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Interdisciplinary Education for the AEC Industry October 3, 2011

Posted by randydeutsch in collaboration, education, problem solving.
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Fact: Of the 154 accredited schools of architecture & 61 degree programs in construction, only 14 contain degree programs in both.

We’re about to do something about that.

More on that in a moment.

Interdisciplinary education is essential for would-be professionals to address complex problems in the built environment.

Problems design and construction professionals face are intractable, complex and – as Howard Gardner attests – “wicked.”

Problems that are difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory and changing requirements.

Problems that require the vantage of many players – working openly, sharing information.

Problems that occur in rapid succession, often simultaneously.

An interdisciplinary education helps students to see these problems from multiple perspectives, resulting in quicker and more assured responses.

The goal with interdisciplinary education is to teach the whole architect, engineer and contractor – in the end creating more-complete, well-rounded, T-shaped design and construction professionals.

Coming closer to a Total Design education that considers learner’s needs, interests and abilities vs. fragmented competence in subject matter: the threshold of current thinking and teaching.

Interdisciplinary Multidisciplinary Trans-disciplinary Cross-disciplinary Education

Part of the problem is knowing  what to call it when the A, the E and the C work together.

In school – there’s teamwork and collaboration.

In practice – there’s Integrated Project Delivery, Integrative Practice and Integrated Design.

Here’s how I explain the difference in my book, BIM and Integrated Design:

Terminology can admittedly get confusing. There is integrated design, integrative design, integrated buildings, integrated design process, integrated practice (IP) and integrated practice delivery (IPD.) To understand the difference between IPD and integrated design in its simplest terms, one, IPD, is a delivery method; the other, integrated design or ID, a larger concept and process—free of contractual identity—that contains IPD.

Simply put, to integrate means to combine or coordinate separate elements so as to provide a harmonious, interrelated whole, organized or structured so that constituent units function cooperatively.

In school the challenge is that you need to have a base to work from before you can integrate or collaborate effectively.

Undergraduates – certainly in their first two years of schooling – can’t be expected to collaborate well since they have yet to develop a thorough understanding of how their disciplinary specialty fits with others.

A more in-depth look into this topic can be found here.

Architecture + Construction Alliance (A+CA)

7 years ago, deans and department heads of the accredited schools of architecture, degree programs in construction and those containing both programs, began to meet to discuss ways to collaborate, establishing working groups to share perspectives and showcase best practices for collaboration of architecture and construction programs.

It was soon determined that their gatherings were not sufficient to create the closer connections and joint endeavors necessary to sustain such efforts.

Thus, the A+CA was born.

The mission of the A+CA is to foster collaboration among schools that are committed to interdisciplinary educational and research efforts between the fields of architecture and construction, and to engage leading professionals and educators in support of these efforts.

An example of such a program is the PDCI San Luis Obispo, CA USA (the Planning, Design & Construction Institute, College of Architecture & Environmental Design, California Polytechnic State University) offers integrated studios for architects, architectural engineers and construction managers using an integrated project delivery approach. More here Cal Poly Home .. CAED Home .. PDCI Home

As A+CA explains, the professions of architecture and construction are undergoing significant changes as they respond to multiple demands and opportunities to increase collaborative project work.

They are propelled by changed societal and client expectations to more fully coordinate their formerly separate roles and responsibilities for the social, environmental, and financial performance of projects, while Building Information Models (BIM) and other digital technology provide emerging new vehicles for integration.

These changes – in our built environment professions – need to be reflected in the education of future professionals, with a major emphasis on fostering superior interdisciplinary knowledge, and team based skills that support synergy and innovation in the 21st century professional context.

A unique ability to play a leadership role in the industry

Architecture + Construction Alliance is a consortium of US universities that

1. have both architecture and construction programs within the same college, and

2. are prepared to act together to foster the necessary interdisciplinary and collaborative education needed by our professions.

Such an alliance of these universities has a unique ability to play a leadership role in the development, pilot testing, assessment and dissemination of courses and projects through coordination of the faculty, staff, and financial support for this activity.

Last Spring, CIB proposed a collaboration with A+CA. Read about it here and more about CIB here.

The Fall 2011 A+CA meeting will be held on November 9th, prior to the ACSA Administrator’s Conference in Hollywood, CA

The Spring 2012 A+CA meeting will be held in April, in conjunction with the CIB Board Meeting in Washington, D.C. This marks the first time in the CIB’s history that the Board meeting will be held in the US. A+CA meeting details forthcoming.

Member Founding Schools

Auburn University, California Polytechnic State University, Clemson University, University of Florida, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State University, University of Nebraska, University of Oklahoma, Prairie View A&M University, Southern Polytechnic State University, Texas A&M University, University of Texas – San Antonio, Washington State University, Wentworth Insitute of Technology & Virginia Tech

Oh, and one more.

(A new kid in town.)

The New Chicago School

Freestanding, not part of a preexisting university or college.

Which means it is less encumbered.

And, like architecture itself, a work in progress.

Integrated School of Building Chicago IL USA http://insb.us/

The Mission of the school is to educate and advance the knowledge of students in architecture, engineering, and construction by means of a collaborative and innovative platform.

Featured here recently at ArchDaily

Areas of concentration include Construction Management, Project Management, Real Estate Development, Dynamic Design & Fabrication, BIM & IPD, BIM & Energy Modeling, Landscape Architecture & Public Space Development, Sustainable Design, Building Commissioning, Building Forensics, Post-Disaster Design & Reconstruction, Social Design & Development and Preservation & Historic Resource Management.

Look here for more on the InSB board, the programs and 2012 summer symposium: “The Fabric of the City” June 29th & 30th, Chicago IL USA

Twitter handle @theInSB http://twitter.com/#!/theinsb

“A better AEC education is not about making better architects, or engineers, or builders. It is about all coming together as one.” @tcpg

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