Energy efficiency in a Building is about its Life Cycle


Energy saving in buildings is today all about apps. Some time before it was about insulation and solar panels, but trends and delusions aside, the dialectic pendulum will show that it truly is about the whole life-cycle.


After having worked as a Civil Engineer for 1 year, in Frankfurt, in environmental energy projects for developing countries, I applied to study Architecture at the TU Darmstadt in 2003. To do so I needed to know German. 11 months of casual learning + 1 month of intensive course and I passed the demanding DSH test, narrowly!

And so I started my second Master, now in Architecture, supporting it financially by working part time as a musician, on tours, and in office jobs as a civil engineer / architect. During this time, I had the fortune (although he never liked me) to be a student of Prof Manfred Hegger of the Department of Entwerfen und Energieeffizientes Bauen (Project and energy efficient construction). This department got notorious when it won in 2007, the Solar Decathlon in Washington DC, with its modular furniture, low energy consumption, solar panels on the window shades, etc.

One project I did in this department was a modular school. The goal of the project demanded by the department was to design a school, energy efficient, which could be built fast and cheaply. Although the Decathlon house was a hit, it also costed an absurd amount of money, speculated to be around 1 million euros. Luckily for our German team, the costs were not considered back then as an evaluation item in the competition, but mostly the operational factors of efficiency in energy consumption. With the modular school, and later on in all of my proposed projects, I regarded then and do now, a building within its life-cycle, from acquisition, design, construction, operation and dismantling, or reintegration in another economical context. Energy efficiency must be the accumulated energy from this whole cycle, not only during its operation.


The myth that the operational costs of buildings surpass the rest of its stages is slowly being debunked, specially now when we can access more detailed and interrelated data. ​Professor Hegger graded my project with the lowest score possible , but today, I am close to demonstrate that I might actually have been right all along, through my research on Architectural Democracy.


Extremes are important to create the right path, a right synthesis, like a pendulum ever closer to the truth. Not 3, as Hegel described it, but an infinite set of backs and forths, till one day, who knows, we might even realize that the Cologne Cathedral is the most energy efficient building ever made!

Pedro Aibéo

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About the author:

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Pedro Aibéo is a trained Design Architect (M.Sc., Dipl. Ing., TU Darmstadt, Germany) and Civil Engineer (M.Sc., Licenciatura, FEUP, Porto) with over 50 buildings designed and built on 15 countries currently practicing at "AIBEO architecture". He is also a Kone Säätiö Research Fellow, a Visiting Associate Professor at UNAM University, Mexico and at Wuhan University of Technology, China, and a Lecturer, Research Assistant and Doctoral Candidate at Aalto University, Finland on "Architectural Democracy". He has also regularly lectured about Architecture at the Universities of QUT Brisbane, TU Darmstadt and FAUP Portugal. He is the founder and Artistic Director of “Cidadania” theatre+games group, Germany, with written and directed theater plays at the United Nations and the Staatstheater Darmstadt on urban slavery and astronomy. He is a professional Musician at "Homebound" and the founder and Chairman of the "World Music School Helsinki ry”. He is a drawing teacher at the croquis nights and at Kiasma in Helsinki and a comic novel writer on mathematics. He is a published current affairs author in several newspapers.

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