Mexico City, Mexico


Mauricio Ramirez, Daniela Esponda, Maria Luisa Gutierrez, Joseph McIlwain


The Thermosmart team applied lessons from animals’ circulatory systems to develop a heating, ventilation, and cooling system for buildings that harvests waste heat and cycles it back into the system, reducing costs, fossil fuel emissions, and energy.

1. What is the problem you’re trying to solve and how does your design help?

The real problem is that the majority of our energy needs are met via the burning of fossil fuels, thereby contributing to anthropogenic climate change. Until we make the permanent switch to clean energy, energy efficiency is the only way to minimize our impact. Collectively, large commercial buildings consume unthinkable amounts of energy, and heating/cooling accounts for the majority of this energy usage. Our design helps reduce the amount of energy consumed by large commercial buildings by introducing a thermal management system that harvests waste heat (from IT server rooms, boiler exhaust, etc.) and cycles it back into the system. Therefore, our design not only reduces fossil fuel emissions, it also reduces the cost of heating and cooling in buildings.

2. What makes your design different than previous or current approaches to the problem you’re trying to solve?

There are many technologies out there that are being utilized for increasing the efficiency of HVAC systems and their components, but here are few solutions that make existing systems more efficient without changing them completely. Guided by the genius of nature, which needs all parts of a system to work together, our solution mimics a whole system. Our design can be retrofitted to existing HVAC systems and will supplement current designs by ensuring heat is not wasted but cycled back into the system and transferred to spaces where it is needed. This is low cost, low energy, and complementary to existing technologies. Thermosmart can make buildings more efficient while reducing carbon emissions.

3. How did you apply lessons from living organisms to your design and what difference did that make?

Buildings can be thought of as large animals; the internal systems are very complex and there are many functions that need to be achieved. In nature, systems are interconnected and work together to achieve multiple functions. The universal pattern for managing and distributing heat throughout all large animals’ bodies is the use of a circulatory system. The circulation of liquid (blood) through a network of pipes (veins/arteries) has proven to be an excellent way to distribute heat quickly and efficiently throughout the body. This has inspired us to create a smarter heat management system that can harvest, transfer, and release heat throughout a building where and when it is needed with minimal waste.

Thermosmart addresses Sustainable Development Goals: Affordable and Clean Energy (#7), Sustainable Cities and Communities (#11), Responsible Consumption and Production (#12), and Climate Action (#13).