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Environment-friendly Architecture

Posted Dec 19th, 2017

Environment-friendly Architecture SAMANTHA ZEITZ

Environmental-friendly architecture is construction through a process that is responsible for nature. It is not a new practice, but it is growing in more ways than one. Interest in eco architecture is increasing and therefore there is growth in the development of new technologies to improve construction. 

While a lot of sustainable construction methods have been introduced over the last decade, more work continues among scientists and chemists who are determined to find new ways to improve building energy use. 

The use of buildings is responsible for 40 per cent of global energy consumption. Half of that energy goes towards climate control so researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM), the University of Freiburg, and the University of Stuttgart are trying to find ways to optimize building efficiency by using bioinspired methods. Essentially, the idea is to look at ways to develop drive elements and actuators that can transform signals into mechanical movements with energy use. 

Chemist, forest scientist, and materials research Professor, Cordt Zollfrank partnered with architects, civil engineers and botanists when he turned to nature to find eco alternatives. The pinecone has become a natural object of particular interest.

Looking at a pinecone as a model, it’s mature pines and fir cones contract when it rains to protect seeds. When it dries up they open back up to release the seeds. Zollfrank has noted that this movement isn’t a metabolic process, but rather a physical mechanism, and a result of material properties.

Zollfrank has developed biomimetic drive elements called, actuators. They are composed of two layers that can absorb varying amounts of water but still act like naturally occurring models. Before this project can take flight into large-scale architecture, material researchers need to overcome a key hurdle. The larger the cell or tissue, the longer it takes for the water to seep through and activate the movement. An action that takes hours in a pinecone, could take a building several years to achieve. The researchers are already working on this dilemma. In fact they are suggesting that restructuring that material by taking it down to an individual cell could make the process move along faster.

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