Instructables

"TERMITE NEST" CITIES -- the Next Generation

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TERMITE NEST CITY (65).JPG
The box came along as the architectural standard because many building materials, such as lumber, are straight and flat.  Straight vertical columns supported the roofs.  Straight lines are rare in nature, so is it any wonder that our cities stand out from nature like sore thumbs?  Boxes stack nicely in square grids.  Most cities are laid out in square grids. 

Using ferro-cement (iron and cement), or nylon-cement (nylon fishnet and cement) one can make domes and tunnels that are functional and esthetically more natural-looking than boxes are.  As tunnels and rooms grow on and around each other, the structure starts to look like the nests made by termites. 

The same iron rebar framework that supports the cement can support the growth of vines, which provide shade and food here in the tropics.   Global warming and an era of agricultural failures may be on its way.   Shade and food are good.  The trellises can be converted into cement structures later. 

Using examples from two houses I have built, this instructable will show how to get started today on a termite nest city of tomorrow. 



 
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Step 1: Materials


To build a termite nest city, you will need a lot of sand and cement.  Iron rebar is used to define the basic forms.  Chicken wire, or nylon fishnet covers the rebar form and provides a fine enough mesh for plastering with cement.  The cement to sand ratio is the standard 1:3 mix used for plastering. 

Since iron rusting is a problem with the rebar, longevity is improved by painting the rebar first with a good primer and rust preventative paint.  If cost was not a factor, one could use stainless steel, or perhaps something like Cor-ten steel, which forms an oxide coat that protects from further oxidation.  It would be ideal to use immortal materials, so that a city could keep growing without ever having to use demolition on the old parts. 

The old parts of the city, at the bottom, would be protected from the weather by the younger parts above them, improving their longevity. 
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InTheory11 months ago
I have a similar idea rolling around in my head but the walls would be made from a double hedge row with an inslulator in the middle. Then plant oak or similuar trees in the middle for load bearing structures. New floores can be made by putting a foot or two of dirt about 8-10 feet up and allow a root structure to grow.

Most of my ideas on this is very primary but since the walls would be made from living material it would stay stronger longer and properly serviced the structure would stand 300 years easy with little more then water, pruneing and maintence. Lower levels could also be made after the roof was in place.

I really like what you did this is inspirational to my thoughts.
Thinkenstein (author)  InTheory11 months ago
Good luck. Live things tend to die unexpectedly, or not grow as planned. Sounds like you will have to dedicate many years to get it up and running.
gk16512 years ago
I love the concept you shared. My imagination is runnin wild with it. If only I had my own spot to build and explore these ideas. It's soo simple and sweet for the environment. I envision poor communities comin together to build like this for themselves and become sustainable and independent. Incorporate more "off the grid" features for lighting and other power-needed features. You're probably already there.
Cheers!
Thinkenstein (author)  gk16512 years ago
Glad you like the idea. It has a lot of potential, but is apt to be slow coming together. I think it could be a great setting for movies or literary stories, though, which might happen faster, help popularize the idea, and help get a real termitopia together faster. Hard for me to make one alone, except as small scale models.
Zettu Thinkenstein11 months ago
I concur, Truely inspiring. Some parts actually remind me of original "planet of the apes" movie, Except yours looks better & awesome.
Thinkenstein (author)  Zettu11 months ago
Thanks, glad you like it. Hope I see similar projects sprouting up around me someday.
Dark Solar1 year ago
this is a great idea that has drawbacks; as the structure gains height from add-ons, it will be necessary to thicken the walls of the lower & base chambers to accommodate increased loading, potentially leading to entire layers being rendered uninhabitable due to solidification. guess the question is 'where's the upward limit to expansion?'
Thinkenstein (author)  Dark Solar12 months ago
Let's say that a dome can support itself without any internal support walls or collums. That dome can support itself and some extra weight, such as a layer of irregular, termite-nest like construction. Over that layer, you make another dome, which puts no stress whatsoever on the generations of construction below it. Think something like concentric domes with sandwich layers between them. Maybe mile-high domes would need thicker walls, maybe not. It's all in compression and cement likes compression. I don't know what the upper llimit would be.
free scout1 year ago
well you have a wonderful eye for design and the fun of your structures are infectious. i respect your desire to "do something different" but i thought cement was eco-disasterous. it has good building qualities but ... if you're building organically, bit by bit into space its going to be exposed to weather at some point, but could you offer alternatives to cement?
Thinkenstein (author)  free scout1 year ago
I don't know how eco-desasterous cement is. After manufacture, it doesn't seem to do much harm. Although it may be exposed to weather on the outer layer, a termite nest city interior should be weather protected. The outer layer is always growing, so the outer layer eventually gets to be protected.

