I got a scholarship to attend this year’s GreenBuild here in Boston! You know what I don’t understand? The information they wish to disseminate is very, very important, particularly for the up-and-coming generation of designers, and yet they make it inaccessible by charging (are you sitting down?) $225. That’s the student price.
(Want to read my winning scholarship “essay”?)
I got to attend two of the educational sessions – Large scale straw Bale Building, and Education Revolution (which I’ll tell you more about in just a sec).
I also got to see Janine Benyus!!! Author of Biomimicry!!!! My hero!!! I had an emotional experience just being there. If my other hero, William McDonough, had also been there, I would have been overcome with architectural ecstasy. It would have been just like when my mom saw the Beatles.
Janine is so cool. You know what she did? She put together a biomimicry database. It’s in beta. You should check it out: AskNature.org.
And, get this, it’s organized by design problem. You can type something like “humidity” into the search box, and it will give you everything it knows about how nature deals with humidity. I spent about five hours on it that night.
Okay, now I want to tell you about the “Education Revolution: Empowering the Next Generation of Sustainable Designers” session.
RMJM Hillier surveyed 20 architecture schools taken from a list of the Top US Architecture schools and discovered, among other things, that there is a disconnect between what professors feel they are teaching their students about sustainability, what students feel they are learning about sustainability, and what design leaders (employers) feel that recent grads have been taught about sustainability. Ready to be outraged? (Or at lease a little upset?)
(The bolded parts outrage me.)
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With energy policy near the top of the United States’ domestic agenda, environmental sustainability - how we define it, how we measure it, how we achieve it - will be a recurring topic of discussion, in classrooms, board rooms and living rooms, from Washington D.C. to Washington State, for years to come.
By now, we all know that the largest source of energy consumption in this country is not the Hummer in the driveway - it’s the buildings in which we live and work. Buildings are responsible for approximately 35 to 45 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and a third of all energy use in the United States. A comprehensive national or international energy policy, therefore, must take our buildings and infrastructure into account.
The architecture, engineering and construction (A/E/C) industry has attempted to address rising concerns about the impact of buildings on the environment by establishing professional organizations that give practitioners the tools and knowledge they need to mitigate the environmental impact of new buildings. Thanks to the United States Green Building Council, Green Globes (Canada) and Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) (U.K.), and a variety of other small and large nonprofit groups dedicated to sustainable design, the industry has made great strides in educating practitioners and clients, and influencing policy. Many U.S. cities and states have adopted green building standards because of their efforts.
But future advancements in green building practice, policy and advocacy will hinge largely on the next generation of building professionals - students entering architecture and/or engineering programs, as well as recent graduates. The next generation of architects is truly critical in spurring real innovation on a global scale and moving the sustainability movement forward. A report published in 2006 by the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment concluded that colleges and universities - despite leading the charge in campus-wide greening initiatives- were not doing enough to train the next generation of architects. Many schools have added courses, departments and degree programs devoted to sustainable design, they concluded, but it was still marginalized within the curriculum; style always trumped sustainability. The reports authors, Lance Hosey and Kira Gould, called for a “paradigm shift’ in the teaching of green design.
One of the main goals of “Education Revolution” - a study of attitudes and approaches to sustainable design at some of the nation’s top architecture schools - is to find out whether that “paradigm shift” is occurring. Our research builds upon the AIA’s earlier report by comparing and contrasting student, faculty and design firm leader perceptions about how well schools are preparing the next generation of architects. In conducting our research we also hoped to learn where schools excel and fall short in their efforts and what approaches are considered by academia and the industry to be most valuable.
Amazing untapped opportunities exist for collaboration between the academic and professional world. We believe that the sustainable design movement could be advanced more quickly and effectively through closer collaboration between the academic and professional realms.
What follows is an attempt to build a bridge between those two worlds in the interest of designing a much more sustainable built environment that can better preserve and even enhance our natural environment.
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Know of some others I can add here? Let me know. Have you already visited some of these places...or planning on it? Let me know and I will feature your story and your photos here!
I am starting a new kind of architecture school. Unlike most architecture schools, you wouldn't have to submit GRE scores or good grades or letters of recommendation. You wouldn't have to put the rest of your life on hold for 3 to 5 years. You wouldn't have to accrue tens of thousands of dollars in debt. At my architecture school, anyone could come for a few weeks and learn how to build a house with their own two hands. My teachers would take skills and concepts from some of these other workshops I've listed above... except classes would be held year-round to make it easy to fit into your schedule. I would have a number of different campuses around the country that would teach building designs appropriate to the local climate. And I need your help. Can you donate land for a campus? Can you dotate books for a library? Can you teach a workshop? Can you provide start-up capital? Let me know.
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