MA Studies > Interior design > Interior design alumnus > Shani Van Bel

Shani Van Bel

Learning SUSTAINABILITY from Animal Architecture

Sustainability is not just about saving energy. It is a philosophy of respect and equilibrium.   

Is it possible that we could look at animals and learn something positive from their architecture? There is a lot to be learned not only of form in nature but in animal design principles that create an equilibrium in their habitat that remains long after they are gone. Instinctive and immature, as it may appear, animal architecture beholds the main principles of sustainability:


- Architecture that responds to the changing climate, maximising use of solar energy

- Architecture that is flexible to changing needs of users, avoiding waste

- The use of local biodegradable materials, avoiding transportation and waste
As well as maximising natural resources, sustainable interiors should be flexible to future changes and inspiring for users.

On average human beings spend approximately 90% of their lives in buildings. It has been proven that physical and psychological health is greatly affected by environmental conditions, yet it appears much of today’s architecture is a vacuum from the outside world. As if we are afraid of feeling anything other than a stable ‘comfortable’ temperature. The seasons change around us yet our buildings are constantly the same monotonous grey sludge. Not black or white. No extremes. As if we are so aware of our mortality that all we build are retirement homes.
What if we could build in a way that celebrates the cyclical rotations of the seasons? 


Spatial design would progress to a new level of consciousness and beauty if sustainability was addressed as it is in animal architecture.