Over the past few years natural disasters such as floods and cyclones have damaged buildings in many parts of the world. As architects re-build these, the big question in everyone’s mind is – how can we make the buildings strong so that they can withstand powerful winds, fierce storms and flooding? Surprisingly, the answers have come, not from scientists, but from nature. Plants and animals that have adapted to withstand extreme climates have become sources of inspiration for these architects.
A ‘Tree’-fic idea!
On the Caribbean island of Haiti, which was ravaged by a hurricane a few years ago, architects are taking inspiration from the Caribbean kapok tree. Take the example of an orphanage (a place where children who have no parents stay) that is being built to replace the one lost in the hurricane. The design of the building’s balconies copies the branching structure of the kapok, with alternating thick ‘mother’ branches and thinner ‘daughter’ branches for added strength. Plus, the kapok tree is a clever survivor, storing water within and shedding leaves in the time of drought. In the same way, the orphanage building will make best use of resources by re-using waste water and producing bio-gas (a source of energy) from human waste.
Wily water strategies
The architects turned to nature again to find ways of tackling big water flows during the rainy season. Traditionally, architects design buildings in such a way that water is made to flow away from a building. This time, they have copied nature’s way of dealing with water flows by slowing the water, sinking it and storing it. So, on the roof of the building, plants receive falling rain water, thus slowing the flow. The water is then filtered and sent to another garden on a lower floor for irrigation. In the same way, plantation of shrubs and plants around buildings could slow and re-direct flood water more effectively than any artificial system.
As you can see, even in the form of the humble kapok tree, nature has a wealth of knowledge for us to unlock!