Two researchers at Lund University and Nottingham Trent University have studied mounds of Macrotermes michaelseni termites from Namibia, to find out what architects can learn from them in order to design more energy-efficient buildings. 

This species of termite forms colonies of more than a million individuals, building large mounds to house them. At the heart of the mounds lie the symbiotic fungus gardens, farmed by the termites for food.

The team focused on the egress complex: a dense, lattice-like network of tunnels, between 3mm and 5mm wide, which connects wider conduits inside with the exterior. The complex is significant because it is able to allow adapt itself to different temperatures, by allowing the evaporation of excess moisture, while still maintaining adequate ventilation. 

During the rainy season (November through April) when the mound is growing, this extends over its north-facing surface, directly exposed to the midday sun. Outside this...