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Classroom Resources: Building on the Fly

Building on the Fly

By Philip Ball


April-June 2010 (Vol. 11, No. 2)

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Discussion Questions

  1. What are some of the “habitation” needs of termites that are the same as humans, and therefore suggest that termite mounds might be a good source for architectural ideas and inspiration?  Conversely, how are the needs of termites and humans different?
  2. How does the process of natural selection explain how such intricate designs as termite mounds could evolve without conscious thought?
  3. What do you think it would be like to like in a building modeled on the principles described by the author for termite mounds?
  4. What are some of the social benefits and limitations of bio-inspired design in human architecture?

Websites for Further Information

Biomimetic Architecture in the News

Peer-reviewed Literature

  • Aldersey-Williams, H. 2004. Towards biomimetic architecture.  Nature Materials 3: 277-279.
  • Cole, M.R., M.H. Hansell, and C.J. Seath. 2001. A quantitative study of the physical properties of nest paper in three species of Vespine wasps (Hymenoptera, Vespidae). Insectes Sociaux 48:33-39.
  • Korb, J. 2004. Thermoregulation and ventilation of termite mounds. Naturwissenschaften 90: 212-219.
  • Korb, J., and K.E. Linsenmair. 1999. The architecture of termite mounds: a result of a trade-off between thermoregulation and gas exchange? Behavioral Ecology 10: 312-316.
  • Turner, J.S. 2001. On the mound of Macrotermes michaelseni as an organ of respiratory gas exchange. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 74: 798-822.

Key Concepts

  • Sustainable development
  • Sustainable architecture
  • Ecoconstruction
  • Biomimetic
  • Insect architecture
  • Termites
  • Paper wasps
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