Meet the Initiator: Thomas Auer

Meet the initiator Thomas Auer

Sustainability Beyond Certification!

Over thousands of years architects were using a climate responsive design, considering the challenges and opportunities of a local climate. Climate responsive design had been fundamental for vernacular architecture. The Romans already considered the impact of sun and wind. In the years 104 to 109 the architect Apollodor of Damascus was responsible for the monumental Roman spa called Baths of Trajan. The spa was designed in order to expose their users towards the sun, while being protected from the wind. Basically as a result of air conditioning a climate responsiveness got more and more ignored, which increased energy consumption while decreasing environmental quality and well-being.

Industry and designers want to make us believe that technology can close this gap; however, more and more we recognize the importance of design. Transsolar pioneered the concept ‘klimaengineering’ (climate engineering), which describes the approach to climate-responsive design that takes advantage of the specific local climate and surroundings to maximize user comfort and passive strategies’.

Climate engineering helps to inform and validate innovative climate and energy concepts for buildings, districts and cities. The work is limited to the provision of highly comfortable environments with a minimum use of resources. Yet we need to recognize that all aspects of design influence environmental quality. Therefore climate engineering fosters a collaborative process among the entire design team from the start of the design process, considering each step from the standpoint of fundamental thermodynamics. This generates a climate concept in which form, material, and mechanical systems are synergistic components of a well-orchestrated climate control system; and conversely, an environmental control strategy that is integral to the architectural concept. Such an approach tailors architectural and mechanical systems to the local climate and programmatic requirements, in order to contribute to a special experience for the user. Environmental qualities will become part of the experience – while minimizing the use of resources. This includes interior as well as exterior spaces.

The built environment is more than the physical building. Several factors affect the occupant experience – including their variation in time and space. Indoors or outdoors, a climate is continually changing. Climate engineering responds with dynamic solutions that work with the natural variability, not against it.  Despite the development of new technologies and innovative applications, one has to recognize that technology alone is not the answer. Passive design strategies such as the utilization of daylight or natural ventilation improve environmental quality and increases well-being. The potential is based on local climate conditions and has the potential to bring local identity back into architectural design.

“Building sense now” has the chance to bring a more holistic approach back into the design of our built environment and especially into the debate about sustainability. The most energy efficient air conditioning system is not able to provide good environmental quality in a glass tower in the desert; thus such an approach can’t be sustainable – no matter what some sustainable certification systems wants to make us believe. “Connect Ideas – Maximize Impact” was the message we used at Transsolar for our 20th anniversary. Let’s do it!

Thomas is partner and managing director of Transsolar, an engineering firm with offices in Stuttgart, Munich, Paris and New York. He collaborated with world known architecture firms on numerous international design projects. He is a specialist in energy efficiency and environmental quality. Thomas has developed concepts for buildings and districts around the world noted for their innovative strategies. Thomas taught at various universities around the world. Since 2014 he is full Professor for Building Technology and Climate Responsive Design at the TU of Munich with a focus in bridging academia and environmental design. His research focuses on form and materiality and their influence on performance and environmental quality at different scales.


2010                                       Treehugger Award 2010 as best Engineer

Selected Publications

Thomas Auer, Joshua Vanwyck, Erik Olsen, Sustainability beyond LEED: integrating performative daylight in the built environment, Perspecta 45 : Agency (08.2012)

Ulrich Knaack, Thomas Auer, Marcel Bilow, Linda Hildebrand, Imagine 05: Energy (2011, ISBN 978 90 6450 761 8)

Thomas Auer, Winnipeg, ManitobaHydro – Extreme Conditions, XIA International (01.2008)

Ulrich Knaack, Tillmann Klein, Marcel Bilow, Thomas Auer, Fassaden, Prinzipien der Konstruktion, Editor: Birkhäuser Verlag (2007, ISBN-10: 3764379618)