Energetic Forms of Matter

Energetic Forms of Matter

Aletheia Ida (University of Arizona, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6995-4.ch007

Abstract

One of the challenges that architects and designers are confronted with in contemporary contexts is the need to address an ethical responsibility towards the health of the environment through understanding the energetic processes embedded in materials and their compositions. A scientific explanation of material fundamentals, including chemistry, physical structure, and embodied energy, provides the greatest insight to material property performance values and relative environmental impacts. This information aids architects in making informed decisions about building materials in the design process. This chapter addresses the book topic of reusable and sustainable building materials through the position that all matter is a form of energy, just as living systems are the transmutation of matter and energy. The seven major material groups, which include natural materials, non-technical ceramics, technical ceramics, metals, polymers, foams and elastomers, and composites, are presented with examples and applications discussed.
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Introduction

The materials employed in architecture are selected through a complex decision-making framework, including aspects of aesthetics, function, durability, cost, availability, and embedded cultural norms and industrial standards. The challenge that architects and designers are confronted with in contemporary contexts is the need to address an ethical responsibility towards the health of the environment through the energetic processes embedded in such material choices and compositions. A scientific understanding of material fundamentals, including chemistry, physical structure, and embodied energy, provides the greatest insight to material property performance values and relative environmental impacts, and to making informed decisions about building materials in the design process. For future architects, it is imperative that knowledge of materials and energy flows extend beyond accepted best practices and current building technologies, as the expertise that is needed for making a shift towards reducing our environmental impact requires this enhanced depth in realms not traditionally central to our practice (Brownell, 2010).

This chapter addresses the book topic of reusable and sustainable building materials through the position that all matter is a form of energy, just as living systems are the transmutation of matter and energy. The seven major material groups, which include natural materials, non-technical ceramics, technical ceramics, metals, polymers, foams and elastomers, and composites, are presented and studied in comparative modes for various characteristics. Stereomicroscopy images are shown for each material group, revealing microstructures that express the potential for energy transfer and other performance properties. Embodied energy values are presented for each material group, revealing the potential environmental impact upon construction implementation. In this way, the significance of a correlation between the micro-scale structure of materials with the macro-scale availability of material resource also begins to reveal the natural environmental characteristics for regional appropriateness through an energy metric (i.e. evolution of plant systems, soil hardiness, and response to climatic adversity). Ultimately, the information presented in this chapter contributes to fundamental material considerations in the architecture design process for realizing an ideal energetic form of matter in the artifact that manifests.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Microstructure: The structure of materials at the micron scale.

Lyophilize: A processing method that sublimates ice from a material with vacuum pressure or high-speed centrifugal spinning techniques resulting in a porous foam-like structure; freeze-drying.

Recycle Fraction: The fraction of a material that can be recycled cost effectively.

Emergy: The total available energy consumed by the matter and content of a building product inclusive of the biogeochemical energy required to create the original material resources (i.e., sun, water, lightning, etc.), the energy for material sourcing, processing, and fabrication, as well as the energy to transport the product to the site for its intended use.

Stereomicroscopy: A microscopy technique that makes use of an instrument capable of assimilating a three-dimensional imaging effect to enhance the surface interface detail of the sample being viewed.

Eotechnic: Early techniques of industry and energy production with the utilization of wood and glass materials and water and wind forces.

Life-Cycle: The total lifespan of a building material or product and its energy value for that duration including the energy it conserves for the building during implementation.

Entropy: Related to the second law of thermodynamics principle that all forms of energy transform from higher to lower grade states in natural circumstances as a general trend of increasing disorder in the universe.

Energetic Form: The embedded energy value of a building design made visible in the composition of its materials.

Embodied Energy: The energy content of a building material or building product that includes the energy to extract original material resources, the energy to process and make the product for its intended use, as well as the energy to transport the material product to the building site.

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