Prof. John E Fernandez

Director, Environmental Solutions Initiative
Professor of Architecture and Building Technology
Director, Building Technology Program (Architecture)
Director, Urban Metabolism Group
Co-Director, International Design Center at MIT

Primary DLC

Department of Architecture

MIT Room: E38

Areas of Interest and Expertise

Urban Metabolism
Industrial Ecology
Construction Materials
Sustainable Materials and Building Design
Building Technology
Material Selection for Architecture and the Built Environment

Research Summary

Professor Fernandez's research has been focused on the materials and physical elements and components of the assemblies and systems of buildings. A culminating publication of his research of the past several years is the newly published book, "Material Architecture: emergent materials for innovative buildings and ecological construction." (2005. Architectural Press: Oxford).

Currently, Professor Fernandez is engaged in the articulation of concepts of the ecology of contemporary construction. This effort involves identifying the distinct consumption profile and resource requirement attributes of our existing anthropogenic stock of buildings while formulating design strategies that contribute to reuse and recycling of building materials and components. Accepting the essential tenets of the field of industrial ecology, Fernandez is involved in two primary initiatives intended to bring forth real change in the ways in which material and energy networks are configured toward the making of contemporary buildings.

First, he believes that each anthropogenic product possesses characteristics of resource consumption that are particular to the satisfaction of the set of needs that artifact addresses. Architecture's primary and timeless purpose has been the production and stewardship of habitable space capable of reliably sheltering the vast array of human activities. This is a function that no other human artifact delivers with the same mandate. To fulfill this need, buildings consume resources - and do so in very particular ways. For example, the products of architecture consume resources at their distinct, generally immutable spatial locations - their individual sites. For the most part, buildings do not change their locations during their service lives. Materials and energy are harnessed and delivered to these countless sites. Also, buildings often serve useful lives of several generations and much longer, far outlasting the firms that design and construct their assemblies and systems. Fernandez has identified these characteristics, among several others, as the constitutive attributes of building metabolism.

Second, Professor Fernandez is intimately involved in developing real partnerships between the academy and industry for the purpose of establishing productive real-world projects of construction ecology. He is actively engaged in introducing the essential elements of industrial ecology to the construction industry and design profession in the US. Through an articulation of the constitutive attributes of the metabolism of contemporary buildings, academics working on concepts of industrial ecology and industry experts can begin to formulate a common ground for establishing real collaboration.

Both of these initiatives are intended to establish the Department of Architecture at MIT as a center of research and teaching about the resource demands of our contemporary buildings and formulate pathways toward more responsible production and consumption norms in the generation of future buildings.

During the last few years, Fernandez has been directing research focused on emerging and nontraditional materials (including natural and synthetic fibers, new laminated glass assemblies, textile building enclosures), innovative architectural assemblies, sustainable materials and the technical and design opportunities offered by the continuing exploration of contemporary materials. Recently he has been collaborating in the development of software designed to assist designers in the assessment and selection of material

Recent Work

  • Video

    6.22.22-Showcase- John-Fernandez

    June 22, 2022Conference Video Duration: 39:58
    John Fernández
    Professor, Architecture, Building Technology and Engineering Systems
    Director, MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative


    May 19, 2021Conference Video Duration: 20:54
    John Fernández
    Professor, Architecture, Building Technology and Engineering Systems
    Director, Environmental Solutions Initiative


    March 9, 2021Conference Video Duration: 20:54
    John Fernández
    Professor, Architecture, Building Technology and Engineering Systems
    Director, Environmental Solutions Initiative

    John Fernández - 2019 RD Conference

    November 20, 2019Conference Video Duration: 36:32

    Committing to the environment and climate at MIT

    The MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative was founded in 2014 and charged by MIT President L. Rafael Reif with leading the Institute’s “drive to increase fundamental knowledge and accelerate progress towards solutions around environment, climate, and human society.” Director Fernandez will describe the work of the ESI and highlight the ways in which industry plays a critical role in a productive, sustainable and humane future for people and the planet.

    2019 MIT Research and Development Conference

    John Fernandez

    October 8, 2019MIT Faculty Feature Duration: 14:44

    Director, Environmental Solutions Initiative
    Principal Investigator, Urban Metabolism Group

    John Fernández - RD2017

    November 22, 2017Conference Video Duration: 30:28

    MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative: moving forward with industry

    A sustainable world requires the capacity and support of industry locally, nationally, and internationally. Director John Fernandez will describe the activities of the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI). As an effort focused on solutions to environmental challenges including the consequences of climate change, Fernandez will describe the multi-disicplinary and multi-faceted work of researchers, students, staff and alumni supported through the ESI.

    2017 MIT Research and Development Conference