The 7 Best Sustainable Design Courses in America

The 2030 Curriculum Project awards courses in design education that are best preparing students to meet the challenge of designing a zero carbon future.

Students at Woodbury University School of Architecture. One of Woodbury’s graduate professional practice courses, focused on the Los Angeles region and the state of California, was named one of seven exemplary courses in sustainability-centered design.

Courtesy Woodbury University

For many years now, climate change has been a major concern for architects and engineers— and with good reason. After all, the built environment contributes to over 39% of all CO2 emissions and over 70% of all electricity usage in the United States. Several architecture and design-based initiatives aim to guide architecture away from environmentally harmful practice and towards a more sustainable approach. Architecture 2030, one such initiative, believes that to incite design change we must begin at its source: architectural education.

Started in 2002 by Edward Mazria, the organization hopes to position architecture as part of the solution to climate change. Noted for their valuable resources, such as 2030 Palette—an online database of emission simulators, statistical data, site specific topics, government codes for sustainable designing, and more—Architecture 2030 just launched another endeavor, a pilot program titled the 2030 Curriculum Project.

After first holding an open call for courses, seven winners were selected for their unique approach to considering sustainability-centered design. As Anthony Guida, Program Director for 2030 Curriculum, explains: “Students in architecture, planning, and other professional design disciplines must be prepared to meet the challenge of designing a zero carbon future, and the 2030 Curriculum Project highlights and supports the best in high-performance design education.”

Many were undergraduate studio courses, like a course submitted from Ball State University’s Architecture program. The 4th year studio stipulates that designs be zero net energy and incorporate socially resilient housing; works produced can then be built the following semester.

Another winner, at the Urban Planning department at the University of Washington, is a graduate studio that focuses on sustainable agriculture and the development of carbon neutral eco-tourism in Bajo Lempa, El Salvador.

One of the most interesting courses chosen is offered as part of a Real Estate Development program at the University of Southern California. A summer course that centers on design history & criticism, it aims to teach future real estate agents the value in investing in sustainable development. The course will result in design proposals for mid-rise infill development in urban Los Angeles. You can find all the winners here.

Architecture 2030 is sponsoring the winning courses for this pilot run of the 2030 Curriculum Project: winners will receive access to Architecture 2030’s network of members, critical feedback on their curriculum from experts at the organization, a chance to add to the 2030 Palette, and press opportunities in journals, conferences and media outlets. As Guida explains: “These courses and their outcomes will serves as instructional models for transforming the culture of design education in architecture and planning programs nationwide.”

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