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Nature-inspired solutions for reducing urban heat islands

​A new project at the Ideas Laboratory, an open and collaborative innovation lab, is looking to nature to improve the summertime comfort of people living in Grenoble, France—all while limiting water and energy consumption.

Published on 1 July 2019

Air conditioning is not the most environmentally-friendly response to the problem of urban heat islands. In nature, life can flourish even in the most hostile and resource-restricted environments. A new project on the theme of resilient, bio-inspired cities will develop innovative biomimetic (inspired by living organisms) solutions. The idea is to come up with nature-inspired concepts to bring temperatures down, leveraging multiple sources (evaporation, air circulation, shade, albedo, etc.) and keeping water and energy consumption to a bare minimum.

This collaborative project involves a number of CEA Tech experts (including from solar-energy research center INES), industrial companies (Bouygues, Suez, Maif), and academic research labs and design students (ENSAG). The partners came up with eleven innovative concepts based on their observations of 42 living organisms. Cool Hug, for example, is a sensory object that provides cooling through touch and ventilation; Palmvent is a palm-frond-shaped curtain that provides shade while cooling the air through ventilation and evaporation.

The next steps will be to assess the technical feasibility of these initial concepts and to develop the associated business models; only the solutions with the greatest potential will be developed further. This user-driven approach to innovation is based on the needs of citizens, not technology—a prime example of the philosophy behind the Y.SPOT project.

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