Michelle Addington: Sustainability reset

Are architects proceeding from the wrong premise and solving the wrong problems in their approach to climate change?

December 6, 2019

Recorded on October 29, 2019.

Towards a New Architecture: Climate Change and Design is a series of lectures, discussions, and interviews by leading practitioners, educators, and sustainability advocates who describe the urgent need for change and sketch the outlines of new ways of thinking and acting as architects and landscape architects.

As we accelerate ever faster to climate change’s warming limit of 2°C, after having already passed the 400 ppm CO2 threshold a few years ago, we have not witnessed a meaningful reduction in the energy use of the building sector. 

In this video, Michelle Addington, dean of The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture, challenges the premise behind architecture’s approach to climate change through a critical re-examination of the limits, blind spots, and biases inherent in prevailing methods of evaluating energy consumption. She proposes alternate metrics and scales that address the energy “accounting problem” to provide a more realistic picture of how energy operates in our world today, and calls attention to how these mechanisms are intertwined with social and economic systems. 

The talk is followed by a conversation between Addington and Amale Andraos, dean of The Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at Columbia University and principal of WORKac. Drawing from their perspectives as practitioners and educators, the two discuss the role of universities in orchestrating linkages between architects and policymakers, and the need to question and expand the boundaries of academic fields in order to encourage interdisciplinary action.

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