__MAIN_TEXT__
feature-image

Page 1

Student Understanding of Sustainability in the Built Environment Knowledge Gap Identification and Action Authored by Scott McAulay, BArch Hons.


Acknowledgements Sincere thanks are due to the 96 students from the University of Strathclyde and Glasgow School of Art Architecture Departments who took the time to fill in this survey, and to ChloĂŤ Yuill for proof-reading the survey before its issue.


Author’s Foreword We are at an impasse: the climate has not simply changed but is actively and visibly breaking down as we enter the sixth - and first man-made - mass extinction event in our planet’s history. Due to my own personal experience of observing an insufficient level of exposure to these facts - or even to ways of responding to them architectonically - throughout my architectural education, I spoke to other students and established there to be a gap in our curriculum. Sustainability is currently deemed to be a specialism, rarely touched upon beyond passing tick-box lip-service, despite the state of our planet’s environment and the huge impact the built environment has upon it. Conservation is given even less of an emphasis, despite 85% of buildings that shall be used in 2050 already existing today; conclusively defining the act of retrofit as a fundamental to all practising architectural practitioners. This report quantifies and gauges the extent of that gap before drawing conclusions from collected data to make recommendations to aid in its urgent address.


01 Question 1 Do you think sustainability is important in architecture? Yes or No? Purpose

To unequivocally establish and understand the importance of sustainability to a representative student body in 2019.

YES - 100% NO - 0% Conclusions

• Despite its treatment as a specialism by the traditional curriculum and only being offered as optional elective classes to Years 4 and 5, students appreciate the necessity for and value in sustainable practices; realising its importance in our current time of climate breakdown. Recommendations Embed sustainability into the entire architectural curriculum - beyond a tick-box exercise in Technology Studies. Until architectural education embraces sustainability fully, integrating historical precedents and movements into Cultural Studies (and similar classes) alongside “starchitectureâ€? and embedding it into how students are taught to design in the Studio environment, it shall always be looked upon as something out-with fundamentally good design this must change. Update libraries and reading lists to reflect this. Unless students have readily accessible and up-to-date literature, and a list of recommendations letting them know where they can learn certain concepts, it shall remain a barrier to their education. Each school of architecture should make sure they are stocking books and journals regarding conservation, ecology and sustainability as much as they are stocking journals and monographs as standard and advertise their presence to their student body.


02

Legend A B C D E F G H I J K

The Concept of Sustainability Climatic Breakdown’s Effect on the Built Environment The Environmental Impact of Architecture The Concept of Ecology Ecology Within the Built Environment Sustainable Design Regenerative Sustainability Sustainable Development The Built Environment’s Impact on Human Health Passive Design Strategies Adaptive Reuse


Question 2 How would you rate your understanding of the following? A B C D E F G H I J K

The Concept of Sustainability Climatic Breakdown’s Effect on the Built Environment The Environmental Impact of Architecture The Concept of Ecology Ecology Within the Built Environment Sustainable Design Regenerative Sustainability Sustainable Development The Built Environment’s Impact on Human Health Passive Design Strategies Adaptive Reuse

Purpose

Avg.

%

3.45/5 2.66/5 3.45/5 2.76/5 2.57/5 3.31/5 2.48/5 2.93/5 3.27/5 2.97/5 2.84/5

69.0 53.2 69.0 55.2 51.4 66.2 49.6 58.6 65.4 59.4 56.8

To quantify student understanding of fundamentals of sustainability in regards to architecture and the built environment. Conclusions • Not one single concept is >70% - students as a collective do not have a great deal of confidence in these areas that have a great deal of impact socio-ecologically. • Students do recognise sustainability as an important concept, and that it has a significant environment impact but they do not have a great deal of knowledge of ecology, how architecture fits into environmental systems and vice versa. • Even though rarely - if ever - touched upon in the Design Studio, students acknowledge that the built environment has health implications. • Despite the vital nature of reusing existing buildings, students do not feel well equipped by their education to do so. Recommendations Normalise sustainability, and the reuse of existing buildings, within the Design Studio. Feedback from external questions reveal that students do not feel it is factored into their grades so they do not give it a great deal of thought - as opposed to graphic representation. Embed sustainable design into the curriculum at all levels, and in all classes. At the present, classes that address these concerns are separate, optional electives that are only available to Masters Students - this inaccessibility and “specialist” nature are an active hindrance. Educate all tutors on sustainability and challenge it when intentionally ignored. What is encouraged in the Design Studio is predominantly influenced by the assigned tutor’s attitudes towards sustainability or adaptive reuse, in certain cases this is a contributory factor to students not exploring interests or being dissuaded - most shall follow this for fear of lower grades.


