The ACESD Theory seminar will present a range of design strategies and research experiments that more closely link environmental phenomena such as air movement and quality, sound, light, temperature, to human experience and behaviour, use of energy, emissions and waste from buildings, and circular material economy seeking in various ways to address aspects of this challenge in architecture and designing.


The Dynamics of AIR (and other matter)

MaCAD Environmental and Structural THEORY SEMINAR

One of the most fundamental opportunities that advanced computation affords architects and designers is an opportunity to link analysis of environmental and structural performance directly to design. The word ‘optimal’, from the Latin optimus, has its origins in 19th-century biology, meaning ‘most favourable’, or ‘desirable’. It speaks loudly of best, of a single goal within the ordered and rational Cartesian search for truth, and refers to the best conditions of, let us say, light, temperature, altitude for an organism to prosper. By using the computer to iteratively search and discard less optimal alternatives, there are many ways to link architectural form finding and materiality to structural or environmental performance. There are many examples of setting load cases and boundary conditions and hence automating the generation of a formal architectural response to those conditions in a way that mirrors the biological response to ambient conditions from which the term derives.


Designers deal with complexity. Architecture must perform in many ways and respond well to or interact well with innumerable interacting phenomena, generally simultaneously.  Not the least of these when considering solar radiation, heat, humidity, air quality, the chaotic nature of air movement and fluctuation, sound and structural response, are human beings themselves, who combine heat production, movement, live loads and free will to act within architecture. Being able not just to predict but to model or simulate not only the architectural form and space, but to simulate the behaviour of various environmental and animate phenomena in response to architectural changes and choices in varying ambient conditions is an invaluable design decision support opportunity. To have the ability to experience the interaction of architecture and environmental and structural behaviours in near real time is to have the feedback that facilitates natural learning and builds intuition in architecture.

This capacity to simulate the impact of external forces in the digital environment and within mixed digital physical simulations permits the design of workflows with the potential to radically reshape ecological footprint of architecture.


A struggling planet in climate emergency is now driving urgent change in both architectural research and practice. Buildings are responsible for 30 to 40 % of global energy use and a similar percentage of greenhouse gas emissions and the building sector is the single largest CO2 producer worldwide (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007). People spend over 90 % of their lifetime indoors (Klepeis et al., 2001), and 80 % of the energy consumed by a building during its life cycle is while it is operational (Masoso & Grobler, 2010). 

This theory seminar will present you with a range of design strategies and research experiments that more closely link environmental phenomena such as air movement and quality, sound, light, temperature, to human experience and behaviour, use of energy, emissions and waste from buildings, and circular material economy seeking in various ways to address aspects of this challenge in architecture and designing. 

source: FabPod Image credit: John Gollings

In small groups, you will research and build a blogpost relating to one of the weekly topics. Use the classes as a discursive opportunity to tease out the issues and tradeoffs inherent in these sometimes-competing phenomena in designing for the built environment. You will have the opportunity to review a broad range of current initiatives and develop critical reflection and positioning in relation to application in your own practice.

Learning Objectives 

At course completion the student will understand and be able to take a critical position on:

  • Relationships of architecture and design to allied disciplines.
  • Architecture and design in the global context of climate emergency.
  • The implications of different concepts and applications of advanced computation.
  • Mixed reality environments to design with unseen architectural phenomena
  • Linking form with environmental and material performance through investigative processes. 
  • Conducting investigations and presenting findings coherently in verbal, written and visual argument.



ESD, Air, Sound, Heat and Light, humans in the loop, material ecology



Projects from this course

An Ode to Air

Keep the water out! It seems as though this is the first shard of wisdom one is exposed to when studying Architecture. I remember coming across this motto of sorts for the first time in a class on detailing; my professor seemed almost obsessed by the presence of water and its surreptitious ability to undo … Read more

Commercial 3D printing in concrete

Theory of Structural Materials: Commercial 3D printing in concrete Faculty: Prof Jane Burry Faculty Co-presenter: Dr Sascha Bohnenberger Thesis Technological innovation has always been an important part in the advancement of architecture, allowing new tools to solve current problems in the design industry. The 20th century showed us the great mechanical properties that concrete is … Read more

Material Ecology

Introduction Neri Oxman has described Material Ecology as being at the intersection of Computation Design, Additive Manufacturing, Materials Engineering and Synthetic Biology.  It is more than simple biomimicry as the process is collaborative in nature. Her lab focuses on the symbiosis of microorganisms, our bodies, our products and even our buildings. In order to better … Read more

