The Energy Issues Panel

The Five Thousand Pound Life: The Energy Issue was a symposium on energy and architecture organized by The Architectural League and the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP) in May 2014.

The Energy Issues panel brought together a diverse group of architects and academics along with a filmmaker and a journalist to each present an idea on energy through his or her particular lens. Each short presentation invited response and conversation from the panel, allowing the themes of economics and investment, engagement and practice, design and technology, and communication and ethics, to emerge through the issue of energy.


The Five Thousand Pound Life: The Energy Issue (Part 3) | William Braham | Recorded May 10, 2014 | Running time: 13:12

William Braham highlights the need for cities to reach new levels of renewable energy production within their own municipal borders. Contemporary cities, which Braham calls “concentrators of energy,” currently use up to 500 times more resources than the renewable energies available within their land area. While agreeing with the need for an increased focus on renewables, the panel debates whether the spatial boundary of a city is the proper lens for this issue, or whether using a systems approach to renewable energy production may be more appropriate in today’s globalized world.

Braham is an Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is Director of the Master of Environmental Building Design and Director of the TC Chan Center for Building Simulation and Energy Studies.


The Five Thousand Pound Life: The Energy Issue (Part 4) | Michelle Addington | Recorded May 10, 2014 | Running time: 13:03

Michelle Addington cautions against our use of the term “energy efficiency,” which is a misleading phrase meant to demonstrate sustainability. The panel seizes on this notion of valuing energy in absolute terms — such as the imperative to emit no more than 5,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually, per capita — rather than the relational measurement of efficiency.

A Professor at the Yale School of Architecture and Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, Addington’s work focuses on defining the strategic relationships between differing scales of energy phenomena and possible actions from the domain of building construction.


The Five Thousand Pound Life: The Energy Issue (Part 5) | Rachel Boynton | Recorded May 10, 2014 | Running time: 12:58

Filmmaker Rachel Boynton screens the trailer for her documentary Big Men, which follows oil company Kosmos Energy as it discovers and develops the first commercial oil field off the Ghanaian coast. For Boynton, energy production is a profit-driven activity pursued for the individual attainment of wealth. The panel follows with discussion of the need to shift the focus from this individual pursuit to the collective good in order to change patterns of energy consumption.

In addition to her role as Producer and Director of Big Men, Boynton also produced and directed Our Brand Is Crisis, winner of the International Documentary Association’s Best Feature Documentary Award.


The Five Thousand Pound Life: The Energy Issue (Part 6) | Adrian Lahoud | Recorded May 10, 2014 | Running time: 14:54

Adrian Lahoud addresses the geopolitics of climate change, in which a climate action in one place triggers widespread effects in another part of the world. He highlights the massive inequity between the spaces of consumption and the spaces of repercussion, saying, “We’re not all in it together.” The panel conversation emphasizes the need for an emotional connection to our consumption, so that we feel the consequences of our choices even if we never directly experience them.

Lahoud leads the Master of Architecture (Urban Design) program at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London and is part of the organizing committee for Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s forthcoming Anthropocene Curriculum.


The Five Thousand Pound Life: The Energy Issue (Part 7) | Carola Hein | Recorded May 10, 2014 | Running time: 16:21

Tracing the global landscapes of oil, Carola Hein highlights how broadly ingrained oil is in Western culture and in the structure of our cities. Using both historical and contemporary references, Hein suggests we need to better understand our “oil-derived urban environments” in order to address them at the local and architectural scales. The panel debates whether it is productive to paint oil companies as villains, or if pointing fingers rather than acknowledging that we’re each complicit in the system hinders change.

Hein is a Professor in the Growth and Structure of Cities Department at Bryn Mawr College. Her current work focuses on global economic networks and their spatial impact on port cities and landscapes of oil.


The Five Thousand Pound Life: The Energy Issue (Part 8) | Ed Crooks | Recorded May 10, 2014 | Running time: 13:05

Journalist Ed Crooks uses hard data to stress the realities of our dependence on oil. The world consumes 90 million barrels of oil each day while only 13% of our energy comes from renewable sources, the vast majority being dangerous and ineffective biomass. Crooks’ assertion that there is massive inertia in the world toward changing this system leads the panel to a discussion of incentivizing energy alternatives and changing the narrative of our endless appetite for oil.

Ed Crooks in the US Industry and Energy Editor at the Financial Times, where he also writes the Energy Source blog.


The Five Thousand Pound Life (5KL) is an initiative of The Architectural League on new ways of thinking, talking, and acting on architecture, climate change, and our economic future.

The Energy Issue is a GSAPP initiative to make energy a cultural issue, launched in partnership with Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope®. Follow the initiative @theenergyissue.