|SEDE: Sustainable Environmental Design Education|
• Global environmental issues
Our human footprint increasingly is straining planetary resources and there are a multitude of indicators that the Earth's ability to recover from these impacts is diminishing. Causes for concern relate to the atmosphere, lithosphere, cryosphere, as well as biosphere. Specifically, global climate change, CO2 emissions, reduction in the ozone layer, eutrophication, sedimentation, and others are making our current patterns of lifestyle and consumption unsustainable.
The building industry is also a major player in determining the type of impact of planning, design, construction, and demolition. Buildings consume one-third of the total energy used in the U.S., produce 40% of the carbon dioxide emissions, and generate 33% of the construction waste that ends up in landfills. This is why a new paradigm is critical in the professions that make choices that affect patterns of resource consumption and environmental quality as it relates to energy, materials, water and air.
• Industry and professional response
The building industry* hasbegun to formulate a response to concerns
over environmental quality and human health. The U.S. Green Building
Council has been a leader in developing a system for rating the environmental
soundness of "green" buildings through LEED™ (Leadership
in Energy and Environmental Design). Manufacturers of building products
have started certification processes with clear labelling of environmentally-preferred
products (such as the Forest Stewardship Council, FSC).
1. Tradition in environmental design education.
environmental design education, as we know it today, developed during
the Beaux Arts era where emphasis was placed
of visual composition and space. Although styles changed over time (e.g.,
Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau, Baus Haus, Modernism, Post-Modernism), the
approach to design remains the same to today. Since
the 1950s when the world enjoyed an era of cheap and seemingly endless
practice and education for landscape architecture and architecture
have emphasized visual and spatial aspects of design.
On a philosophical
level, there is great acceptance and recognition of sustainability in
professional arenas. The American
Institute of Architects made significant inroads around 1992-93 with
of a Professional
Interest Area (PIA) known as the Committee on the Environment (COTE)
and the Environmental Resource Guide (ERG), a colossal loose-leaf binder
with case studies and chapters on environmental impacts of building construction
materials. Along similar lines, the American Society of Landscape Architects
(A.S.L.A.) Board of Trustees unanimously adopted in October 1993 a “Declaration
on Environment and Development” which provides a philosophical
framework for the actions of landscape architects. Specifically, the
SEDE is a proposal to shift environmental design education
towards a more comprehensive set of evaluation criteria whereby aesthetic
concerns are met along with natural, cultural, economic, information
technology, structural, material, energy, water, and other needs.
1. The Boyer Report.
In 1996, The
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching sponsored a study
by researchers Ernest L. Boyer and Lee D. Mitgang entitled, Building
Community: A New Future for Architecture Education and Practice.
This study highlighted the opportunities associated with architectural
design education. Seven priorities for architectural
education are outlined in the book. As you can see, there are strong
parallels to the goals of a sustainable environmental design education.
At the core of traditional environmental education is termed, experiential learning, as a method that puts students face-to-face with the realities of their surrounding environment. With relatively little time spent outdoors (studies have shown, 80-90% of the time people are indoors) and little connection to the processes that make the objects that surround us, the need for interaction with the physical and natural world is imperative in order to move sustainable design from theory to practice.
For many years, medical and business schools have utilized the case study approach to teaching the next generation of professionals. The model has proven successful both in terms of creating a positive learning environment and passing on core knowledge in fields that demand complex decision making with serious physical or financial consequences.
The American Institute of Architects has since decided to adapt the case study method for the teaching of professionals, especially in the nuances of the design and construction processes. The number of players in design, the legal, financial, and ethical issues surrounding design decisions and construction processes, make a clear case for why the use of real projects and their associated data is so instrumental.
Similar to other
"literacy" movements, there is an effort to increase environmental awareness
of all students as a basic philosophy that permeates all disciplines
at the university level. The integration of this topic, woven throughout
the curriculum, provides a pedagogical model for teaching ecological
concepts to non-scientists and scientists alike. David Orr, in his book,
Eco-literacy, expands on this topic.
While there are universal features within the design process, a specific sustainable design response (building or landscape) should be dependent on the building type, site characteristics, and the climate at both regional and local scales. "Should be" needs emphasis here because we are existing an era of cheap energy and a forgiving environment that can accept tons of CO2 emissions and other waste products. The international style with its identical glass box curtain wall buildings from Phoenix to Minnesota is no longer appropriate in an age of environmentally responsive design. Moreover, even sustainable design solutions that are appropriate to one area can be inappropriately exported to another region where they do not belong. Thus, a Framework for Regional Adaptation of Design tries to address these concerns through making specific recommendations for microclimatic zones.
There are examples
of regionalized adaptations of guidelines and rating systems although
limited in number. For example, a number of West Coast cities have created
their own versions of LEED™ that take into account their specific
regional climatic characteristics.
There are numerous misperceptions about sustainable design that are held by students, faculty, and administrators as well as building owners, occupants, architects, landscape architects and consultants. These include:
Sustainability is a fad or a buzz word.
There are also structural barriers to teaching interdisciplinary subject matters that relate to current university structures of separate departments and faculty. Team teaching across departments and student enrollment in courses offered by other departments are two examples of institutional barriers in academia to teaching sustainable design.
are barriers to sustainability, the benefits of adopting sustainable
design counter many of the aforementioned arguments. For example, homes
as well as commerical and instituional buildings, built according to
sustainable principles can save significant operating costs over time.
Also, better occupant comfort and indoor quality can be achieved through
buildings designed with passive solar heating and passive cooling in
mind. As has been proven through several landmark studies, the first
costs of sustainable design are decreasing. (See http://www.ciwmb.ca.gov/greenbuilding/Design/CostIssues.htm and
Gradually, green is becoming mainstream.
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