Thursday, April 5, 2012

Award-Winning Architecture Students Inspired by the Desert Snail

Project Title: BioArch
Designers: Elnaz Amiri, Hesam Andalib, Roza Atarod, and M-amin Mohamadi from the Art Institute of Isfahan in Iran
Date: February 2012
Autodesk Software Used: Autodesk® Ecotect Analysis

Project Summary

The team’s goal was to use biomimicry-inspired design to reduce energy use in a building designed for Iran’s harsh desert climate. The team needed to use passive design strategies to protect building occupants from intense sunlight and provide both moisture and ventilation.
Their Bio-Arch design, inspired by the desert snail, minimizes the surface area exposed to solar radiation with curved surfaces, shades nested levels of activity underneath an outer shell, and creates buffer zones that are tempered with natural ventilation.

Problem & Constraints

In entering the 2011 Biomimicry Student Design Challenge, the architecture design team from the Art Institute of Isfahan needed to create an energy efficient design for their local context in Iran that draws inspiration from nature.
The climate in Iran is hot and dry, and much of the land is desert. The temperature of the desert averages 43 degrees Celsius during the day, and the surface temperature can be as high as 65 degrees Celsius.
To keep the occupants comfortable in these harsh conditions, the shelter needs to protect them from intense sunlight and provide both moisture and ventilation. To create an energy efficient design the team needed to use as effective passive design strategies.


The students used Biomimicry to get design inspiration.  They started by studying the strategies that other organisms use to survive in harsh desert conditions. After analyzing how camels, lizards, porcupines, and other animals have adapted to the climate, they settled on the desert snail as their primary design inspiration.
The snail’s shell is a very architectural means for dealing with the heat, and therefore a natural fit for inspiring passive building design. The students drew inspiration from the following elements of the shell:
  • Curved shape: Minimizes surface area exposing to the sunlight
  • Shell depth: Allows the snail to mount to the upper part of the shell to create a buffer zone and escape the heat from the desert surface. 
To prototype and analyze alternate design solutions, the team used both physical prototypes and digital models. They used Autodesk Ecotect to do some preliminary analysis the solar radiation and thermal comfort of their design proposal (based on weather data from the city of Yazd).
The team did not use computer models to analyze natural ventilation potential, but did do some preliminary sketches to estimate airflow patterns through the buildnig. On this point, the team broke from the inspiration of the desert snail, whose shell is closed.
The student’s final report explains their process in more depth.


The students’ final design is both elegant and functional. The external shell of their design protects from the harsh sun while allowing natural ventilation in buffer zones between interior and exterior spaces.
They also propose to minimize construction waste using pre-fabricated components and improve both views and indoor environmental quality by planting desert scrub plants nearby.

 Download the team's final presentation.
{Resourse :]

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