Background

Because the energy use of buildings is the main cause of climate change, buildings must be designed to use very little energy.  Unfortunately, many architecture schools are not producing graduates who are competent to design such low-energy buildings. BEEnow is a new organization that seeks to remedy this problem by inspiring architecture schools to produce graduates who are competent to help design such low-energy and low-carbon buildings.

Melting ice caps indicative of global warming. In a recent article, James Hansen, one of the world’s most famous climate scientists outlined an alarming scenario for our planet’s future 29 October 2014. EPA/MICHAEL STUDINGER / HANDOUT.

Buildings

In the United States buildings are responsible for over 40 % of climate change because of the carbon dioxide emitted in their construction and operation.  All future buildings must, therefore, be designed for low-energy operation and construction, employing energy-efficiency (design) strategies and renewable energy. Unfortunately, many architecture schools in the US and Canada do not produce graduates who are competent to substantially contribute to the design of sustainable low-energy buildings. 

 

​Survey of the problem

One indication of the lack of emphasis on energy-responsive design by many architecture schools is the presentation topics of guest speakers. In such architecture schools, speakers are rarely invited to talk about sustainability and energy-responsive design.  The selection of speakers reflects the philosophy and emphasis at these schools, resulting in students with little motivation, knowledge, or skills in designing sustainable energy-responsive buildings.

 

The lack of interest in sustainable low-energy design is also apparent at the collective level by looking at the topics and themes of national conferences organized by the Associated Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), which represents US and Canadian architecture schools. All but one of the 12 conferences from 2007-2014 were on topics and themes other than sustainability and energy-responsive design. Even the one conference that covered these topics focused on resilience to the impacts of climate change and not on minimizing its severity by reducing the CO2 emissions from the built environment. 

Seeking solutions

Years of effort by many faculty members has not been able to create any significant changes to accreditation requirements for architecture schools. Consequently, a group of architecture faculty and practitioners have come together to form a voluntary certification program to encourage architecture schools to emphasize the teaching of sustainability.

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