focus on “biology-inspired design for sustainable innovation.”
Talking to CNBC, he said biomimetics can help us develop more efficient products.
“Not only the product itself, but also the way it is manufactured and how it is manufactured, is discarded, reused, and upcycled,” he said.
“For example, we have a smart system that manages a factory that copies (has) an algorithm from swarm intelligence, so it’s the same intelligence that ants and bees use.”
Bianciardi further pointed out that biomimetics could also help improve renewable energy technology, giving examples of more efficient wind turbines that emulate whale fins.