Hominids, Vent Fans and Embodied information

We have made it through the rough-in phase and are onto finishing out our latest house. It struck me as I looked around that this house is full of embodied information. And that is more and more the norm in most modern homes in the developed world. There is embodied information in everything that is processed by humans to some degree, from the gravel of ground granite to the motion detector vent fan in the bathroom. The materials and products are based on shared information accumulated over time in the building industry. Some is pretty basic processing of materials but more and more of the materials we use are engineered and include lots of information to design and process. In this house, our walls are engineered precast concrete (Ideal Walls https://bit.ly/18qVAr1) the roof framing is engineered trusses, the sheathing on the roof deck and gable ends and the exterior trim are all engineered materials that are durable and can use small fast growth trees in their production.

For our ventilation, we are using an exhaust only system with a Whisper Green Vent Fan/Light ( https://bit.ly/nrYUXb ) . This has a motion detector that automatically activates whenever someone comes in the room and adjusts the fan speed to account for resistance in the ducts so there is always the desired amount of ventilation. That is a lot of information involved in designing and making one small appliance.

This all got me to thinking of the long road that buildings have taken. Humans have been making shelter from the very beginning of our evolution. Our global spread is dependent on them to accommodate a huge variety of climates.  Actually there is evidence that this trait of making shelters evolved with us from our pre Homo sapiens ancestors.

“Human beings of all cultures build some form of shelter, and the global distribution of Homo sapiens depends on this basic trait. All great apes (chimpanzee, bonobo, gorilla, and orangutan) build analogous structures (called nests or beds) at least once a day throughout their adult lives, which suggests that this elementary technology was present before the hominid lines separated. “


“The most common functions of animal built shelters include protection against temperature extremes and predation [reviewed in Hansell 2005]. Hansell [1993] proposed provocative hypotheses that through the added protection provided by built structures, animal architects are able to extend their range and reduce possibilities of extinction. “ 

Fruth and Hohmann [1996] proposed a “cognitive leap” to have occurred in the great apes with the evolution of nest-building, as the ability to sleep safely and comfortably in a relaxed, recumbent, supine posture likely increased REM sleep, which may have aided memory consolidation and enabled cognitive evolution in hominids. Image

Videan [2006b] revealed that sleep/waking patterns in captive chimpanzees mimic closely those of humans, and that the apes adjusted their sleeping sites in relation to temperature and humidity. “ https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/241033?show=full  ( I am not sure what to make of the fact that captive chimps mimic sleep patterns of humans)

The earliest evidence of a wooden structure built by humans is at Terra Amata near Nice France from between 450,000 years ago to 380,000 years ago.https://www.texascoritani.com/GALLICA-prehistoricshelters.pdf


If you have followed me from motion detector vent fans to  hominid home building you are doing well. This exaggerates the ironic current situation we are in with building. While home building allowed us to evolve and disperse to a wide variety of environments, it is also now one of the big factors in undermining the environment on which we depend. Buildings account for over 40% of greenhouse gas emissions. If we are to evolve beyond our destructive environmental ways we need more informed buildings that respond to our environmental changes.

Interesting Graphic of evolution of housing- https://prezi.com/tqprnnbhes0l/the-origins-and-evolution-of-human-shelter/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy