Architecture and Energy

Is modern architecture actually energy efficient? Buildings like the Bauhaus Dessau designed by Walter Gropius required large amounts of heating in the 1920s.

The preservation of modern buildings like these often require large amounts of energy consumption, which places them at odds with contemporary ideas around energy efficiency.

“We have been conditioned as humans to a certain type of lifestyle that is dependant – heavily dependent – upon the use of fossil fuels.”

Associate Professor Daniel Barber

Dr Jennifer Ferng speaks with Associate Professor Daniel Barber from the University of Pennsylvania about the modernist principles behind the Bauhaus, its legacy, and how energy efficiency has changed how architects deal with renovations and regulations around cultural heritage. Innovations in heating systems often lagged behind the aesthetic principles that determined buildings like the Bauhaus Dessau. The performance of modernist structures remains  incompatible with what we view now as contemporary standards of energy conservation. Architects must sometimes choose between preservation strategies and contemporary methods that reduce energy consumption.


Daniel A. Barber is an Associate Professor of Architecture and Chair of the Graduate Group in Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design. He is an architectural historian studying the relationship between the design fields and the emergence of global environmental culture across the 20th century.

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