5KL: Energy Issues, Energy Entrepreneurship

The Energy Issues panel at 5KL: The Energy Issue

Back in June, we called your attention to two parts of 5KL: The Energy Issue, a series of discussions between energy experts and entrepreneurs on the connections between energy, architecture, climate change, and our economic future. But the symposium, convened by The Architectural League and the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) under the joint banner of their respective initiatives — The Five Thousand Pound Life and The Energy Issue — covered even more ground than the previously released keynote address by Jeremy Leggett and conversation between Rosalie Genevro and Kate Gordon.


William Braham

You can now take in video of the individual presentations and discussions that made up the Energy Issues and Energy Entrepreneurship panels from the day over on ArchLeague.org. The Energy Issues panel brought together a diverse group of architects and academics, along with a filmmaker and a journalist, to present ideas on energy through participants’ particular lens. William Braham, an Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, highlights the need for cities to reach new levels of renewable energy production within their own municipal borders. Michelle Addington, a Professor at the Yale School of Architecture and Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, cautions against our use of the term “energy efficiency,” which she considers a misleading phrase meant to demonstrate sustainability. 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. Adrian Lahoud, head of the Master of Architecture (Urban Design) program at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London, addresses the geopolitics of climate change, in which a climate action in one place triggers widespread effects in another part of the world. Carola Hein, Professor in the Growth and Structure of Cities Department at Bryn Mawr College, highlights how broadly ingrained oil is in Western culture and in the structure of our cities. And Ed Crooks, US Industry and Energy Editor at the Financial Times, uses hard data to stress the realities of our dependence on oil.


The Energy Entrepreneurship Panel

The Energy Entrepreneurship panel focused on two start-ups and their innovation in the energy sector, pairing their founders with symposium participants Jeremy Leggett, Rosalie Genevro, Kate Gordon, and Mark Wigley. Deirdre Lord, co-founder of The Megawatt Hour, details how a subscription service brings transparency to utility bills for consumers of electricity and natural gas. The panel discusses how this makes deregulated markets accessible and actionable, helping to align business goals with energy decisions, and debates the potential merits of communicating a cultural or social impact when considering transparency in energy markets. Founder and CEO of Radiator Labs Marshall Cox details how his retrofit for an old energy system, the steam radiator, can increase operational efficiency and climate comfort. (Learn more about Radiator Labs in our interview with Cox from June.) The panel also responds to Cox with discussion on the importance of increased cultural pressure for energy consciousness and the regional differences in attitudes toward energy consumption in the United States. And in the day’s closing conversation, the panel touches on two repeated themes from earlier discussions: the need for increased social consciousness regarding climate issues and the dominating role of capitalism and corporations in the narrative on energy use.


Deirdre Lorde, co-founder of The Megawatt Hour

5KL: The Energy Issue was just the first of a series of symposia, to be continued on Friday, September 26th with 5KL: Land, which will address the need to consider settlement patterns and competing land uses in new ways, given the reality of climate change. Sessions include “A Conversation on Nature and the City,” “Spatial Logistics,” and “Density.” For a full description and listing of the symposium’s featured participants, and to reserve your spot, head over to ArchLeague.org. And stay tuned for announcements regarding three other 5KL symposia on the topics of water, food, and transport coming up soon.


The views expressed here are those of the authors only and do not reflect the position of The Architectural League of New York.