03

Legend A B C D E F G

An Archifringe Event A Conference A CPD Class An Educational Seminar An Industry Seminar A Live Build Project A Public Engagement Exercise


Question 3 If any, which of the following have you engaged with out-with university? A B C D E F G

An Archifringe Event A Conference A CPD Class An Educational Seminar An Industry Seminar A Live Build Project A Public Engagement Exercise

Purpose

%

20.83 23.96 32.29 43.75 14.58 31.25 14.58

To quantify student engagement with the world of architecture outside of the Design Studio and in professional circles. Conclusions • Not one type of event has been attended by >50% of students. • The undeniably low attendance suggests that either students are not being made aware of these events through university channels due to a lack of institutional awareness; that students are not aware that they are able to attend; or that there is a lack of student enthusiasm for some reason. • 21.88% of students had not engaged with a single one of the event typologies. Recommendations Reach out to alumni, partnering institutions and professional bodies to establish an awareness of what is going on in the vicinity of the department but also what could be initiated. Discover what is going on that students can engage with through existing relationships, and then begin to connect with industry and other institutions with an aim to foster mutually-beneficial partnerships with a long-term aim to create opportunities to improve student’s education. Increase student exposure to notices for events of all kinds. If students do not know what is going on it makes it difficult for them to engage and creates an inaccessibility; to simply keep track of things and pass it on is not a colossal endeavour but could have huge positive consequences. Appoint - or even go as far as creating a paid-position for - an individual to collate and disseminate information of this kind through RIAS to the individual chapters and universities. RIAS could act as a hub and point off access for both students and practitioners alike to learn where they can engage with learning opportunities, and simply know what else is going on outside of their own immediate sphere of engagement. This could particularly aid in the uptake of both Conservation and Sustainability focused learning, simply by making it accessible, discoverable and visible.


04

Legend A B C D E F G H

Building Research Establishment (BRE) Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) Glasgow City Heritage Trust (GCHT) Historic Environment Scotland (HES) International Living Future Institute (ILFI) Passivhaus Trust (PHT) Scottish Ecological Design Association (SEDA) UK Green Building Council (UKGBC)


Question 4 Which of the following groups are you aware of? A B C D E F G H

Building Research Establishment (BRE) Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) Glasgow City Heritage Trust (GCHT) Historic Environment Scotland (HES) International Living Future Institute (ILFI) Passivhaus Trust (PHT) Scottish Ecological Design Association (SEDA) UK Green Building Council (UKGBC)

Purpose

% 32.29 16.67 54.17 48.96 4.17 43.75 36.45 27.08

To quantify student awareness of institutional bodies involved in conservation and sustainability outside of their university environments. Conclusions • The student population at large are not aware of institutional bodies involved in conservation and sustainability to any great extent; this knowledge gap suggests either a lack of enthusiasm or a gap in the curriculum itself, or a self-perpetuating negative feedback loop of a combination of the two. • Only one organisation is known by >50% of students. Recommendations Explore the opportunities created by establishing or engaging in ongoing engagement exercises with all of the above institutions across all schools of architecture, and across all year groups of students. Several student competitions, and the like, already exist but it is up to universities to engage with these and to promote them amongst their student cohorts. It is also up to universities to integrate the world outside of the design studio - the state of ongoing climate emergency and all - into what their students rely upon them to impart as part of their education. This shall serve to not only deliver a more holistic education but could open up previously non-existent avenues to employment, practise and research whilst fostering positive interdisciplinary relationships. Improve the quantity of engagement opportunities being delivered to students through their individual department - in regards to both email notices and social media accounts about on goings-on out-with their institution. If students are not told these things exists through their course or a peer then it is rare for them to hear about these things at all. Not only is this an incredibly straightforward and inexpensive action for department’s to take but the pay-off in the long term could be astronomical in improving the education of entire year groups of students at a time.


