Connect Ideas, Maximize Impact

Symposium in Stuttgart – June 29th 2012

In 2012, Transsolar marked its 20th anniversary. On this occasion, we reflected on the true impact that our high comfort, low impact approach has made on the built environment worldwide. We noticed three things. Although we have worked on many projects throughout the world, our projects are located in only certain countries. Although we have accumulated lots of experience and knowledge, creative new solutions are invented daily all over the world. Although we have created better built environments, global problems, including climate change, urban migration, are worsening.

So we started to wonder what we should do in the next 20 years: what should we keep the same, change, or stop? We invited our closest collaborators and leading thinkers to explore the question: “What do we need to do to maximize our impact on reducing carbon emissions and on providing better buildings?” The feedback was astounding. Architects, engineers, government representatives from all over the world were so excited to join the discussion that many donated their time to participate in the symposium. All of the symposium participants examined, from multiple perspectives, our roles in designing a better future. This self-critical atmosphere paved the way for an open and honest discussion which explored how we can use our diverse expertise strategically to maximize our impact and drive forward the world’s transition to our envisioned future.

Watch the videos of the symposium.

At the symposium, we all agreed that we need to think about the quality of our cities beyond energy and carbon. Specifically, we need to continue identifying and understanding problems in order to find more creative and progressive solutions, but these solutions must be simple so that they are accessible to all. We acknowledged that one of our greatest strengths is the ability to generate and connect ideas, but believe that these instances of idea generation and connection are happening in many places that we have no contact with. We wanted to continue on a daily basis the kind of global information exchange that happened at the symposium, but recognized that face-to-face communication is paramount to high quality information exchange. So we wondered: how could we put these learnings into action? One of the outcomes of the symposium was the birth of the Academy.

EU Climate Goals 2050

Buildings account for about 40% energy consumption. The European Union has set the goal of reducing energy consumption in the building sector to 10% by 2050, overall sectors to 20%, relative to the 1990 baseline. While progress has been made, most savings are neutralized by the so-called rebound effect: Specific savings per square meter are compensated by more living space per person. Since 1990 the living area has increased in IEA member countries by about 37 percent. Consequently, the specific energy consumption per person has not dropped.

It is known that the climate goal cannot be solely achieved through intelligent architecture. All sectors of society such as for example housing, mobility, production and consumption of food and goods need to be taken into account. If we are not succeeding in the building sector, how can we expect to succeed in all sectors? The carbon targets must be met with all stakeholders and players, across all sectors, moving in synchrony.

To start working cooperatively, we need to working on the same thing. We need a unifying theme to give importance to reaching the carbon reduction targets. We have to see cities as more than an accumulation of buildings. Houses and cities are not made for saving energy, but for life, living and working. This theme does not make solving the problem easier, but provides a framework that everybody can relate to.