creating eco-literacy

University campuses are part two of Ed Mazria's strategy for using architecture to attack the problem of global warming. He's asking that architecture schools become carbon-neutral by 2010 through a combination of sustainable building, on-site power generation, and renewable energy credit purchases. More important, he's proposed integrating ecological awareness into every aspect of the curriculum.

Kiel Moe, assistant professor at Northeastern University's School of Architecture, was hired two years ago to work on the latter goal. He says the Boston-based school is taking first steps by moving ecological content into design studios and building technology courses. "The studio and lecture coordination is set up so that as students are working out the basic organization of a building, they're getting lectured on which floor plate solutions work well for daylighting and natural ventilation," he says. Also new is an emphasis on bridging architecture and engineering. "We have structural, mechanical, and building envelope engineers coming into the studio for design crits and workshop sessions, and that's where the engagements occur and the calculations are done," Moe says. "Traditionally, architecture students have been isolated in studio classes and never talk to an engineer until they're in their mid-30s."

For designer John Quale, LEED AP, assistant professor at the University of Virginia School of Architecture, Charlottesville, Va., the 2010 Imperative has allowed him to frame his professional goals in the context of a national initiative. "The entire faculty has not signed on, but a lot of them are very concerned about the issue," he says. "They don't have a lot of resources to change their teaching." As a member of the Society of Building Science Educators, an ad hoc group of architecture faculty from across the country, he's writing grants to help fund a series of Web-based, peer-reviewed workshops aimed at professors and students.

Quale also directs UVa's ecoMOD projects, which are affordable modular homes that cost almost nothing to run. In an intensive nine-month session, architecture, landscape architecture, and engineering students design and build the modules in an old airport hangar the university owns, assemble them on site, and monitor the energy use. Local mechanical subcontractors also weigh in on the designs. "There's a good dialogue as to whether we've made the right decisions," Quale says. "It's not about teaching new technology, but developing thinking skills, since the definition of sustainability is evolving constantly."