Forget What You Know About Buildings: An Interview With Kiel Moe / by Positive Energy

In this episode, Kristof interviews Kiel Moe of Harvard's GSD about the energy flows and multiple re-thinkings necessary to change the future of construction and design. You may remember reading about Kiel's inspiration to us at Positive Energy in our blog post about the thermally active surface system we installed in our office, compliments of the fine and wonderful people at Messana and SpacePak. This episode is definitely headier than most of ours, so buckle in and be ready to hit pause, rewind, and take notes if you need. We couldn't be more thrilled that he stopped by the office to chat. 

Kiel Moe

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Kiel is a registered architect and has taught architecture and energy at University of Illinois at ChicagoSyracuse University and Northeastern University. He holds positions as Associate Professor of Architecture & Energy and Co-Director of Master of Design Studies program in Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Moe received the B.Arch from the University of Cincinnati, M.Arch from University of Virginia, and a Master in Design and Environmental Studies from the Harvard Graduate School of Design Advanced Studies Program. 

Professor Moe's research and pedagogy focuses on an agenda (theories, techniques, and technologies) for energy that is at once more ecologically and architecturally ambitous: Maximum Power Design. A such, he focuses on both buildings as manifestations of large scale energy systems as well as overlooked and discrete thermal parameters in buildings that yet have great impact on the power of a building.


Ideas To Unpack

Material Ecology: coined by Neri Oxman (Architect, Designer, Inventor), focuses on and considers computation, fabrication, and the material itself as inseparable dimensions of design. In this approach, products and buildings are biologically informed and digitally engineered by, with and for, Nature.

Energetics Of Urbanization:  deals with the relationship between energy flows, urbanization, and how they relate to economic practices and theories. Learn more about Neil Brenner and his work here.

Pedagogy: how we relate to, study, and implement teaching.

Planetary Urbanization: thinking about how we urbanize at a planetary level, how that affects resource and energy flows, and how life on the planet is shaped by it. 

Howard Odum: a brilliant ecologist who had a profound impact on the economic theories of energy flow. He coined the term and developed the theory of emergy, which deals with the embodied energy of any given object or structure.

Epistemology: how do we know what we know? Pretty much. 

Political Economy: the study of production and trade and their relations with law, custom and government as well as with the distribution of national income and wealth.

Adrian Bejan:  a brilliant mechanical engineer who first stated the notion of Constructal Law, which is the law of physics that accounts for the phenomenon of evolution (configuration, form, design) throughout nature, inanimate flow systems and animate systems together.

For a finite-size system to persist in time (to live), it must evolve in such a way that it provides easier access to the imposed currents that flow through it.
— Adrian Bejan, The Constructal Law

The constructal law places the concepts of life, evolution, design and performance in physics, which is in the broadest scientific arena. The constructal law is the law of physics of life and evolution. 

Forest Ecology: how do you get the wood that you use? 


Big thanks to the Humid Climate Conference for their generous support of our podcast and to Brittney Spears for the music that's stayed with us all these years.

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