Namib Biomimesis Research Tower (NABR) designed by architects Hunter Ruthrauff, Hayley Stewart, and Garrett Van Leeuwen is a biomimetic research lab in the Namib Naukluft National Park with the purpose of studying indigenous plant and animal species which may act as role models for the creation of new ecological technologies. It consists of a research center, eco-tourism hub, and a utility tower proposing a low-impact solution within the Namib Desert. Eco-tourism has recently become popular to thrill seekers looking to carve down the massive dunes on sand board. This coupled with a research center invested in new sustainable technology creates a micro economy that can support the continued preservation of the land.
NABR hopes to edify travelers on the biological phenomenon that dwell within one of the oldest most hostile environments on earth which has subsequently forced their evolution to take a very specific route. Environments like this yield the greatest amount of biomimetic potential, therefore it is in these places where man must look for sustainable solutions. NABR was created with two such organisms in mind, those are: the fog basking beetle (genus Stenocara) and the Welwitschia plant (genus Welwitschiaceae). Without water not even the most intelligent organism on earth could survive.
The Namibian Desert receives less than an inch per year of rain but it is one of few in the world that have a frequent fog roll in during the early mornings. On such mornings hundreds of fog basking beetles can be seen perched atop the tall dunes slanting their bodies forward high on their legs. The beetle’s shell is divided into hydrophilic bumps and hydrophobic crevices. Microscopic water molecules build up the bumps until they coalesce into larger droplets to heavy to be held by the hydrophilic attraction. They then travel down into the hydrophobic region which is contoured and shaped directly toward the mouth. Aside from the surface composition a key component to the beetle’s ability to capture water is its body temperature being colder than the air around it.
The tower employs a similar strategy but with inspiration from the Welwitschia plant which has a tap root that can extend up to 10 feet. The design here being that in order to cool the hydrophilic cells it would require cool water radiating through them. In order to mimic the beetle’s strategy dripping water from the fog would be circulated deep into the earth where temperatures are cool then transferred up through the cells and back down again. Arriving travelers and sand boarders coming down from the top enter via the lowest tubes to the north and south sides of the dune. The other tubes situated higher on dune allow light to penetrate deep into the atrium space while also circulating hot air outward keeping the interior cool even when the temperature outside exceeds one hundred and twenty degrees Fahrenheit. The gale force winds are harnessed by two seventy five foot diameter turbine blades while a nearby solar field provides all the energy the colony could ever need.