As far as alternatives to cement go, no I don't have any. New synthetic materials come along but you can't foresee the future to know what they will be. Right now, cement products often have synthetic additives.
Concrete is a great building material and can be used in very efficient designs, but it requires an incredible amount of energy to produce, which is why many people go for other less energy-intensive, more localized building methods and materials for their homes such as straw-bale, cob, earthships, modular contained earth, rammed earth, etc.
Thinkenstein (author)  HAL 90001 year ago
Where I live cement block houses with six or seven inch thick walls and 3 or 4 inch thick floors are the norm. My nylon-cement construction ends up with 1 1/2 inch thick floors and 1/4 inch thick floors. That changes the energy consumption relationship to some other, more organic materials. The longevity of cement is good, too, and can outlast wood, etc. Again, something to factor into the equation. It's easy to keep looking like new, too, with "paint" coats of grout when needed -- maybe every 7 - 10 years for walkways. Anyway, I solve my needs with the minimum amount of cement, thereby doing the minimum of ecological damage from it, at least.
Hempcrete shows promise.
mint0011 year ago
Wow, what a peaceful place to live. Away from the rush of city life. It would be amazing to live in a place like that.
Cthulu2 years ago
This is the best thing I'v seen on here in a while. I am just stunned at how cool this is. Thank you so much for posting this.
Thinkenstein (author)  Cthulu2 years ago
Glad you like it. Think about maybe writing a story with a termitopia setting, or making models (silicone rubber is a cool material for oddball architectural model making--just to keep the idea alive and spreading. Projecting and doing is what would make this happen, if anything can. It would be cool to actually see one happen someday.
webpuddin2 years ago
Enjoyed all of your stuff. I want to do some building with free form concrete soon. I encourage you and readers to check out www.monolithic.com. Both you and them have some techniques, ideas, and innovations that would be very beneficial for those wanting to do this kind of work for themselves. Very nice. Thanks for sharing.
tinker2342 years ago
i love idea of your home i wonder i woonder if this is possablke in florida
Thinkenstein (author)  tinker2342 years ago
I don't see why it wouldn't work in Florida. I imagine there might be some problems in freezing temperatures, but that's not a problem in Florida.
yeah but we have a ssue if you dig underground it has water
Thinkenstein (author)  tinker2342 years ago
Ferro-cement boats float. Maybe the city could also, and not include a lot of tunnels. Best is to have it resting on bedrock, I suppose. If we can't do that, maybe we could reduce our population and not build on the swampland in the first place.
i dont enjoy liviing in the swamp i wonder though if i bulit it on a hill
Thinkenstein (author)  tinker2342 years ago
I saw very few of those when I was in Florida. Way to flat for my tastes.
same here the heat is unberable even in winter so i guess i could make a artifual hill basically structure then dirt over the top
Joesmania2 years ago
Extremely cool, would love to build one of these for my house, but would have to insulate it somehow and see what the local code enforcement would make me do here in up-state NY.
ilpug2 years ago
Man I would love to live in a city like that... If everything was a bit smoother, skateboards would rule the place!
Thinkenstein (author)  ilpug2 years ago
There you go! Gravity down, winches up. Maybe zip lines, too.
Definitely. One question- these termite cities, would they be built aboveground, or below?
Thinkenstein (author)  ilpug2 years ago
I see them as being mostly aboveground. They could combine with underground tunnels, too.
Ok, yeah, aboveground is a lot better.
freeza362 years ago
this is one of the most amazing things that I have ever seen. Nice job Thinkenstein
Thinkenstein (author)  freeza362 years ago
Thanks.

If you would like to try playing with making small scale models, try using a syringe for detailed extrusions. Pet stores have one with a conical plastic nozzle that can be cut to one's preferred extrusion size. Work with it as you might make a clay coil pot, allowing previous layers to harden enough to support new layers.

Sometimes I make arches separately and then incorporate them as supports in the growing model.

I have an instructable in the works on architectural model making with silicone. It is incredible for making all sorts of irregular shapes.
popewill2 years ago
That's awesome! Maybe you could make a gutter system to harvest the rain water, then use that to water your indoor plants. Also, the trash rocks idea is amazing
beautiful house. looks like my kind of place
Thinkenstein (author)  corey_caffeine3 years ago
Glad you like it. It's not boring. I wish other people would take the ball and run with it, too, wherever they live. I can't make termite nest cities alone and would love to see at least one before my time is up.
Im actually going to try, my backyard is roughly the size of a football field (not bad for north virginia) so i'm going to try and build an underground system of tunnels(thanks for the dome idea by the way i was worried that the roof would collapse and i don't have to much money for concrete=) and im going to see how far i can get.
Thinkenstein (author)  professor awsome2 years ago
That sounds interesting. Are you going to dig trenches and roof over the trenches, or dig out the tunnels? What is your subsoil like? I wouldn't trust tunneling in soft, or gravelly soil, and hard rock would be too much work. I was lucky and got "tosca", a sort of hard clay or soft rock material that is pretty acceptable digging material.
ya my soil is a bit soft and at the beginning (in lieu of cement) I was planning to plant a multitude of long-rooted plants around the entrance to provide support for the soil above and around the area. my plan is on the edge of this hill in my yard to start tunneling in the bottom (its a small hill) and go down and out.
Thinkenstein (author)  professor awsome2 years ago
With soft soil and skimping on cement, I think I would stick with roofed trenches. If vines grow where you live, you might use trellises for shade. Even little failures can be fatal in tunneling, so go slowly and be cautious.
Ya that'll probably be my best bet, thanks and continue your work on your awsome house. but i couldn't do any vines except for ivy and thats not something id like.
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