Teaching Sustainable Concepts to Architecture Students

green-constructionThe simple fact of the matter is that human beings have modified the climate and will continue to do so. The citizens of the world and the buildings that they use for business and shelter are responsible for a large portion of greenhouse emissions that have had a detrimental effect on the atmosphere which has led to a planet that is getting warmer every year. Along with the increase in temperature changes, there is a rise in natural disasters. Reduction of the pollutants that are causing the problem is vital to the continued existence of this planet. Getting this message across to architecture students is a necessary step in their education. These students are going to be shaping the future and perhaps, even replace the past. Creating buildings that have minimal environmental impact is important. They need to understand how to design buildings that are energy efficient, using nature itself to create heat or cool down a building (passive solar design), and even harnessing nature to generate energy for the building through solar, wind, and hydroelectric power.

In order to effectively teach architecture students about sustainable concepts, the message must be threaded throughout their education. Introducing the ideas from the beginning in introductory design courses and continuing the emphasis through their thesis classes will provide exposure to the idea along with multiple approaches for correction of the problem. At first, it is important for students in this field of study to understand that they are caretakers of the environment and that everything they design must be done with this in mind. As architecture students advance into their first studio courses they will be able to put these lessons into practice, even if it is in a rudimentary way. Studio courses will get more complex as time goes on, providing better opportunities for students to demonstrate that they understand the concepts of sustainability in finer, more detailed work.

Even the U.S. Government has weighed in on the education of future architects. The Department of Energy sponsors a competition once every two years. It lasts ten days and is known as the Solar Decathlon. The competition presents a challenge to teams from various colleges to design, build and put into operations solar-powered housing. It must be economically sound, energy-efficient and aesthetically pleasing. The winning team will combine all of these requirements to make an affordable, well-constructed house that is appealing to consumers and operates efficiently using renewable energy. Besides the competition, the U.S. Department of Energy will also sponsor an XPO that showcases renewable energy technologies. There will be interactive exhibits, displays, and demonstrations. Not only will visitors to the Decathlon get to experience the future of architecture, but they will also learn how to incorporate sustainable practices into their lives, thereby reducing their energy bills and protecting the environment. People will understand that it is not just the large changes that effect the way the world is changing, but also the small changes made right in the home.

From the time they are young, children are natural engineers. For those that choose to move on from building blocks to designing actual structures, educating them on environmentally responsible design is essential for the future of their careers and the future of the planet.

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