Animal House ... Building?

From on April 13, 2009 in Building Materials

green-remodel.jpgPhoto Credit: Jeremy Levine Design

It is endlessly amazing the way that animal and human life mimic each other. We chuckle and watch the way birds court each other or watch a unique dog whose bark somehow sounds like an English word. But are there more concrete similarities? How do we, as humans, play house just like animals? It may be surprising how often the lines are crossed.

First, the reasons our houses stand out from our mammalian cousins. One, our human inventiveness has facilitated the creation of new materials (concrete, polystyrene, etc.) that have revolutionized home building over the centuries. Two, we have no predators. We don’t mind letting the world know where our houses are.

Yet the growing movement toward green building is bringing natural building materials back to the forefront. And whatever is natural to us is natural to the birds and bees just the same.

The Bees

honeycomb.jpgPhoto Credit: BotheredByBees

Aside from their ability to colonize and deal painful blows, bees’ construction expertise is also an inspiration to modern designers. Have a look at honeycomb paper. This interesting honeycomb-like cellulose material creates flexible but strong boards that are also excellent insulators. Are honey-paper houses our future? For a more visual (if not structural) example of our buzzing inspiration, see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hanna-Honeycomb House on the campus of Stanford University.

The Birds

Since the dawn of their species, birds have been using twigs, grass, straw, and mud to build sturdy (and lofty) homes for their young. And in times past, so did many humans. For some time now we’ve largely ignored the benefits of straw bale housing, including its small footprint and cheap price tag. Again green home building is changing all that. Straw bale houses have incredible insulation value and are relatively easy to build. Any questions? Ask the birds.

Soft as a Squirrel’s House?

Think your lush comforter, designer sofa, or shag carpet set you apart from the animal world? Perhaps in appearance, but not so much in function. Take the squirrels, for instance. They build themselves a home (called a ‘drey’ or ‘den’) with a mostly wooden frame. They then line the inside with fur and feathers for that plush, comfortable feel. More than that, they take safety and wind carefully into account. Who says animals don’t have building codes? squirrels.jpgPhoto Credit: DDFic

These are the bare minimum of examples. All it takes is a change in mindset to suddenly see similarities everywhere you go. Bears seek refuge in winter, naturally. Geese mate for life and fly south for the winter (calling all Floridians!). The possibilities are endless. Even more grand evidence, I suppose, for the interconnectivity of all things.