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Articles by Freelance writer Jane C. Hu

Jane C. Hu is a journalist writing about science, technology, and the outdoors from Seattle.

Featured Article

The interior of the Eastgate Center, a retail and office building in Harare, Zimbabwe, modeled after a termite mound.

Faced with record-breaking temperatures, sweltering heat waves, and soaring AC costs, engineers and architects are finding creative ways to maintain livable temperatures indoors while using less energy. Their muse: plants, animals, and insects.

We’ve got a lot to learn from the natural world. After all, humans are far from the only species that has shown resilience in the face of extreme heat. Creatures ranging from Australia’s night parrot, a desert-dweller evolved to be nocturnal, to the Dorcas Gazelle, which conserves water by not peeing, have survived in intensely warm environments for millions of years. Why not take a page out of their book?

Perhaps the most famous example of nature-inspired architecture comes from Mick Pearce, a Zimbabwean architect whose designs model termite mounds. Termites might not be the most majestic creatures, but they build impressively tall skyscrapers — towers of dirt that can top 30 feet. (If humans built a tower the same number of times our height, it would top out around 3,600 feet; the world’s current tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, is around 3,000 feet tall.)

Around the same time Pearce was commissioned to design th... Read more