Do it Right

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I think, therefore I am. So it’s great fun to teach English to people who apply their minds to developing interesting concepts — for example, that buildings have skin. Like our own skin, a building’s skin protects it, lets it breathe, allows in the right amount of light and regulates indoor-outdoor temperature differences.

chameleonIdeally, this skin can even adapt and change as climatic conditions vary over the course of a day or year. So Climate Skin can take a lesson from the chameleon. This concept is part of a science known as “building climatology”, a happy marriage of architecture and civil engineering, with physics and a few other sciences making up the rest of the family.Environmentally friendly houses are currently on the upswing. Brad Pitt is helping down in New Orleans. He’s promoting new safe, green, affordable and aesthetic housing for the low-income victims of Hurricane Katerina so they can move back into their old neighborhoods. Pitt has named his foundation “Make it Right” because it is supposed to make up for the political mismanagement of one of the worst hurricanes to hit the USA. A public-spirited, fresh idea; and it’s sincerely motivated by the will to rebuild a community that can use all the help it can get. But will he really “do it right” if he helps rebuild a neighborhood for flood victims in a flood-prone area? You can’t fool Mother Nature.


Kieran Timberlake Associates for Make it Right

“Doing it right” is what ClimaDesign, a group of building climatologists around Professor Gerhard Hausladen over at the TUM in Munich, are interested in. They are linking human needs and intelligent engineering design with a close look at the environment we live in. Petra, one of the members in the team, explains, “Buildings are holistic systems. The better the building reacts to outside climate conditions, the less technology and energy we need to make the people inside feel comfortable.” Her dissertation will chart climate zones all over the world to create a grid that allows builders to select the materials and technologies that are best in terms of building climate for any given area. “That’s the basis for sound planning.” Feeling better and consuming less energy worldwide — now, that’s practical thinking on a grand scale.

I’m a little disappointed that ClimaDesign is not among the finalists in the ongoing Solar Decathlon, a competition run by the US Department of Energy, so they won’t be going to Washington to showcase their work. A German contestant, the Technische Universität Darmstadt, won the last competition in 2007 with a house featuring solar panels that rotate into the light. Had ClimaDesign been a finalist, that would have meant two years of fundraising to supplement the grant for the building project. But it would have generated lots of enthusiasm among the students — the undergraduates and the postgraduates — and the team’s extensive network of collaborators. Oh well, never mind. chameleonClimaDesign is pursuing so many other interesting projects, from advising mayors on urban energy concepts to carrying out analyses for global players, which includes calculating the energy efficiency of buildings. And then, of course, there’s all that teaching and research to do.

I’m not sure whether doing everything right” will actually “make everything right”. The ecosystem and the way we use it seems far too complex to predict, let alone control, no matter how sincere our motivations may be. But the building climatologists are certainly doing their bit. It’s a considered approach: They think, therefore they build.

Learning the ropes – Vokabeln aufbauen

to do it right – es richtig machen
to make it right – etwas wiedergutmachen (!)
I think, therefore I am – Ich denke, also bin ich
to apply your mind to something – seinen Geist einer Sache widmen
to adapt (to something) – sich anpassen
climatic conditions – klimatische Verhältnisse
to vary – variieren
over the course of – im Laufe
building climatology – Bauklimatik und Haustechnik
sustainable – nachhaltig
civil engineering – Bauingenieurwesen
environmentally friendly – umweltfreundlich
on the upswing – im Aufschwung
to promote – fördern, vorrantreiben
affordable – bezahlbar
aesthetic – ästhetisch
housing – Behausung, auch: Häuser
low-income – Niedrigeinkommen
victim – Opfer
move back into – wieder einziehen
foundation – Stiftung
it is supposed to – es soll
to make up for something – etwas wiedergutmachen
mismanagement – schlechtes Managemen
tone of the worst hurricanes to hit the USA – einer der schlimmsten Orkane, die je die USA heimgesucht haben
public-spirited – mit Gemeinsinn, sozial gesinnt
sincerely motivated – aus ehrlichem Antrieb
can use all the help (I/you/they) can get – kann jede Hilfe gut gebrauchen
in terms of – hinsichtlich
to rebuild – wiederaufbauen
flood-prone – Flut gefährdet
to fool – was vormachen
building climatologist – Spezialist für Bauklimatik und Haustechnik
the better … the less – je besser … desto weniger
to chart – nachverfolgen
climate zones – Klimazonen
grid – Raster
builder – Bauherr
any given area – jedes gegebene Gebiet
sound planning – gründliche, wohlüberlegte Planung
practical – praktisch
on a grand scale – im großen Maßstab
among the finalists – in der Endrunde
to showcase – exemplarisch vorzeigen
contestant – Wettbewerbsteilnehmer
ongoing – laufend
decathlon – Zehnkampf
competition – Wettbewerb
to rotate – sich drehen
to compete – im Wettbewerb stehen
fundraising – Spendenaktion
to supplement – zusätzlich(e Mittel) aufbringen
grant – Stipendium, Beihilfe
undergraduates and postgraduates – Studierende vor und nach dem ersten akademischen Abschluss
postgraduate studies (pl.) – Aufbaustudiengang
collaborators – Kooperationspartner
never mind – egal
to pursue – nachgehen
mayor – Bürgermeister
urban – städtisch
analysis, analyses – Analyse, Analysen
to do research – forschen
ecosystem – Ökosystem
far too complex to predict – viel zu komplex, um vorherzusagen
let alone – geschweige denn
to control – im Griff haben
to do your bit – seinen Beitrag leisten
Chameleons from


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