A systems way of thinking has become my natural way of thinking and will have a long term impact on my perspective. Engineering solves problems with logic and analytic skills, but has no meaning unless it is applied in a larger context. From systems, to energy, to thermal flows, to air, to light, and back to systems, this curriculum both broadened and focused my engineering perspective. It is the mutually shaping nature of technology and society that has played such a large role in the way we live. The Bay Game, for example, brings this interdependency to life and creates an interactive environment to educate more people about the role of stakeholders and the consequences our actions can have, both directly and indirectly. Taking this class has allowed me to tap into another network in my systems way of thinking. Systems works as well as they do because, as outlined by Professor Sherman, it follows many of the rules of hand for designing an intersubjective, interdependent ecosystem for human experience and resilience. System behavior feedback, resilient adaptability, coupled human/ climate systems, energy rules, heat rules, air rules, and light rules are all examples of ways the built environmental interacts as a system.
I remember the ice breaker in our first discussion class and it was very interesting to hear all the architect majors speak of how they are interested in how light can shape the behavior of people in a building or how the internal environment can be manipulated for different performance purposes in a building. To be very honest, my initial reaction to these concepts was slightly doubtful that I could believe these elements in a building could play that large of a role. My engineering classes taught me all about air flow and the law of thermodynamics but never discussed those aspects in an architectural sense or as a design tool. Moe’s Thermally Active Surfaces in Architecture and Lechner’s Heating, Cooling, Lighting are two of the readings that appealed to my scientific understanding of the subject while adding the architect’s application. I’m happy to say that this class changed my perspective. The case studies and readings really interested me and proved to me that these things really do matter, whether they affect the comfort of the inhabitants or the energy use of the building. The design of the built environment even touches cultural matters such as the difference between Japanese and Western lighting in Tanazaki’s In Praise of Shadows. I am much more aware of these visible and invisible elements that shape the systems involved in a building. The concepts of virtual water and energy footprint have given me a greater appreciation for the more hidden consequences of our actions. Buildings seem more alive to me now that I see all the complex systems at play in their operation. Ventilation systems are like the lungs of a building. Sunlight is like the energy source of a building. Thermal flow is like the blood flow of the building that maintains internal temperature. Technological and computer monitoring systems are like the brain of the building. The structure is like the skeleton of the building. And lastly, the resilience and adaptability is like the heart of the building. The heart is only as powerful as all the interconnected systems that it is tied to. It is the powerful role of architects and engineers to put these systems in place in a way that allows them to function at high efficiency and sustainability. Whereas some engineering classes can portray a rather gloomy outlook on the future, this class gives a hopeful view for the possibilities of our future growth and interaction with the built environment.
I am not majoring in architecture, but I will still take these concepts with me in the future. I haven’t decided where I will be working next year, but I am choosing among general contracting companies and design companies. Either way, I am interested in begin a part of the design and construction of structures. The partnership between engineers and architects is a very important one, and I think it will greatly benefit me to understand both sides. I think it will even make me a more valuable member of the team to be able to communicate well and enhance the relationships that drive the construction world.