Heat Dissipation


Location: Massachusetts, USA

Inspiration: Duck Feathers

Creator: Harvard University’s Wyss Institute

Status: Prototyped

Function:  Heat dissipation , Humidity Control


Organism strategy: Duck feathers repel water based on their surface properties. Researchers have created a coating that mimics the water repellant qualities of duck feathers.

Design strategy: Using this coating selectively applied to water absorbent ceramic they developed a highly efficient evaporative cooler. Not only does it use less electricity than standard air conditioners, it also requires less water than other evaporation based air conditioning units. It has significant potential as a more sustainable form of air conditioning since it does not use the harmful chemicals present in many current air conditioning units.


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Visual by Wyss Institute at Harvard University

Elephant Skin Tiles

Location: Bristol, UK

Inspiration: Elephant Skin 

Creator: Megan Peeks & Lidia Badarnah (2021)

Status: Prototype

Function:  Heat dissipation


Organism strategy: Elephants spray themselves with water to cool off, this water is retained by their cracked skin and evaporates slowly over time. Researchers mimicked this process, creating ridged concrete tiles. The tiles provide excellent cooling capability when misted with water. Hexagonal tiles proved to be more efficient at cooling compared to other shapes. White concrete gave the best cooling performance compared to other colors due to its high albedo. 

Design strategy: It takes an incredible amount of energy to cool buildings, which incurs high emissions and energy costs. Elephants’ skin helps them stay cool even in very high temperatures. The cracked texture of the skin provides an excellent surface-to-volume ratio for evaporative cooling. It also provides a measure of self-shading as layers of dead skin shade the living skin beneath. 


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Visual by Peeks & Badarnah

Hydroceramic Facade

Location: Catalonia, Spain 

Inspiration: Perspiration in humans 

Creator: Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC)

Status: Prototype

Function:  Heat dissipation , Humidity Control


Organism strategy: Like biological tissues, hydrogels can maintain their structure while being predominantly composed of water. When enriched with other molecules, hydrogels can respond to external stimuli in a similar manner as biological tissues. Evaporation of water from hydrogels and tissues can have a cooling effect and the rate of evaporation is based on the surrounding temperature.

Design strategy: This facade design uses hydrogels primarily as a cooling aid. This hydroceramic system works due to the cooling effect provided by evaporating water. Hydrogel pellets absorb large quantities of water, this exposes a large surface area for evaporation. This both decreases the temperature and increases the humidity of the surrounding air. In turn, the material is responsive: the cooling effect is greatest when the surrounding environment is warm, but when the surrounding is cool little evaporation occurs. This design can create energy savings of 28% and is made from low-cost materials.


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Visual by IAAC.

Stoma Brick 

Location: – 

Inspiration: Pine cone, Plant stomata 

Creator: Badarnah L. et al. (2010) 

Status: Conceptual

Function:  Heat dissipation , Humidity Control


Organism strategy: Plant stomata are tiny leaf structures that open and close for evapo-transpiration.  Slender scales of pine cones open and close in response to humidity levels.

Design strategy: The stoma bricks create a facade system that controls heat and humidity entering the building by functioning as a passive cooling system. A shutter reacts to a humidity gradient deforming in the presence of water. In hot and humid weather, air that enters the building is filtered through a spongy structure that removes and stores its moisture. When dry weather occurs, water is dripped onto the shutter, deforming it. Dry air moves through the sponge, and enters the building humidified. In cold weather, the shutter remains closed.


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Visual by Badarnah et al. (2010)

StomaBrick_Microscopic preparation, tissue plant, stomata
Tuna Office Building

Location: Pamplona, Spain

Inspiration: Tuna

Creator: Zuazua-Ros et al. (2016)

Status: Simulation 

Function:  Heat dissipation


Organism strategy: Tuna fish generate heat in the core muscles close to their spine, also called dark muscles. This heat, generated by muscle activation, is then distributed to the periphery to maintain a constant body temperature that is significantly above the surrounding environment.

Design strategy: Through simulation, researchers have applied the Tuna’s thermal conservation strategy to a case study across climatic zones. They found that it is possible to use varied occupant density and wall insulative values to mimic the Tuna’s thermal regulation. By adjusting the location of high and low occupant density within the building, it is possible to reduce the heating and or cooling loads. Following this strategy, an office building could lower its energy demand.


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Visual by Zuazua-Ros et al. (2016)

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