Thermal Tectonics for the Next Billion People

In the maelstrom of geopolitical and geophysical pressures, can you see opportunities to imagine, project and create new patterns of living?

A billion more people are due to arrive before 2030, and already overcrowded cities may not be the best places for them to live. In a recent article, Professor Richard Forman highlighted areas of the world that could theoretically and sustainably accommodate large numbers of people and their crops. He ruled out any areas that are covered in permafrost, suffer from high water stress, have unique species, or that are already densely populated. Most of the candidate regions are grassy and forested lands in temperate and tropical zones, spanning national borders.

The temperature oscillations that animate these regions might be perfectly tolerable or even pleasurable for many people—so long as their patterns of living are suitably synchronized. This raises the tantalizing prospect of a new kind of architecture: one that is thermodynamically autonomous, using properly ‘tuned’ materials and forms.

I will share with you what I know about how to use simple materials to orchestrate thermal phenomena, and how to combine and test these ideas. This includes: how to naturally vent using the waste heat from occupants and computers; how to design a building envelope so that it performs as a heat exchanger; how to reject heat radiantly into outer space; and how to design your building so that it resonates with the exterior temperature oscillations in a way that is similar to a termite mound (without having to look like one).

The course will be divided into a series of lectures, workshops, and review sessions. I’ll also invite special guests to share their thoughts on the technics of architecture and on the history of organizing patterns of living through architectural design. From these discussions, we will start work on a new thermal tectonics for the next billion people. And we will develop and share these ideas on Pub-Pub, a new publishing platform for grassroots journals, which facilitates peer-to-peer review.