05 Question 5 Having now mentioned ideas and organisations that currently exist. Would you be interested in getting more involved? Purpose To assess the willingness of students to get involved on an academic and professional level during their education.

YES - 86.00% NO - 14.00%

06 Question 6 RIAS’ is an organisation that currently offers CPD, courses and accreditation on conservation and sustainability. Knowing this, do you think that enough is currently being done? Purpose To assess students’ feelings on the ongoing efforts in Scottish architecture.

YES - 14.00% NO - 86.00%


07 Question 7 Are you interested in actively pursuing the RIAS’ Conservation Accreditation when you are practising? Purpose To assess the interest of students in specialising in Conservation.

YES - 76.00% NO - 24.00%

08 Question 8 Are you interested in actively pursuing the RIAS’ Sustainability Accreditation when you are practising? Purpose To assess the interest of students in specialising in Sustainability.

YES - 83.00% NO - 17.00%


09

What would your ideal method of learning be?

Legend A B C D E F G H

A Conference A Film Screening A Hands-on Practical Workshop A Lecture A Pecha Kucha Presentation A Seminar A Site Visit A Tutorial


Question 9 What would your ideal method of learning be? A B C D E F G H

A Conference A Film Screening A Hands-on Practical Workshop A Lecture A Pecha Kucha Presentation A Seminar A Site Visit A Tutorial

Purpose

% 21.9 26.0 80.2 41.7 15.6 34.4 58.3 46.9

To assess how students really want to learn, as opposed to the traditional curriculum currently being delivered to students in Scotland. Student Comments “A live build project with a lecture showing the practice and theory behind using natural materials.” “A long term method rather than one lecture where we are told information by someone who obviously doesn’t want to be there and doesn’t like students.” “To have a conference or a lecture and then have a practical workshop for example for technology studies: to have a lecture and then see in the work shop all the joints, the material resistance in real life tests etc in order to illustrate the lecture.” “Series of Small 2/3 person 1/2 week projects with different focuses on sustainability in architecture. This way the groups are kept small and less chance for people to cop out of doing work. The challenge is to make these projects engaging and fun. Rewards/ prizes/ awards people will be motivated for, not £10 Cass Art vouchers or anything of insignificance. Rewards that aren’t solely architecture education based provide an extra incentive for getting involved as there is a wider context. Though the problem is funding these types of things and nailing down what can be suitable for all / exciting for all. More work has to be done within university classes also. People doze off in any sustainable based lectures. There’s more to teaching than lectures. They are possibly one of the most disengaging forms of teaching... although that’s another for another day.” “My ideal would be a lecture well entertained and dynamic where we have time to write down our notes or we have printed sheets so that we talk seriously over this subject and into depths of it so that we, student really understand the matter.” “A short, formal lecture followed by group discussion and hands-on activities to consolidate what has been learned and its application.”


09 “Ideally a combination of all of the above. Somewhere to take part in workshops and learn interactively, with the opportunity for hands-on experience. All of the earlier mentioned concepts of sustainability, ecology and design are so abstract and barely examined in architectural education. Even in practice, unless your company specializes, you don’t get experience of PassivHaus or promotion of sustainable development through architecture. I need an obvious (easily found and much promoted) place to learn about theoretical sustainable design (e.g. Paulo Soleri’s arcology work) and then learn how such work can be applied practically through tutorials and detailed examination of both successful and failed sustainable designs.“ “Mixture of theory and practical application. In general greater awareness of who to contact when we reach a point where we will be designing ourselves and being able to ask the right questions, that are informed through a mixture of ways of having been exposed to sustainable design.” “Practical experience helps me fully understand the how and why of a concept rather than being told something in a lecture and accepting it. It also help me remember a lesson far more than just a verbal talk, so a live build/project would probably be my ideal.” “A practical workshop run by an external source could give the opportunity to network in a more natural way, in the creative environment as opposed to before or after lectures or seminars. I also just prefer learning in a practical environment.” “Having a conversation one to one or in a very small group rather than sitting in a large audience being spoken at by a lecturer.” “Somewhere that provokes the discussion of key factors within conservation, ecology and sustainability within the built environment.” “Live projects (or pseudo-live, where the authorities take up students’ ideas and turn them into reality showing that they are as serious about climate change as us) integrating learnings from the above.” “Some basic/fundamental information would be preferable to be shown at first to establish that all the people participating would have a minimum knowledge on the subject discussed. Also probably many people/students have more of a theoretical or academic knowledge on most of the subjects so it would be very helpful to promote actual and practical experience on these matters preferably presented from professionals on actual sites and live projects or conditions.” “I think all of the above could be of benefit to different types of people, as some may learn more from a Pecha Kucha than a lecture. In order to cater for all needs and increase the interest, I think a series of events must be done under a certain umbrella, for example ‘Sustainability Week’ or somewhat an Archifringe for sustainability, or create a series of events in a festival week. That way you could create workshops, lectures and any other type of event and attract more people.”


