Sustainable Building in Zimbabwe Modeled After Termite Mounds

Updated on August 8, 2019 in Debates, Ideas and Discussion 2019

eastgate centre harare zimbabwe
Image Source: Inhabitat

The Eastgate Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe has no conventional air-conditioning or heating, yet stays regulated year round with dramatically less energy consumption, the building uses less than 10% of the energy of a conventional office tower in similar size, thus saving the management $3.5 million a year on air-conditioning.

Designed by architect Mick Pearce in conjunction with engineers at Arup Associates using design methods inspired by indigenous Zimbabwean masonry and the self-cooling mounds of African termites, inorder to achieve this, fresh air is continuously drawn from the open space by fans on the first floor, it is pushed into the core of the building through vertical ducts, thus the fresh air replaces stale air that rises and exits through exhaust ports in the ceilings of each floor.

Termites in Zimbabwe build gigantic mounds inside of which they farm a fungus that is their primary food source. The fungus must be kept at exactly 87 degrees F, while the temperatures outside range from 35 degrees F at night to 104 degrees F during the day. The termites achieve this remarkable feat by constantly opening and closing a series of heating and cooling vents throughout the mound over the course of the day. With a system of carefully adjusted convection currents, air is vacuumed in at the lower part of the mound, down into enclosures with muddy walls, and up through a channel to the peak of the termite mound. The industrious termites constantly dig new vents and plug up old ones in order to regulate the temperature. Source: Inhabitat

Eastgate is emulated by London’s Portcullis House (2001), opposite the Palace of Westminster. The distinctive giant chimneys on which the system relies are clearly visible.

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termite mound architecture house ants
Image Source: www.tdrinc.com

2 Comments

  1. Heartbreakingly ironic location for such forward-thinking ideas as even now, prime minister Mugabe appears to be purposefully driving his own people into starvation and training children to kill http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/panorama/3479353.stm)

    If you follow the money, you find the client that commissioned this amazing building is City Centre Properties (Pvt) Ltd, which is owned by Old Main. Old Main, a financial company, is named along with Barclays and others as having provided loans to keep Mugabe’s regime alive, e.g. https://www.theguardian.com/money/2007/jan/28/accounts.Zimbabwenews#article_continue.

    Even the architect of this brilliant project (who has designed many buildings in Zimbabwe) has to work outside of Zimbabe because of the political climate: (interview with architect)

  2. What a brilliant design from Zimbabwe. And to politicise the work of investors, arctects, and so forth is to miss the point. Zimbabwe is not only politics and politicians, but is about life in its fullest extent. Old Mutual is a pension manager and ordinary Zimbabweans expect their money to be invested here, for their posterity. Let all new investors be aware that there are far more opportunities in Zimbabwe than anywhere else. And the higher the risk the higher the return. Political phases pass and Zimbabwe will remain. A beautiful place to be. fpdhre@gmail.com

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