"Dr. Steven Fawkes defines elegance as "the quality of being pleasingly ingenious and simple.'"

Bleriot Spad
Bleriot Spad © Wikimedia Commons

Today, we have another problem well stated: We have twelve years to cut our carbon emissions in half. Dr. Steven Fawkes looks at the issue in his blog, titling his post Elegance and Energy Efficiency. The Oxford Dictionary defines elegance as "The quality of being pleasingly ingenious and simple; neatness."

I was immediately reminded of Le Corbusier and his airplanes. Dr. Fawkes even uses an airplane analogy of his own – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the French pilot and author: “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

He applies this principle to buildings, and notes how we have failed:

We have the technology and the know-how to design systems that are highly energy efficient, even energy positive – but we don’t typically use them because we engineer systems using conservative thinking and standard techniques. These systems are clunky (defined as “solid, heavy and old fashioned”) in their use of materials and energy, much of which is simply wasted.

Dr. Fawkes describes the system that I have in my own hundred-year-old house, with a gas boiler and pump circulating hot water to big cast iron radiators and a few modern panels, controlled by a thermostat that is in the wrong place (people upstairs freeze while we are warm). He notes that the heat leaks away through the walls and through air leakage, leading to high heating bills and unnecessary carbon dioxide emissions.