Conclusions • Learning in the “traditional architecture school manner” is not being delivering an education in ways which would resonate with the student body. • Students long for practical, physical and hands-on learning methods. • Current methods of delivery for teaching both conservation and sustainability concept must be assessed and improved accordingly. • Instead of simply being told facts, students wish to discuss ideas and to be given the space to question opinions as well - this is currently not catered for. Recommendations Embrace non-traditional and experiential and kinaesthetic learning in the architectural curriculum. There is no one-size fits all teaching method that caters to every type of learner and this is how students are currently being taught - or not - and to embrace a variety of different methodologies would be a step in a more positive direction for both students and the architectural profession as a whole. As things stand, practical, hands-on learning is not employed often enough and no lecture material compares to the experience of building something with your hands, experiencing a space in person, to visit a live construction site or an ongoing assessment of a building. For example, to engage students in practically useful live-building exercises such as the construction of a building, the retrofit of a home or the survey of a conservation project would exponentially improve their understanding of environmental science, material properties and thought processes behind construction details in a way that is impossible to deliver through a lecture series in a university lecture hall. Evaluate the current student experience in architecture school; asses how current methods are being received through student engagement exercises. Instead of making assumptions of how the current curriculum is performing in any given university based upon exam results or the end-results of exhibitions, students should be consulted extensively and then involved directly in any exercise that shall shape their experience. For example, the 2016 AJ Student Survey revealed that 1 in 4 students of architecture were at-that-time suffering from mental health difficulties or had received help for them in the past; our current ways of gauging measurements of performance of the curriculum did not pick up this worsening: in 2018 that number of students had risen to 1 in 3, with a further 1 in 4 fearing that they too would in time require help. This statistic alone is enough to conclusively say that there is something very, very wrong that urgently requires an address.


10 Question 10

Would you be interested in attending a student-led networking event focusing on these issues and getting stuck in yourself?

Purpose To assess the willingness of students to go above and beyond; to create their own opportunities that are not being offered by their current institution of study; to take responsibility for their own learning out-with the Design Studio Environment.

YES - 84.00% NO - 16.00% SUMMATION Students do mean to practise architecture in a sustainable manner when they enter practise, yet they feel ill-equipped and are under-connected to what is going on in the world outside of their Design Studio - a world experiencing an ongoing Climate Emergency on an unprecedented scale. There are gaps in the currently-delivered architectural curriculum that shall - very likely exacerbate existing skill gaps in the profession, particularly in regards to the conservation of our built heritage. As the IET’s “Scaling Up Retrofit� Report (2018) notes that 1000 homes in the U.K. must be retrofitted every day if we are to stand a chance of meeting Paris Targets, this is incontestably an area requring urgent address. Architecture students are not being taught in manners which would truly resonate with them: the age of the lecture theatre and the all-nighter in the design studio is over; alternatives must be explored and soon. As our climate breaks down, we have - now-quantified - work to do.

Profile for Scott McAulay

Student Understanding of Sustainability in the Built Environment  

Disseminating the results of a survey carried out on Scottish architecture students in the wake of the 2018 IPCC Report, in order to quantif...

Student Understanding of Sustainability in the Built Environment  

Disseminating the results of a survey carried out on Scottish architecture students in the wake of the 2018 IPCC Report, in order to quantif...

Advertisement

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded