ABSTRACT

Architects establish in their designs a frame for our daily lives. A frame that reflects culture, region, and place. A frame that shapes our well being as building occupants and establishes global patterns of energy use. We face a paradox of sorts. We know more about the physical performance of buildings than at any other point in history. We have extraordinary tools like computational fluid dynamics to inform design. We have exceptional capacities at hand in materials, processes, and environmental control systems. For instance, we deposit invisible layers of metal on glass, and fine tune their properties within fine tolerances to control the transmission of specific electromagnetic wavelengths. Energy to run buildings is available in unprecedented quantity and it is still relatively inexpensive in the United States. Yet with all of this capacity, contemporary buildings somehow manage to perform poorly and often disappoint their occupants. This talk examines the physical performance paradox and describes the Vital Signs Project, a curriculum materials initiative addressing its treatment in architectural education.