Green Studies

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  • Date August 6th, 2010 09:21
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  • GIGA blog recently spoke with Pius Leuba, head of a new one-year study program ‘Master of Advanced Studies in Sustainable Development in Architecture’ at the Life Quality Laboratory in Shenzhen. The Department of Architecture at the Bern University of Applied Sciences is the developer and administrator of the program. The criteria for incoming students are that they are Chinese mid-career architects or design professionals with several years of practice experience who seek to continue their education and become competent in the field of sustainable building. The first intake hails predominantly from the Guangdong region, with a few coming from cities further afield such as Hangzhou. Ages range between 35-50 and professional backgrounds vary from owners of local design firms, directors, partners, to project managers. The program is divided into 6 modules, each one lasting 7 weeks. The first module is based in Switzerland where students have intensive lectures from experts in various fields covering topics of sustainable development. Module two is back in China and is a series of 3 case studies analysing local design. The first features traditional architecture, the second modern (high-tech) sustainable architecture, and the third features one’s own, recently achieved projects, in order to compare it to the two previous cases. Modules three, four, and five are individual and group studio projects at the Life Quality Laboratory, which challenge the students to create sustainable architecture, applying the teachings from modules one and two. The students are encouraged to utilize current projects from their offices and to use their connections and staff to develop projects. This creates a network that cultivates a way of working which the students can apply even after graduation and extends the chain of influence and awareness. The students find themselves having to tackle the realities of the working environment, such as clients unwilling to pay for greener buildings, or engineers unable to find solutions, as part of the course. The sixth and final module is a thesis document which gives the students the opportunity to become an expert in one field of best practice of architectural design specifically related to their surroundings, for example topics such as how to insulate in humid climates. Students finally return to Switzerland for final presentations and graduation. The first intake are currently in module three and Pius notes that the topics are complex and that it is difficult to achieve outstanding results in such a short amount of time but the strength of the course lies in the awareness it raises. For the majority of the student the curriculum is new on two levels; firstly sustainability is a relatively new topic in China; and secondly cultural differences means students approach issues differently, for example analysis of research and evaluation of results has been a challenge. Pius has lived in China for the last seven years and in that time he has seen a big change in the awareness of sustainability issues. For the Chinese negative environmental aspects, such as dirty water and air, become incentives for change. It allows people to see the problems and understand that action needs to be taken. As for the motivation of current students - they recognise the need to place themselves and their business at the forefront of this change when clients start to demand greener buildings. China is building more and faster than any other country in the world but the speed results in costly mistakes; financially and environmentally. However China is learning fast and the next 5-10 years will most likely see China catching up with greener developed countries. The government is pouring investment into renewable energy and China has established an equivalent to the US LEED system (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) since 2006. Called the 3 star system, projects can achieve a 1, 2, or 3 star rating. For further reading about the 3 star system see: The Life Quality Laboratory program is not the only course in China that teaches sustainability to architects and designers. The difference is that in this studio sustainability is the key part. In many other undergraduate or Diploma courses students tend to regard sustainability as just another module, and not an integral part of the curriculum. The long term vision for the study program is to expand to more locations in China and further fields of design, so a Masters in Sustainable Development in Landscape Architecture or Packaging for example may be offered. Pius acknowledges that once expanded to other design fields the course will start needing bigger infrastructure. The Life Quality Laboratory seeks to forge partnership with local Universities and research institutes, allowing opportunities for concurrent research. Pius is adamant that the research has to affect daily practice, for example if students can effectively research and document best practices in design, then this work can be published and applied in many offices throughout China. GIGA has contributed to the study program through lectures and involving students in the materials analysis and seeks to forge an involvement in the program. Interested in greening your horizons? The University is now recruiting students not just for Shenzhen, but also for Shanghai starting in November 2010. You can find further info and apply at the University’s webpage
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