New Centres of Excellence for sustainable building design launched

New Centres of Excellence for sustainable building design launched

Centres of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design are to be set up at four UK universities in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering. The new centres at Heriot-Watt University, Loughborough University, the University of Sheffield and University College London will form a national network to demonstrate and exchange best practice in teaching and research for a more sustainable built environment. The universities will work closely with the construction industry to develop their engineering and architectural design courses to be as relevant as possible to the work students can expect to do when they graduate. Visiting Professors from industry are a key part of this approach and will be heavily involved in developing the new centres of excellence.

The rationale for improving teaching and research in this area comes from an Academy report published last year, The Case for Centres of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design which stated that despite the construction industry having a major role to play in achieving green building targets, the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve reductions in greenhouse emissions were currently insufficient to meet the challenge.

The primary aim is to enhance the curriculum for undergraduate engineering students, enabling them to experience interdisciplinary, collaborative problem solving to help them unlock their potential for innovation. The centres will also help to provide continuing professional development to engineers already working in the construction industry.

The four centres of excellence will collaborate on delivering a common approach to interdisciplinary education for engineers while maintaining their own individual characters and interests.

Decarbonising depends crucially on tackling emissions from the built environment, as set out in 2010 in the Academy report Engineering a low carbon built enviroment. Author Professor Doug King FREng is leading the initiative to set up the new centres of excellence. He says:

“UK Construction is changing rapidly as the industry assimilates new requirements for sustainability and new working practices. The education of construction professionals is also under scrutiny for its relevance to this new paradigm.”

Chris Wise RDI FREng – whose company Expedition Engineering designed the Olympic Velodrome – is a Professor of Design in the Engineering faculty at University College London, where he is keen to join up expertise between industry and academia. He says:

“Our vision is for UCL’s Engineering and Built Environment (The Bartlett) faculties to work together to grow the world’s best technological thinkers and practitioners in sustainable building design.”

For its part, Sheffield University encourages its engineering and architecture students to undertake live projects in industry to help develop the cooperation, outreach, research and education which are key to integrating the principles of sustainable design.

Professor Fionn Stevenson, architecture co-director of the new Centre, and incoming Head of School, said: “Sheffield is committed to producing socially engaged and technically excellent professionals in the built environment. Sheffield School of Architecture is at the forefront of pioneering joint programmes with engineering in the UK.

“We have recognised the need to upskill architects with new specialisms which provide a sound understanding of key issues in building physics. This is really essential in order to improve sustainable building performance.”