2011-12 Catalog

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Offering Description

Ecology and the Built Environment

Spring 2012 quarter

Steven Abercrombie ecological/sustainable design, green building , Alvin Josephy
Fields of Study
architecture, ecology, economics, environmental studies and sustainability studies
Preparatory for studies or careers in
architecture, construction management, infrastructure design, sustainability studies, building science

An increasing understanding of our relationship with the natural environment is changing our ideas about the design and development of our human-built environment.  More than 10,000 years ago we were creating living and working spaces that mimicked nature and our local environment.  Since the beginning of the Industrial Age, this process has followed a "hard" path as developers have used electrical energy and man-made materials to solve design challenges.  Over the past two hundred years the planning and execution of our built environment at all scales has had the effect of separating humans from their natural environment.  Partly because of the impacts of our buildings on nature, we face the specter of huge changes to our natural environment during the twenty-first century.

This program will explore the relationship between the natural world and the built environment by using an approach that moves from the theoretical to the practical.  The first third of the program will focus on issues familiar in the study of ecology: systems, scale, interconnection and interdependencies, and energy and material flows.  Students will be asked to define the elusive topic of sustainability; this investigation will be a key recurring theme of the program.  The middle portion of the program will be focused on the practical side of seeking sustainability in the built environment, including discussions on codes and their impact/impediment on greener buildings, various assessment tools for buildings and how they are applied, and how these ideas are playing out in the development world.  Finally, the program will drill down to the level of systems and practices including student presentations that will deal with means and methods at a functional level, investigating what makes a building product "green" and other issues.

The program will include several quantitative exercises, a theme paper meant to allow the student to explore "sustainability," and a group project focused on materials for the built environment.  Field trips to experience an array of projects are planned.  The program is designed to encourage students to think of this process as being about cultural change, change in the way we build our spaces, and change in the way we use them, but above all change in the way we use our built environment to connect ourselves to nature once again.

Advertised Schedule
6-10p Tue, 9a-5p Sat (April 7, 14, May 5, 12)
Online Learning
Enhanced Online Learning
Greener Store
Offered During
Evening and Weekend