THERE IS A NEW TREND TOWARDS PROJECT-BASED COURSES
The AJ takes a look at postgraduate courses in sustainable architecture available at universities across the UK. This survey is not exhaustive, but rather an overview of the courses that are available to students at the present time.
Not surprisingly, old postgraduate courses are evolving and new courses are proliferating in response to demand from the profession.
Each MSc course offers its own particular brew: some are more project based, while others are more research led. Some cater primarily for architects, while others have a mix of architects, engineers and other related disciplines. The amount of numbercrunching involved varies across the different courses, and it is hard to read between the lines of the course descriptions to ascertain how much computer modelling is embedded within each module. While research-orientated MSc courses have dominated until recently, a restructuring at the AA and at Cambridge, and a new course at Nottingham, are indicative of a trend towards project-based MArch courses with an integrated approach to design.
The explosion of enrolment at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales from 35 students in 2000 to 350 at present is also a sign of the times. Simos Yannas, director of the AA course, notes that undergraduate architectural education is still woefully lacking, explaining that 'sustainable environmental design requires essential architectural knowledge that recent generations of architects simply did not get.'
ARCHITECTURAL ASSOCIATION (AA) www. aaschool. ac. uk/ee MSc (12 months full time) and MArch (16 months full time) in Sustainable Environmental Design, established 1995 Approximately 20 students a year, all international, including two to three Americans a year, excepting one UK national on the Eden Scholarship.
Originally an MA in Environment and Energy Studies, the course was restructured into the MSc and MArch courses in 2005. The MSc has a mix of architects and engineers, provides a sound base in the fundamentals and is strong on mastering advanced digital tools. The MArch has a more professional orientation.
THE BARTLETT, UCL www. bartlett. ucl. ac. uk/graduate/programmes/msc_be/ede_ overview. htm MSc in Environmental Design and Engineering (12 months full-time; 24 months or longer part time), established c. 1977 32 students this year (seven part-time): 16 per cent UK, 56 per cent EU, 28 per cent international.
This course is both the oldest and the largest, catering equally for architects and engineers. It consists of eight inter-related modules and a 10,000-word dissertation. The solar and ventilation modules are project based with obligatory computer modelling. Indicative of the calibre of research is a student paper which was presented at Solar 2006 in Denver, Colorado: 'Can PV or solar thermal be costeffective ways of reducing CO 2 emissions for residential buildings?'
CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY www. arct. cam. ac. uk MPhil in Environmental Design in Architecture, (12 months full time), established 1987 Average of eight students per year since inception, maximum 15, typically 35 per cent UK/EU, 20 per cent USA, 45 per cent international.
The Cambridge course takes a broad view of environmental design, starting from first principles. Since 2000, funding has enabled significant investment in equipment for monitoring and modelling buildings, though this is not an obligatory part of the course. Newly established this year is a design-thesis alternative (which comprises a project plus 15,000 words) to the traditional research dissertation (comprising 20,000 words) which may lead to the reinstatement of Cambridge's Part 2 degree and is anticipated to double the number of students on the course.
There is synergy with the Martin Centre, the Department of Engineering's Sustainable Development Group and the BP Institute's ventilation modelling laboratory.
CENTRE FOR ALTERNATIVE TECHNOLOGY (CAT) www. cat. org. uk/msc MSc in Advanced Energy and Environmental Studies (one year full time or two years part time, distance learning available) 350 students, primarily British, of mixed ages and backgrounds.
This course transferred from the University of East London (UEL) in 2000 with 35 students and is now taught entirely at CAT in Wales, although it is still accredited by UEL. Students select eight out of 10 modules and spend a week each month (TuesdaySunday) at CAT. The course has a core staff of 12, with a total of approximately 20 tutors. A degree in architecture or engineering is not a prerequisite. The course has a practical orientation, though a good dose of quantitative analysis is included in some modules.
From September 2007, CAT will be offering a professional diploma in architecture.
NOTTINGHAM UNIVERSITY www. nottingham. ac. uk/sbe/course/postgrad/MSc_REA MSc in Renewable Energy and Architecture, (one year full time or two to four years part time) established 1997 Approximately 20 students per year, typically 85 per cent international, approximately one part-time student a year.
Students on this course come from a wide range of backgrounds allied to architecture. It was originally set up as a written and exam-based course, but today it is primarily project work with sophisticated computer modelling which prepares graduates to develop their own software.
MArch in Environmental Design, established 2006 Six students in the first year (with no marketing), all international.
This is a new project-based course which focuses on the integration of quantitative environmental design early in the design process.
OXFORD BROOKES UNIVERSITY www. brookes. ac. uk/postgraduate/courses/eesb MSc in Energy-Efficient and Sustainable Building, (one year full time or two years part time) established 1995 Approximately 25 students per year, about half international, two to three part time each year.
A well-established course which has a consistent following. About half of the students come from the diploma course, and most have a first degree in architecture. The course consists of six compulsory modules, including one on energy-efficient materials and another on post-occupancy evaluation.
UNIVERSITY OF EAST LONDON MArch in Sustainability and Design, established 1998 Approximately 12 students, primarily international.
A more theoretical design-based course covering sustainability at both the building and urban scale. About 25 per cent of the curriculum deals with quantitative analysis and the emphasis is on conceptual understanding, which underpins the design process.
WELSH SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE www. cardiff. ac. uk/archi University of Cardiff MSc in Environmental Design of Buildings, established 1993 Approximately 18 students, predominantly international (see diagram above), two or three part time, distance learning option.
The course is split into six modules with project work throughout.
Modules are basic frameworks, ambient environment, building environment, skins and spaces, passive design, and mechanical services. There is a strong synergy with research.
MSc in Building Energy & Environment Performance Modelling, established 2005, two students this year.
This course provides a working knowledge of the different simulation software currently available.
MSc Theory & Practice of Sustainable Design, established 2006 Six students this year.
This course is geared to a wider range of built environment professionals, including those in procurement and construction.
Mike Fedeski, course director at the Welsh School of Architecture since its inception, notes that 'although there is a growing demand for professionals equipped to give greater attention to environmental concerns, it is by no means clear. . . how [this] discipline should map into the design team'.
He adds: 'The object of training across disciplines is not so much to create a new expertise as to equip experts for communication with other experts.' The proliferation of courses which train professionals to think laterally and strategically indicates that this is starting to happen. It is a good sign that these skills are so in demand in the marketplace.