Lee Fithian, associate professor of architecture at Gibbs College of Architecture, was featured on “Yes! Science!,” a talk show series dedicated to highlighting women and minorities working in various STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.

Fithian discussed topics such as environmental and ecological sustainability in architecture, recent projects, what got her into architecture, and more.

“I truly appreciated the opportunity to discuss how much science and architecture are interwoven,” Fithian said.

Climate change and architecture’s role in environmental sustainability is a topic that Fithian is very passionate about. She says that architecture goes beyond mere function and shelter through beauty and order.

“The understanding that the built environment is a large contributor to climate change, has lead many to examine how organisms in nature interact with their environments,” she explains.

“Instead of buildings needing precious water and energy resources and producing waste that can only be landfilled, designers now see that buildings are interconnected within cities and can play an integral part in resilience by becoming resource generators for power, water and cleaning waste, with their components easily recycled or repurposed in a circular economy.”

Fithian came up with an idea to expand buildings’ roles in cities during her Ph.D. dissertation research. She created a patented building facade system that removes air pollutants.

“One of the biggest urban issues in the world is poor air quality,” she says. “I wanted to see how buildings could expand their role and clean the air around them – which is necessary for our health and good urban design, not to mention the air quality within the buildings themselves.”

With buildings being responsible for over 60% of primary energy usage, it’s vital that we make them more efficient, she explains.

“We have to do it by utilizing more passive means of heating and cooling and daylighting, with distributed renewable power generation that helps us all be more resilient during extreme climate events.”

With increasing urbanization, Fithian acknowledges how important it is for buildings to increase their functionality by contributing to food, water, and energy production.

Fithian says she will continue to do research and dissemination on her work, expanding architecture’s role in the urban built environment while her building facade system is moving toward a larger scale demonstration and is seeking funding.

“One of my great joys is that I also get to teach these concepts to future generations of architects!”

Check out the video and details on the website here.