For this project, our team searched for a biological role model in order to get inspired by the properties or functions with a view to abstract them and design a mechanism or part of a structure that could potentially be used for the new tropical glasshouse of UC Berkeley’s Botanical Garden.

The role model:
The structure of the dragonfly wing is characterized by 3 features that sparked our interest. More specifically, it constitutes a sandwich structure that consists of two transparent, membranous surfaces that enclose the veins. Its venation varies in thickness and forms different patterns throughout the wing, from rectangles to hexagons and other polygonal shapes. Both these features are very conducive to its durability, as it needs to withstand all the loads that are applied to it during the flight, whereas, at the same time, it must also be flexible enough for the insect to move. Moreover, the two membranous surfaces have hydrophobic properties in order to remove the droplets of rainwater during the flight.

The main research idea:

We decided to abstract its sandwich structure and the polygonal patterns with a view to investigating the design and fabrication of super lightweight sandwich panels made of thin sheets of a cheap material like plastic. Our goal is to be able to use this panel to our proposal for a self – sufficient, low – cost and easy to construct glasshouse.

Thus, we conducted a series of experiments using vacuum forming in different ways in order to investigate the possible fabrication method of such a panel. During our research, we created various formworks, setting as parameters the scale of the patterns, the height of the formwork and the time for heating the plastic before vacuum is applied.

The glasshouse:

Our glasshouse proposal introduces the idea of a pathway through five different pockets of plants and climate conditions, one for each type of tropical forest that exists throughout the world. In that sense, the visitors will be able to discover the origin of the plants, while also experiencing the different conditions that are required for their development. The idea involves the use of the aforementioned sandwich panels for the construction of each pocket.

The structure of the panels with its creases also serves the purpose of the collection and reuse of the water that usually condensates on the surfaces of the glasshouse due to the high humidity levels. In order to reinforce the concept of self-efficiency and energy-efficiency, our team has also investigated the possibility of using layers of fine fog-harvesting mesh in order to form the general outline of the complex.