Sustainability has become a relevant way of life because of global warming and associated climate change. There is no single silver bullet to solve the problems we face, and sustainability is a multi-faceted approach requiring collective global participation. However, Africa as always is waiting to play catch-up, when in fact, it is in the direct line of fire itself. This housing design concept is an attempt to put tropical Africa at the fore front in the quest for sustainable habitat.
‘Sustainable’ and ‘Affordable’ are familiar terms that occupy the extreme ends of the cost spectrum. While sustainability requires initial capital investment which could be recovered during the operational phase of a dwelling, affordability is relative, depending on where you are coming from and here in Ghana, it could mean ‘Chamber and Hall’ built with mud. The proposal would attempt to bridge this gap. ‘Self-cooling’ is unfamiliar concept and first application of its kind in human habitation, but common and well-practiced in the termite’s world.
Termites are shy but intelligent creatures who lives in the underworld of a mound. It could be baking hot outside but inside the mound could be up to twelve degrees cooler. The rationale behind this termite wonder is to protect, on one hand their food source which is basically fungi that can only thrive below certain temperatures and on the other hand their queen at the core of the colony. Termites rely on the buoyancy of hot air to rise and naturally escape through the holes in the mound as well as cool night air to flash the mound and replace hot stale air when night time temperatures drop. This feat is achieved by plugging and unplugging the holes in the mounds, working round the clock. This secret was uncovered with the help of modern technology using thermal imagery and air sensors placed strategically inside the mounds. Further, the mound is constructed out of a mixture of soil, termite saliva and dung and said to have better thermal resistance properties (U-value) than cement block.
With such inspiration from nature, it is hope that by imitating members of our community in the wild eco-system, coupled with the application of environmental science principles, this ‘Termite Design Concept’ would lead the way to building environmentally friendly dwellings for Africans South of the Sahara as well as adoption of sustainable living standards, instead of dependency on air-condition and unreliable electricity supply.