Sustainable Shelter: Dwelling Within the Forces of Nature

What can we learn from nature to make our dwellings more sustainable parts of the Earth's natural systems?

Shelter is a universal human need – a need we share with other living things. Since buildings consume lots of resources and almost half of all the energy used in the United States, it's important that we make them more efficient. Just as birds select and gather materials from their local environments to fashion safe and nurturing nests, humans build homes that use natural resources to meet a vast array of our needs and desires. Sustainable Shelter investigates the ways that human dwellings extract, use, and discard energy, water, and other precious natural resources. The exhibit reveals innovative new building technologies and strategies that can help restore the health and viability of natural cycles.

This exhibition introduces visitors to the functions of shelters, and how animals and humans have adapted to differing environments through an amazing diversity of structures.

Explore the Exhibit:

Graphics, cartoons and interactive computer games explore how daily actions are part of the earth's carbon and water cycles. Visitors are invited to test ways to make homes more sustainable with hands-on exhibits. Scale models show how the size and environmental impact of American homes have changed over time. Visitors can then build a model of a home that incorporates many of the environmental features presented in the exhibition.

Exhibition Highlights:

  • Forces of Nature Theater
  • Diversity of Shelter Wall
  • Energy Flow Projection Wall
  • Carbon Cycle Animation
  • Home Energy Game
  • Life Cycle of Common Building Materials
  • Compare Typical and Sustainable Construction
  • Water and Energy Interactives
  • Models of Typical Homes Over Time
  • Wall-sized Graphics of Energy and Water Use
  • Life-sized Ant Colony and Termite Mound
  • Build Your Own Sustainable Home Model