Sustainability and the Built Environment: Building Materials and Cooling Strategies that Combat a Warming Planet

September 24, 2021
12:00pm - 1:00pm
built environment

Air conditioning today accounts for nearly 20% of the total electricity used in buildings around the world and over 10% of the total primary energy use in the US. Already a major contributor to climate change, cooling energy demand is predicted to significantly increase over the next decades with urbanization, population growth and global warming. Heat stress is a major environmental justice concern, disproportionally impacting disadvantaged communities. We must find sustainable and equitable cooling alternatives to replace current building practices which only exacerbate the environmental crisis.

The webinar will include an overview of research by Penn faculty members on alternative low-energy cooling strategies and innovative building materials inspired by nature. This will be followed by case-studies of built projects presented by industry leaders in the field.


Dorit Aviv headshot

Dorit Aviv

Assistant Professor of Architecture Weitzman School of Design, University of Pennsylvania

Dorit Aviv, PhD, AIA is Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania’s Weitzman School of Design, where she directs the Thermal Architecture Lab, an interdisciplinary laboratory focused on the intersection of thermodynamics, architectural design, and material science. Her work examines how architectural materials and forms can impact airflows, energy interactions, and human health. She is a licensed architect and holds a PhD in architectural technology from Princeton University. Her current projects include a distributed environmental sensing network, development of radiative cooling for hot-humid climates, a combined evaporative and radiative cooling prototype for desert climate, and indoor environmental quality control and assessment technologies.

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William W. Braham

Professor of Architecture Weitzman School of Design, University of Pennsylvania

William W. Braham, PhD, FAIA is a Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, where he previously served as Chair, and is currently Director of the MSD Environmental Building Design and of the Center for Environmental Building + Design. He has worked on energy and architecture for over 30 years as a designer, consultant, researcher, and author of numerous articles and books. He recently published Architecture and Systems Ecology: Thermodynamic Principles for Environmental Building Design, in three parts (2015). He also co-edited Energy Accounts: Architectural Representations of Energy, Climate, and the Future (2016), Architecture and Energy: Performance and Style (2013), and Rethinking Technology: A Reader in Architectural Theory (2007).

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Shu Yang

Department Chair Materials Science and Engineering, University of Pennsylvania

Shu Yang is a Joseph Bordogna Professor of Engineering and Applied Science, Chair of the Department of Materials Science & Engineering, and Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering at University of Pennsylvania. Her group is interested in synthesis, fabrication, and assembly of polymers, liquid crystals, and colloids, and use geometry to create highly flexible, super-conformable, and shape changing materials. Her lab explores the potential applications of the smart and bioinspired materials, including self-cleaning coatings, structural colors, adhesives, sustainable building components, sensors, soft robotics and biomedical devices. Yang received her B.S. degree from Fudan University in 1992, and Ph. D. degree from Cornell University in 1999. She worked at Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies as a Member of Technical Staff before joining Penn in 2004. She received George H. Heilmeier Faculty Award for Excellence in Research from Penn Engineering (2015-2016). She is a Fellow of Materials Research Society (MRS) (2021), Division of Soft Matter (DSOFT) from American Physical Society (APS), Division of Polymeric Materials: Science and Engineering from American Chemical Society (ACS) (2018), Royal Chemical Society (2017), and National Academy of Inventors (2014). She was selected as one of the world’s top 100 young innovators under age of 35 by MIT's Technology Review (2004). 

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Charles Berman

Associate Principal Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Charles Berman has over 34 years of experience as an Architect. He is currently an Associate Principal at DS+R / Diller Scofidio + Renfro Architects where in the past eight years he led projects including The Shed, a multi-form arts and performance institution, at Hudson Yards in New York.

Prior to DS+R, he was an Associate for eight years at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture / OMA, the internationally acclaimed practice founded by Pritzker Prize winner Rem Koolhaas, where he led a number of large projects including the new headquarters for China Central Television (CCTV) in Beijing, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Beijing, the new headquarters for the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 

During the course of his career he has also acquired a unique specialization in the design and detailed development of facades and exterior systems; this derived from two tenures as a specialty facade consultant at FRONT and at Heintges Consultants.

Charles has been an Instructor at the University of Pennsylvania since 2015, teaching the building enclosure seminar entitled “Enclosures: selection, affinities & integration.”

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Fiona Cousins

Americas’ Sustainable Development Leader Arup

Fiona Cousins is an Arup Fellow and a member of Arup’s Group Board and Global Digital Executive. She serves as Arup Americas’ Sustainable Development Leader, focusing on improving the outcomes of projects in the region through applying sustainability principles and practices. 

Since joining Arup as a graduate, Fiona’s technical focus has been on energy modelling, mechanical engineering design and sustainable consulting. Fiona has led many complex interdisciplinary building projects including The Bloomberg Centre at Cornell Tech and Frick Chemistry Laboratory at Princeton University. Fiona is a frequent presenter on transformative sustainable building design, very low-energy design, resilience and sustainability. She gave the 2016 CIBSE Annual Lecture: ‘How building services Engineers can save Civilization’ and is a co-author of the book Two Degrees: The Built Environment and Our Changing Climate. In 2017, Fiona received the AIANY Award of Merit and ASHRAE NY Distinguished Service Award. 

Fiona served as the chair of the New York Chapter of the USGBC (Urban Green) from 2008-2009 and as chair of USGBC in 2016. She currently serves on the boards of the Architectural League of New York, AIA NY, the External Advisory Board of Harvard University Graduate School of Design MDE Program and the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE).