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Nature’s Architects; Lessons from insect builders

Biology Inspired AI. Andonov, I. Unit X. 2020.

Ivan Andonov



Gregory Katz, Nico van Loggerenberg




In relation to rising energy costs and the increasing importance of social responsibility to address climate change, the implementation of energy efficient processes and methods is imperative for the built environment of the future. Building emissions contribute 36% to global energy use and 39% to energy related carbon dioxide emissions annually. A new approach to building and design is needed, now more than ever.

The documented morphology of animal/insect built structures are ubiquitous. Examples of these include wasp and bee hives, burrow complexes, beaver dams and spider webs. Each manifest resolution of biodegradability, continuous sustenance and non-detrimental influence on surrounding ecologies.

Existing synthetic approaches and processes in the built environment are simply unjustifiable, and a critical shift in the frame of thinking about buildings, cradle to grave, must take place – perhaps it is time to do it nature’s way.

An insect known to have appeared on earth over 250 million years ago, the termite, may offer the solutions we seek that allow the creation of comfortable environments through sustainable means.
Termites have showcased complex building systems within their mounds, to solve challenges and constraints set by their varying environments – this includes temperature regulation through passive cooling strategies, food availability and colony security, several of which can be translated to human beings.

This thesis represents ideas of material enquiries, spatial organisations and form development and manufacturing founded through entomological principles, bio mimicry and bio translation showcased by termite insects.

By expanding my knowledge through investigation and experimentation, I aim to discover new materials and methods that mimic those of the insect builders, introducing viable eco friendly building materials made from local resources.

This project furthermore proposes a translation of biology for Artificial Intelligence, where designers can implement complex problem solving techniques founded through principles such as stigmergy, evolutionary patterns and inclusive fitness. This alternative approach to residential developments emphasises decentralised organisational structures, presenting adaptive, complex systems that challenge the conventional "one size fits all" typologies.

Nature’s lessons are in abundance, perhaps it’s time we start listening.