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Supervisor: Prof. Koen Steemers


Research overview:

As with biological natural selection, the most successful buildings are not the biggest, strongest, nor most resource-consuming, but rather those most responsively adapted to the forces characterising their particular environments and programmes. Ecological architecture is thus often misperceived. Contemporary revisions of vernacular techniques may lend the impression of superficial naturalism when, in fact, such examples merely evidence responsiveness to largely non-human environments. It is equally possible to conceive of ecological architectures in cities; we must simply learn to likewise understand these environments as ecologies in order to identify appropriate interventions. Tools ripe for adaptation to this purpose include: geographic information systems (GIS), urban metabolism models (UM), and urban network analysis (UNA), amongst others. Specifically, UNA could be applied not just to the physical forms of cities, but also the flows of their ecologic and metabolic networks, taken here to mean the pathways of processing energy and matter to sustain life. My hypothesis is: if UM and GIS data are analysed for peak urban ecologic and metabolic network connectivity, a locally-specific set of environmentally fit architectural solutions will emerge. My methodology will consist of modifying the UNA platform to assess the connectivity of the nature-based value chains (NBVCs) of a series of exemplary case study architectures, leading to the production of a toolset for proposing optimised solutions for the built environment.



Michael Salka is a PhD candidate in Architecture and Gates Scholar. His research interests are in nature-based solutions/materials, computer-aided design/manufacturing, place-based approaches, and geographic information systems. He also serves as Technical Director of the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia’s (IAAC) Valldaura Self-sufficient Labs and Co-director of IAAC’s Master in Advanced Ecological Buildings & BioCities (MAEBB). Michael has past professional experience as an architect in Denver, and development experience via Engineers Without Borders in Rwanda. He holds a MAEBB degree from IAAC and a Bachelor’s in Environmental Design from the University of Colorado at Boulder.