A Projection of Continual Environmental Degradation as Facilitated by the iPad

iPad armageddon

Present

Innovative applications on the iPad and other recent technologies will enable users to control their energy consumption remotely. Turning off the lights, adjusting the thermostat, and even monitoring energy usage can be done with the click of a button. Although this sounds like an extraordinary idea, providing sustainable energy consumption practices to the masses, the results could be devastating. I would like to offer a much more cynical outlook, using the typical Modernist glass-skyscraper as a precedent.

1950

The glass skyscraper, guided by the aphorism “Less is More”, was made possible by advances in the structural capabilities of steel, curtain wall construction, and HVAC mechanical equipment. With advances in the efficiencies of HVAC systems, these designs were able to turn a blind eye towards basic site strategies utilized for thousands of years. No longer was Man restrained by the sun, wind, or materiality, but instead He conquered them. Identical glass towers, with their superior climactic-controlling capabilities, could be placed just as easily in New York as in Texas. Site orientation no longer mattered; neither did solar shading, topography, cross-ventilation strategies, nor thermal properties of materials. Man used efficiencies in HVAC not to improve His living conditions, but instead to exploit them.

2043

What will the public do with their newly elected power to more efficiently control energy consumption? Is this the first step in technological innovations that will decrease demand for our planet’s precious resources? Or will this technology amplify the current building trend through the mass production of oversized and underutilized spaces? To accurately portray how disturbing this trend has become, consider this statistic from the latest U.S. Census, “The average square footage of floor area in single-family houses in the United States [stands at] 2438sf in 2009, [up from] 1645sf in 1975.”  Although highly unlikely, if this trend continues at its current pace the average size home would swell to 3613sf by 2043 (48.21% increase).

Present

Similar to the way efficiencies in mechanical systems contributed to the inefficiencies of the all-glass skyscraper, I remain terrified that we will use this new technology as a crutch, further enabling us to delude ourselves into thinking that we can continue to selfishly build larger and larger. Turning off a few lights or adjusting the temperature remotely pales in comparison to the over-consumption that allows us to live the “American Dream”. A major transformation is needed in the way we build, not a fine-tuning of the status quo.

Article Info
Posted by: Ben Coss
Thinking About: Architecture / Building / Sustainability / Technology
Location: New York City
Website: http://www.bencoss.com
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