Efficiency seems to be a term that comes up quite a bit when discussing energy. What do you get out for what you put in? This seems to be the bottom line most always.  But why is efficiency so important to us? Obviously to get as much energy out of our resources would be ideal, but maybe are we being too aggressive in our expectations? This notion affects the way we approach design of the green movement. In a 2009 chart from the Lawrence Livermore National Library, we can clearly see that the U.S.’s wasted energy, or ‘rejected’ energy, is over half of the energy put in (http://cdn.physorg.com/newman/gfx/news/hires/2011/usenergyuse.jpg). To get off of the ‘grid’ and use only renewable sources, is what designers may push to do after looking at a chart like this.


But is this realistic? When looking at energy transfers a certain amount of it will always be lost through friction turning into heat, or loss through wiring. This chart doesn’t even take into account energy that gets misused. Let’s say someone leaves the lights on in their house while going on vacation, which seems to be wasted energy as well. Maybe we are too reliant on efficiency as a measuring tool. Bill Sherman said that a system that is too efficient could become rigid.


Waste is part of the system. There is no system that does not have a byproduct of some kind. The human body is a great example of a system that takes in food, metabolizes it, expends much of it, and then gets rid of the excess in the form of bowel waste, urine, and heat. What we then can do is try to conserve some of those wastes in the form of compost, to then grow food to put back into the system.


What we need to be doing as designers is not looking at how you can break down the system that exists (i.e. the grid), but how you an use what is happening to transform waste of a system into something purposeful. A great example of this is the Genzyme Corporate Headquarters in Cambridge, MA that uses the excess steam given off by a nearby factory to heat the building. Without the waste from the factory, this building would not be able to do this function. By taking that excess heat, the building makes a resource out of waste. Maybe we should not be so focused on getting rid of waste, but more focused on how do we use it.


Assignment 1




a) On March 21st, my site would have approximately eleven hours of daylight.

b) On December 21st, the sun first hits my site at approximately 7:30am. On June 21st, the sun first hits my site at approximately 5:30am.

c) On July 1st, my site has the most hours of sun compared to the rest of the days of the year.

d) On August 15th at 3:00pm, the sun has an altitude of about 46 degrees, and an azimuth of about 260 degrees. At this time, my site is being struck with sun.

e) if I were to build a porch on my site that was cool in the summer and warm in the winter, I would need to build some sort of shade structure, so that the sun would not hit the people sitting on the porch in the summer, but would let the sun through in the wintertime when the sun have a much lower altitude in the sky. If I were to move my site slightly farther south west, the large trees there could act as the shade structure in the summer time and let light through in the winter when the leaves fall. 

f) The large building to the west would make it a less favorable direction for large windows, because people may be able to look in. The north east would be a better direction for large windows, because it looks out on a large green space, and would also let in the morning light.


Most likely one of the most relevant topics to those of us, who are pedestrian students in this time of the year, is the heat. After walking for fifteen minutes in the sun, tired after a long day of being lectured, sweating from heat to toe, how could someone blame me for going into my room and cranking up the air conditioning unit in my window?


Obviously this is adding to the heat bubble of Charlottesville that I am trying to avoid. As pointed out by Professor Sherman, this is an irony that compounds itself. The more I pump up the AC in my room, the more I heat the city, whose heat I was trying to escape in the first place. The further we go into the rabbit hole, the farther away we get from solving our problem.


So if I were to turn off my Air conditioner what would I accomplish? For one my utility bill would go down saving me some money. Perhaps the small amount less energy being used and heat given off by my AC unit would somehow effect the system, though most likely not with all the other thousands of students doing the same thing. I would go to sleep hot and sweaty, and most likely get a bad night of sleep and be less productive in my classes the next day. This is a scenario that for me, and most students, is not logical either. So how do I make an impact?


Cities can make policies to have every building be “sustainable” to a certain extent, but how much does that actually work? For a builder to create a building to be LEED certified, they must get a certain amount of points to do so. Let’s say an architect in Denver calls for beetle kill pine, which is in exorbitant amounts in Colorado, therefore using a local resource. If 60% of the building will consist of this pine, that is a great thing, lowering the shipping costs and energy needed to bring them there. Let’s also say that same architect designed the roofs all to have a southern exposure so that the building could be run on solar power. While the building is under construction, a new black solar panel that captures more energy is designed in Sweden. So the Architect calls for this new more aesthetically pleasing and more efficient product. Well the shipping cost and energy needed to transport those new panels exceeded what it would have been to import a different type of wood in the first place. This doesn’t even cover the fact that the building they destroyed to build this new building was only 50% salvageable, the rest created waist. Well this seems to be the similar to the predicament I find myself in with my Air Conditioner.


Cities can try to reduce the heat bubble with the planting of trees, more green spaces, and but at the end of the day what is going to change heat islands is a drastic social change. One social norm that changed was cigarette smoking. Though many people still continue to smoke today, society looks at it differently. Instead of it being the “cool” thing to do, it is seen as disgusting and deadly. This has led to cities and counties across the country becoming “Smokefree” ( http://www.no-smoke.org/pdf/WRBLawsMap.pdf ). There was a slap to the face in the American public that associating smoking a cigarette with death.


Though global warming is obviously happening, the public has not felt that strong feeling of grave subsequences as drastically as may be necessary. When and how this will happen may be scary to think about, and it may be too late to help. The solution to this problem will not be a simple one, and it won’t be the same solution in all places for everyone.