Architects urged to 'go green' and 'get sensitive' with spaces

May 16, 2003

Architecture students are graduating with little idea of how to design buildings that are ecologically and socially sound, according to a report.

Only six of the UK's 36 schools of architecture put sustainable design at the heart of their teaching, a survey found. Most others sideline the green agenda.

The problem is compounded by the failure of the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Architects Registration Board to acknowledge sustainability's importance in their validating criteria or awards. Gold medal winners "are always designers who typically produce un-green buildings", the survey report says.

Sustainable design is traditionally seen as the use of materials that are energy efficient and cause minimum environmental harm. But green architects are lobbying to extend the definition to buildings and spaces that are healthy, sensitive to people's needs and economically viable.

The survey, conducted by the Centre for Education in the Built Environment, aims to raise awareness. "All teachers should be required to attain a certain skills standard in this field," says the CEBE, part of the Learning and Teaching Support Network.

A sustainability interest group has gathered data from schools and is building a supporters' network. Some 50 architects have put their teaching programmes on the CEBE website.

Group leader Bob Fowles, senior lecturer at Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University, said: "We want schools of architecture to be less isolated and work with other disciplines. It's on the construction industry's agenda, so why not on education's?"

Only architectural schools at Cardiff, Glasgow, Oxford Brookes, Portsmouth, Sheffield and Westminster universities have taken a strategic approach to sustainability.

"Considerations of sustainability are rarely integrated with design curricula, and when they are, they tend to be explored as a one-off stand-alone project," the report says.

The report calls for Riba and the ARB to revamp their validation criteria to encourage schools to take "a more holistic approach" to architectural teaching and learning.

Mr Fowles said: "We have stirred up a lot of interest. We have formed a lobby group called Educators for Sustainable Architecture representing all aspects of architecture. If we put all these people together, we would have an amazing school of architectural sustainability."

Final report: www.cebe.ltsn.ac.uk/learning/sustainability/report.html    

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