The existing discourse on sustainable design does not yet adequately frame questions of energy and environment. Whether you consider the current unjustifiably narrow system boundaries of building, landscapes, and urbanization; incomplete interpretations of the thermodynamics that could otherwise better support building, urbanization, and life today; or unimagined material-thermal strategies, in all cases we aim for a more ambitious and totalizing praxis of energy and environments. The Energy and Environment concentration focuses on building and urbanization as coupled small- and large-scale thermodynamic systems.

For instance, the design of urban wood buildings has far-reaching effects on forestry practices, global carbon cycles, as well as minute thermal phenomena. How designers might better characterize the exchanges and coupling of matter and energy across these multiple spatial and temporal scales is central to our pedagogy of energy and environments. Rather than focusing on the over-constrained principles of efficiency, conservation, and optimization, we examine the capacities and propensities of material-energy systems along with their historical, political, social, and ecological entanglements. This approach is necessary for a more thermodynamically cogent, ecologically exuberant, and vital method of design practice for the 21st century.

Energy and Environment allows students to examine material and energy issues – broadly defined, from the molecular to the territorial – across disciplines and scales, taking full advantage of courses and initiatives throughout the GSD and Harvard University. It is closely associated with the Energy, Environments, and Design Research Lab and the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities, providing ways to couple theory with applied research. The curriculum is diverse: from short workshops, half-semester module courses, regular seminars and lectures, and to year-long thesis projects and multi-year lab projects.

Area Heads

Ali Malkawi, Professor of Architectural Technology
Holly Samuelson, Assistant Professor of Architecture

Affiliated Faculty

Martin Bechthold, Kumagai Professor of Architectural Technology
Richard T. T. Forman, Professor Emeritus, Advanced Environmental Studies in the Field of Landscape Ecology
John May, Assistant Professor of Architecture and Director of the Master in Design Studies Program
Panagiotis Michalatos, Lecturer in Architecture

Research Affiliations

Energy| Environments | Design Lab
Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities



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