The Empty House and the Black Transition

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearch


    There is lots of literature on urbanisation, housing, and the industrialisation of building from an architectural point of view. However, not much is written about the materials used for housing with a weight on what changes have meant for the environmental impact of city life. Among other things, changes in housing have contributed to a global shortage of sand, to emission of greenhouse gases, and more generally to a black transition of city life.
    In this paper, I zoom in on three interrelated processes changing common housing in Danish cities: From the use of few mainly local materials to global flows of multiple resources. From relatively small and simple constructions providing shelter to larger heterogeneous multifunctional ‘machines’ providing comfort and convenience. From more sustainable solutions to the still earlier coming of the Earth Overshoot Day.
    The outset is the IPAT equation, which is a rough measure of the impact of human activity on the environment. In the equation, impact is seen as the product of population, affluence, and technology. However, I present no calculations but zoom in on the interrelated changes in technology/materials and affluence with an outset in ‘thick descriptions’ of two typical accommodations from different time periods. These descriptions become the outset for a broader history of new entanglements of humans, materials, habits, technologies, values etc.
    Generally, the paper strives to combine insights from history of technology, architectural history, environmental history, and new materialism with a more technical and scientific approach to the measuring of environmental impact. It is part of a larger project about the black transition of city life with a focus on changes in everyday life and the emission of greenhouse gases. The project focuses on the period from 1850 until today and includes quantitative calculations presented elsewhere.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2022
    Number of pages21
    Publication statusPublished - 2022
    EventThe 10th Tensions of Europe Conference: Technology, Environment and Resources - Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
    Duration: 29 Jun 20221 Jul 2022
    Conference number: 10


    ConferenceThe 10th Tensions of Europe Conference
    LocationAarhus University
    Internet address

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