"When a green architect does a particularly good job, you'll know it by the bling: the silver, gold, and platinum LEED certifications that emblazon buildings' exteriors. But the best eco-conscious constructions don't need a seal of approval—and their builders probably wouldn't appreciate it anyway. Mound termites, native to Africa, South Asia, and Australia, are pros at building self-regulating structures that maintain oxygen levels, temperature, and humidity. And now human architects and engineers want to adapt that ingenuity for their own designs.
From the outside, a termite structure just looks like a pile of dirt. But if you slice one in half—difficult considering some can be more than 30 feet tall—things get a bit more complicated. The above-ground mound has an outer wall riddled with holes, which lead to a labyrinth of tunnels that themselves lead to a series of chimneys. And below the mound is a large, oval nest, where the queen resides.
That queen needs to breathe somehow. "If we buried ourselves a meter underground we wouldn't last very long if we didn't have some way of getting oxygen from the atmosphere down to us," says Scott Turner, a biologist at the State University of New York, Syracuse. "It's the same logic in the termite mounds."…"