Mission Critical Materials

If all architects and engineers saw the development of our projects as the aerospace industry does, we would begin to see many projects incredibly optimized for their use in structural, environmental, etc. Terms. In recent years we have experienced an increase in space exploration. Because technology has become more democratized, more simulations and experiments can … Read more

The Power of Simulating People

In recent years, the built environment industry has been significantly affected, with the issue of adequate ventilation and indoor air quality (IAQ) rising to prominence. In order to ensure the safety of their occupants and the general public, buildings such as schools, restaurants, offices, and others are putting in a lot of effort to adjust … Read more

Simulating Personas

Introduction Human behavior has a significant impact on building energy performance and is often overlooked in favor of upgrading systems or technology. Building simulations often rely on deterministic models, but these models can be inaccurate due to the variability of human behavior. Stochastic models allow for more flexibility in assumptions and predict a range of … Read more

Light and the Nordic city

Around 60°N latitude, where several Nordic capitals—including Oslo, Stockholm, and Helsinki—are located, daylight plays a special role in the daily lives of their inhabitants. There is a large seasonal variation in daylight from  long summer days up to 19 hours of daylight to long dark winters with less than 6 hours. The opposite occurs in … Read more

Vision of Alliesthesia

Definition The link between thermal pleasure and thermal acceptability is referred to as alliesthesia. It implies that adaptability, asymmetries, and transient conditions are among the subjective variables that affect people’s perceptions of thermal comfort in addition to objective parameters like temperature, humidity, and air velocity. The design and assessment of thermal comfort in buildings and … Read more

Material reuse and upcycling

Construction waste In today’s world architects are facing a massive challenge. This challenge is called resource crisis. According to the European commission, construction industry is responsible for almost a third of worlds total waste and at least 40% of worlds CO2 emission. A big role plays a use of concrete, which main component, cement, is … Read more

Advanced circularity: Transformative thinking toward design conception

Circularity is a concept related to circular economy, as a model of production and consumption of extended life cycles, this involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products implying waste reduction. The circular model uses materials in a cyclical chain of valuing natural resources at all production stages, it aims to … Read more


As the world continues to look for alternatives of sources to feed its insatiable appetite for energy while reducing reliance on fossil fuels, a new source may lie in an unexpected place: the Sounds around us. Investigations into Sound Energy have been ongoing for many years, but the use of sound as a Source of … Read more

Heat & Light

particle trace visualization of wind patterns around a building

Wind Effects on Buildings With this blog post we would like to hit on a sample from the multitudes of complex factors affecting the built environment in an urban context. These factors will aid or inhibit a designer’s ability to utilize wind to provide a better internal climate for the users of our buildings. One … Read more

Occupant Behavior Simulation in Building Energy Conservation: Methodological Summary and Workflow Review.

Actually, there is often a significant discrepancy between the designed and the real total energy use in buildings. The reasons of this gap are generally poorly understood and largely have more to do with the role of human behavior than the building design. Human always interact with architecture in their daily life: opening/closing windows, turning … Read more


Structural Materials Is the scale of the projects in the experimentation on computational design fabrication an obstacle or an opportunity?  Since architects started to shed their skin on the conventional way in practice and caught the digital era, the abundance of application of digital design on the realization became joyful for the audience. Mario Carpo … Read more

Advancing Circularity

Some Statistics The global Construction & demolition waste market is estimated to be USD 26.6 billion in 2021 and is projected to reach USD 34.4 billion by 2026, at a CAGR of 5.3% from 2021 to 2026. Challenges Solutions The Shearing layers – A concept by Architect Frank Duffy, Which was elaborated by Steward Brand … Read more


The last 10-15 years of development in computers and software have given most engineers and architects the capacity to self-resolve every kind of problem with complex structural forming in a short amount of time.                                                                         This has allowed them to break the calculability paradigm. Where what was not able to be calculated, or even … Read more

ACESD Theory

Topic : Heat & Light [Course Guest presenter: Mehmoush Latifi, ‘Heat/Light’] A school building in Damascus – Lycee Charles de Gaulle triggers my in interests in the subject of Solar Chimney, and further links to the Theory Topic of ‘Heat and Light’ Case Study : Lycee Charles de Gaulle Damascus Introductions The Lycée Français Charles … Read more