the bench utilizes wasted heat to regulate urban environments


Harness the Heat, an MIT-born start-up launched in 2021, presents a thermally active bench to improve outdoor comfort by cooling in the summer and heating in the winter. Its latest prototype was developed for MIT Museum’s After Dark Series: Heat, experimenting with materials ranging from earth to concrete, ultimately opting for a closed, water loop and timber superstructure tucked with strategic and targeted concrete ‘pebbles.’ During the exhibition, visitors took refuge in targeted cold ‘pebbles,’ enjoying refreshing thermal delights amongst Boston’s otherwise hot summer of 33°C. During the winter, the bench leverages wasted heat to warm up city dwellers. Zooming out, Harness the Heat’s broader mission is thus to identify, collect, and passively utilize heat in cities for more comfortable and livable outdoor public spaces.

MIT-born 'harness the heat' presents thermally active urban urniture
integrated PV panels, planter and furniture piece housing the thermal system | all images courtesy of the author



mit’s harness the heat creates cooling zones of 17.6°C


Over the last two years, the team’s passion for experimenting with wasted heat and intelligent material choices distinguishes its work from other, more standardized furniture design approaches. In its latest prototype, developed with support from the MIT Museum and the MIT Urban Risk Lab, Harness the Heat uses a closed loop to harness and convert wasted heat, and create targeted cooling zones of 17.6°C for hours. This kept the heating and cooling sources efficient and the prototype light and mobile to transport around MIT’s campus.


The initiative’s inspiration began during COVID when noticing inefficient outdoor dining heating and nearby wasted urban heat sources like steam leaks, building exhausts, and subway vents in New York and Boston. Ultimately, the hope is to tactically intervene in sidewalks and public spaces and help make waiting for a bus in scorching heat or eating outside in winter enjoyable for residents in growing climate extremes. The team aims to continue developing tactical and thermally responsible outdoor furniture installations and is currently exploring various partnerships and potential collaborations.

MIT-born 'harness the heat' presents thermally active urban urniture
cooling and heating pebbles for targeted thermal comfort zones

 thermally active urban furniture 3
MIT Museum AfterDark: Heat event

 thermally active urban furniture 4
thermal imagery reveals thermally active zones



project info:


name: Harness the Heat
designer: Angela Loescher-Montal, Ous Abou Ras, Jules Kleitman, Latifa Alkhayat



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edited by: ravail khan | designboom