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 Environments 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 Environments 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 Coordinators

Salmaan Craig, Lecturer in Environmental Technology
Kiel Moe, Associate Professor of Architecture and Energy


Martin Bechthold, Professor of Architectural Technology
Bradley Cantrell, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture
Richard T. T. Forman, Research Professor of Advanced Environmental Studies
Ali Malkawi, Professor of Architectural Technology
John May, Design Critic in Architecture
Panagiotis Michalatos, Assistant Professor in Architectural Technology
Holly Samuelson, Assistant Professor in Architectural Technology

Research Affiliations

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



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