SEDE: Sustainable Environmental Design Education
Home Background Curriculum Model  Teaching Methods Resources Contact Us

3 Teaching Methods

Foundations for SEDE Curriculum

    The basis for a sustainable environmental design curriculum incorporates many pedagogical models but in particular should involve place-based, problem-oriented, and participatory learning. Place-based learning demands knowledge of site conditions and their relationship to micro as well as macro scale. This pertains to ecological as well as socio-cultural, economic, and aesthetic conditions. Problem-oriented learning sees the advantage of working with a real, concrete, and complex set of circumstances rather than dealing in a pure, abstract, and simplified world. Participatory learning requires physical and mental immersion in an educational setting of place-based, problem-oriented study.

  1. Experiential Learning
  2. Precedent Studies
  3. Case Studies
  4. Field Trips/Field Studies
  5. Simulations and Role Playing
  6. Internships
  7. Tools of the Trade

Teaching Methods for Sustainable Design

Design education involves preparing students for interaction with clients and the general public through verbal, written, graphical, and spatial skill sets. Modeling the behaviour of a professional in the various roles of practice requires experience that can be acquired in school through simulation and observation. Both analysis and sythesis skills are required for all designers. Sustainable design goes a step further in demanding that design performance be assessed in terms of social, economic and environmental performance, not just formal or symbolic gestures.

Experiential "Hands-on" Learning

Direct experience with the application of knowledge has long been recognized as a superior teaching method to passive learning modes such as lectures. Hands-on learning can take place in a laboratory setting or in the field. This may include community service-based learning where students perform real projects that serve an actual (typically local or regional) community need.
<< Back

Precedent Studies

Analysis of historical buildings and landscapes by type (e.g., libraries or Chinese gardens), is the basis of precedent studies. A building is examined for its visual and spatial compositional features as well as function and use. In sustainable design, additional layers of environmental, social and economic performance are added.
<< Back

Case Studies

The term case studies has been applied to precedent and other building performance studies. Another type of case study follows the business school model, where a project is fully documented in terms of decision making steps and strategies. In sustainable environmental design this would include examining a project through phases from pre-design through occupancy by interviewing the project players and analyzing project documentation to uncover important lessons for professionals. (Several links and outline case studies are provided in this web site. See SEDE Case Studies.)
<< Back

Field Trips

Direct observation with an interpretative guide provides a means for analyzing and experiencing built environments. Spatial as well as acoustical, thermal, luminous, and haptic elements are conveyed through first hand experience in ways that even virtual reality has been unable to produce. It is especially important that the field trip is used as a way to broaden students' experience by introducing them to unfamiliar settings (such as urban for students from rural campuses), cultures, and technologies.
<< Back

Simulations and Role Playing

Role playing is also known as simulation.Through this process students learn roles and responsibilities associated with different aspects of design and construction fields.
<< Back

Internships and Co-operative Education

Internships (also called, co-operative education) are one of the best ways for students to experience real world attributes of design and construction fields throguh observation and participation. Because internships are tied to the academic experience (course credit is given), there is usually a reflective component where students write and research some aspect of their work experience. Internships can be in firms or in the field. Hands-on experience in either case, especially with guided instruction, is one of the best ways to learn practice or the trades.
<< Back

• Tools of the Trade: LEED™ and Environmental Design Checklists

How do we know if a design is "sustainable"? One method that has been used in education and practice is in the form of guidelines or a checklist. The best known examples is the LEED™ green building rating system that provides points for environmental performance in the categories of:

  • Sustainable sites
  • Water efficiency
  • Energy & Atmosphere
  • Materials & Resources
  • Indoor environmental quality
  • Innovation & Design process.

Another type of checklist was created by architect Malcom Wells and appears in his book, Gentle Architecture (1981). In this case, the scoring system is based on positive versus negative aspects of design. He asks questions about the project, such as: Does it create pure water or waste rainwater? Does it use solar energy or waste it? The notion of buildings and landscapes as producers versus consumers (or regenerators vs. polluters) is a powerful shift in the way that we thing about changes to the built environment.

Checklists are useful to outline the broadest spectrum of considerations for design but do not inform the client or designer about priorities for their given building type, site, or user program. Therefore, a companion document (or course work) and critical analysis of the project conditions must be used in tandem for a truly sustainable project.
<< Back

 §  Pedagogical Models

Case Study Methodologies

In order to assess the current state of Sustainable Environmental Design Education, a survey of community colleges, universities,and industry professionals was conducted.
AIA Case Study Method (pdf)
Case Study Method for Landscape Architecture (pdf)

Teaching the Teachers

Faculty and graduate student teaching opportunities exist through organizations like the following.
"Agents of Change"
Society of Building Science Educators
Vital Signs Project



1 May 2004 Home BackgroundCurriculum ModelTeaching Methods Resources Contact us