Biomimicry: Building Envelop Design Inspired by Cactus

Name: Lam Yung Ni



This research focuses on the issues of how building envelop can help to reduce solar heat gain into the building in hot tropical climate and to study the climate response of barrel cactus which are exposed to a great deal of heat pressure in the desert. What are the passive cooling technique and emulating the regenerative solutions living system have, to solve the overheat gain issues of conventional full glazed building. The result show that the by mimicking the corrugated form of the cactus to building envelop design, the heat resistance of corrugated design is 30% higher than the flat surface under the same climate conditions.

Biomimicry: Building Envelop Design Inspired by Cactus


Locality: Southwestern United States & Mexico Cultivation: Grow based on sun orientation (South)


Numerous anatomical and behavioral adaptations for absorbing and storing water, preventing water loss, protecting themselves from predators and limiting damage from the hot sun. (Smart garden guide, 2021)

•    barrel or cylindrical shape
•    prominent ribs
•    fierce spines

Project Description


Climate is one of the important factors to decide upon the total energy consumption of any building. In Malaysia, about 57% of energy consumption in the building sector is used for cooling alone (Saidur 2009). With the rise in the energy costs and the increase of the glazing areas in the buildings, there is an increasing demand for alternative inexpensive cooling systems to cater these conflicting requirements. Thus, this study aim to study the climate response of cactus and to apply it into building envelop design to minimize the solar heat gain into the building. Barrel cactus is selected due to its high thermal tolerance feature in hot tropical climate. It have numerous anatomical and behavioral adaptations for absorbing and storing water, preventing water loss, and limiting damage from the hot sun.

One of the obvious feature is the barrel cactus stay cool by having ribs that provide self-shade and enhance heat radiation. The corrugated form has greatly reduce the surface exposure to direct sunlight. Therefore, a prototype is designed based on the shading properties of the cactus form. The corrugated form is address into building envelop design and to compare the thermal performance of the corrugate surface and the conventional flat surface planes. The results show the dependency of envelope efficiency on solar radiation, the benefits that corrugated form brings on potential energy savings and the importance of designing an optimized façade geometry.

From the finding, studies reveal that the corrugate form of cactus help to enhance heat radiation and remain shade with its pleated from. In prototype, the alternating plane help to create a buffer and reduce direct surface exposure to the lighting. Comparing the result it shows that the pleated plane did help on slowing the rate of heat transfer up to 30% as compare to the flat surface model. Besides, the corrugate surface has successfully reduce heat gain up to 2.8°C which is equivalent to 8% efficiency by comparing the internal and external temperature. This comparison also highlight the corrugated form has provides more flexibility to architects in terms of form, as a variety choices is possible, especially in tropical climate.


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