CH. 19 Matter is but Captured Energy

Kiel Moe’s essay Matter is but Captured Energy was, for the most part, a good read for me and very thought provoking. It is pretty clear that it is necessary in the built world to make adjustments with a view toward sustainability and conservation of natural resources. Moe makes a case for thinking this way right now, giving two examples of this type of design.

I first became aware that matter is energy in a practical physics class a while back. Matter became what we see now, through a transformative process requiring energy. The matter we see now will eventually transform into another state, also requiring energy. There are two things that confuse me in Moe’s essay. First, energy is never defined and the term is used interchangeably in a few places, meaning different things. I have previously understood that matter is captured energy, which Moe repeats. The essay then tells how matter is activated by energy and that matter can channel energy systems like, air-conditioning, heat, light, etc. Not, that Moe is wrong, but I’m getting confused. Second, physics teaches that following each transformation of energy, the strength, or output is weakened. How can this concept be reconciled with the design of the built world?

Much of the essay focused on the comparison between “stick” and “stack” technologies. Stack being a model for much better sustainability. The design-build project in Colorado was a very clear example of Moe’s argument for material sustainability. There are two critiques I have of the design that need further explanation. First, the roof does not overhang the stacked walls. How will snow and rain penetration be abated in the long term? Secondly, is this space really livable for the climate of Colorado? Related to that is the uncertainty of what the purpose of this space actually was made for.


Barry Kauffman


One thought on “CH. 19 Matter is but Captured Energy

  1. Regarding your two questions at the end of your response I think I may have answers. The roof I believe was attached to the stack walls in this process water proofing would have been employed. The second is yes. The area I think they were talking about is in a part of Colorado that is more arid. They will likely get snow at their elevation but not enough that would overwhelm the roof and it’s drainage capabilities.

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