May 22, 2012

Building the Future: Top Degree Programs in Sustainable Architecture and Design

guest post by Lauren Bailey

The term "sustainability" has become something of a buzzword in recent years. Sustainability, as an environmental issue, means that we as a society find ways to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. As issues of climate change and global waste become more and more pertinent within our society, ecological sustainability has become a priority throughout the world. Institutions of higher learning have always been the main platform for forward-thinking and passionate individuals to create new methods and techniques for improving the way in which we live. It is through education and academia that a truly sustainable future can be harvested—new programs in sustainability are cropping up within numerous schools throughout the United States. These three universities in the US provide some of the best and most unique architecture and design programs available.

Boston Architectural College- The Sustainable Design Institute
With every course focused on sustainable design, Boston Architectural College (BAC) is a wonderful choice for students devoted to sustainability and awareness. Offering courses in Sustainable Design, Sustainable Community Planning and Design, Sustainable Residential Design, and Sustainable Building Design, BAC provides a fairly diverse array of programs. The college contains a School of Architecture, School of Interior Design, School of Landscape Architecture, and a School of Design Studies. With both distance and online education opportunities, SAC provides for a more flexible educational option than many other design and architectural programs.

One interesting and unique thing that Boston Architectural College offers is its Summer Academy for high school design exploration. This program encourages high school age students to engage in a four-week design studio. Students will "build fundamental architectural design skills through hands-on projects" and will have the opportunity to collaborate with studio leaders and fellows students to address design problems including structure, form, sustainability, beauty, and utility. This program is a wonderful way for school aged students to approach concept of sustainability in a more practical and approachable manner.

University California Berkeley- Environmental Design
UC Berkeley is known for its academics in many different departments and areas. The school's College of Environmental Design (CED) is no exception. Founded in 1959, the CED has emphasized environmental design as an ethical practice, co-produced through dynamic engagements with diverse communities, workers, businesses, and policy-makers. This approach to sustainable design is an important one. By placing the responsibility not solely on the architect, designer, builder, etc., we have a better chance of really addressing issues of sustainability in urban planning and development. UC Berkeley was one of the first institutions to conceptualize environmental design as something that is inseparable from its social, political- economic, and cultural contexts. This realization and practice is essential.

UC Berkeley's Department of City and Regional Planning provides a wonderful example of combining both the social and design elements of sustainable design into one degree program. This department offers degrees such as a Bachelor's in Urban Studies, a Master's of City Planning, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in City and Regional Planning. These programs are spread throughout the areas of Architecture, International and Area Studies, Public Health, Landscape Architecture, and Transportation Engineering. Truly an interdisciplinary program, this department offers a variety of options for individuals interested in city planning, architecture, sustainability, and sociology.

University of Oregon- Department of Architecture
It's not much of a surprise that this Pacific Northwest University holds some of the top spots for sustainable degree programs across the board. The UO Department of Architecture holds two locations in both Eugene and Portland, providing a diverse environment for study with both a big-time city and a small town structure. The department offers a few degree options including, Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Architecture in Portland. The architecture program that is specifically interested in urban issues in Portland provides a unique learning experience for students. This program focuses on the influence of urban design and planning on building design, using Portland itself as a living laboratory for urban architecture. Students can also gain experience from UO's International Programs in Architecture. Providing a "deep understanding of how the design of buildings interacts with the physical and cultural contexts of human traditions, landscapes, settlements, cities, and suburbs," students can study abroad to explore architecture. These programs abroad offer degree requirements at the intermediate level design studios in Rome, Italy, Copenhagen, and Vancouver. There is also a program in Landscape architecture offered in Kyoto, Japan.


This guest post is contributed by Lauren Bailey, who regularly writes for She welcomes your comments at her email: blauren99

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