The Renewable Energy Transition and Buildings: Great Opportunities for New Directions

Donald W. Aitken, PhD '58, Donald Aitken Associates

Friday, November 9, 2007, 3:30pm

Spanos Auditorium

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MP3 (28 MB)

This seminar is part of the Jones Seminars on Science, Technology, and Society series

The urgency of confronting and diminishing the human contribution to climate change, as well as the impending volatility of fossil fuel prices and availability, both direct the attention of scientists, engineers and policy makers toward a shift to non-carbon energy resources, along with an acceleration of improvements in energy efficiency in both production and in end-uses. The renewable energy resources (sun, wind, biomass, geothermal, ocean energy, and others) have made great strides in meeting these challenges in recent years. International policy has further stimulated the rapid advancement in renewable energy technologies and applications. International modeling and studies are now beginning to reveal that a complete global transition to reliance on the natural and renewable energy resources is feasible for advanced industrial nations as well as extremely attractive for developing nations, and both technically and economically possible, this century. An early driver of this is the major role played by buildings, since, for example, by 2030 the United States will have built or rebuilt buildings in the amount of all buildings presently standing in the country. This offers the quickest, most economic, and most attractive opportunity to meet the low- and no-carbon challenge that this and other countries now face. The integration of the renewable energy sources with "sustainable" building design is leading to energy- and carbon-neutral buildings as the norm within perhaps the next 25 years. All of these subjects will be discussed in a pictorial Powerpoint presentation.

About the Speaker

Dr. Donald Aitken graduated from Dartmouth Summa Cum Lauda and as a Senior Fellow in Physics with minors in Mathematics and Music. He also received training in architecture from Frank Lloyd Wright. Dr. Aitken was awarded his Ph.D. in Physics with distinction from Stanford University in 1963. He remained at Stanford as a research physicist and astrophysicist for 9 years, until he was invited to leave to found the Department of Environmental Studies at San Jose State University. This appointment grew out of his commitment to environmental quality and protection, and also enabled him to turn toward his particular interests in renewable energy and sustainable architecture. He chaired his department for 21 years, with time out to work with the U.S. Department of Energy as the director of the solar energy applications programs for the western United States. In 1991 Dr. Aitken left his academic work to serve for 11 years as Senior Staff Scientist for Renewable Energy Policy and Economics with the national organization The Union of Concerned Scientists. Dr. Aitken and his wife, Barbara Harwood, also serve jointly on the faculty of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Dr. Aitken has twice been President of the American Solar Energy Society, and has served as Secretary and Vice President of the International Solar Energy Society. Dr. Aitken has developed fundamentally important international renewable energy policy, he has designed pioneering sustainable buildings, and he lectures on renewable energy policy and sustainable architecture internationally. He is already affecting local and national renewable energy policy in Mexico out of his new home there.