Energy, Architecture, and Philosophy
May 19, 2011
The arch has been a basic building block since the end of the prehistoric age. There are signs as
early as the second millennium BC in Mesopotamia of our ancestor’s innovative use of the arch. The
Mesopotamian’s also mastered the use of bricks, columns, and domes in their ancient architecture.
There homes and temples were built from sturdy bricks made of mud. Mud for making bricks was
a readily available abundant natural resource with many sustainable qualities.
Brick making became a major industry in southern Mesopotamian where wood was not abundant
and stones couldn’t be found. The bricks provided more than shelter from the elements, they
offered a natural source of sustainable, renewable energy for there homes. They maintained
temperature in their masonry mass like a solar wall or modern day Trombe wall. The thermal mass
of the mud bricks provided free heating and cooling.
Using the mud bricks as thermal mass was the genius of the Mesopotamian’s sustainable indirect gain
approach. The thermal mass walls were designed to absorb the sun’s energy during the day,
store it, and radiate heat evenly during the night. It also worked as a buffer or damper from the
high daytime temperatures. If we continue to look closely, we can apply the lessons of the earths earliest architects from a time when cheap
energy was not available.