Written by Christa Holden

Last year we came across an article from National Geographic that looked at a modern office and retail building, The Eastgate Centre, in the tropical heat of Harare, Zimbabwe, Africa without any air conditioning. The design was inspired by another local species, termites. I love any example that closed mechanical air pumped boxes are not necessary. Biomimicry was used by taking the model of the termite mound’s cooling capabilities and translating it into the systems of the building, cooling it with natural air flow. It is a building worth noting and should inspire us to seek creative ways of designing for place. While we may seek to work on sustainable projects most all of the buildings we work on have little to do with place or climate and more to do with industry and repeating the mistakes of our past by continuing to build and design buildings that require mechanics to function. The natural systems are already in place to heat and cool without air forced mechanics. We just need to teach and apply these techniques. To learn more about the Eastgate Centre, you can read “Termite Climate Control” from the May 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine.

Another a great architect that does similar work designing building that require no mechanical systems for heating and cooling is Glenn Murcutt in Australia. If you’re not familiar with him, and you’re passionate about sustainable design, then you probably should be. He has produced many small scale buildings that rely entirely on sun and wind patterns and function appropriately to heat and cool through design and detailing. I had the great pleasure of attending a lecture with him at the university I attended for architecture. He is a very inspiring architect we should all familiarize ourselves with. In his lecture he mentioned having a couple clients that wanted mechanical systems of heating and cooling in place as an option and has been informed by both clients that because of the naturally functioning design of the building they have had no need for the mechanical systems. Awesome! Sensitivity to site is where any great design should start.
Stay inspired!