Energy in the Balance

Session Date: 
Oct 11, 2024

Every building – from the Parthenon to the Great Mosque of Damascus to a typical Georgian house – was influenced by the energy available to its architects. This talk offers a historical perspective on a topic of great relevance today, the linkage of architecture and energy (Calder, 2021). It thus provides a useful complement to the non-urban perspective on ecology offered by the talk on “The indigenous architecture of Australia.” Architecture has been shaped in every era by our access to energy, from fire to farming to fossil fuels. The talk will discuss a range of buildings of the past fifteen thousand years from Uruk, via Ancient Rome and Victorian Liverpool, to China's booming megacities. 40% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions come from the construction and running of buildings. If we are to avoid catastrophic climate change one important ingredients is to design beautiful but also intelligent buildings, and to retrofit - not demolish - those that remain. A related issue is to understand recent developments that have improved the mortality rate of city dwellers. A crucial role has been played by the development of utilities that provide water, sewage, gas and electricity to the majority of city dwellers. With a nod to the final talk, we may ask what will be the impact of the new digital utilities, including the Internet of Things, on future human well-being.