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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


Please Consider the Environment before Printing October 3, 2009

Posted by randydeutsch in change, environment, questions, sustainability, transformation.
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I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854)

Just back from the Design Futures Council’s 8th Annual Leadership Summit on Sustainable Design held Sept 30 –Oct 2 at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago where I served as a delegate, observer, and participant.

 Why did I attend this conference and not the BIM Forum in Phili, or the AIA’s Changing Times|Time for Change conference just down the block? I suppose that I went for a number of reasons: the promise of stimulating and challenging discussions between thoughtful professionals, out of curiosity and plain flattered for having been invited. 

But most of all I attended the Summit because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of sustainable design, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach me, and not, when I came to return to work on Monday, discover that I had not learned.

I came to kick-start and reboot something in me that had – despite my LEED –AP cred, become dormant. For me, the Summit was a reboot camp for the soul.

So, at conference’s end, two weeks into a 21 day detox – having voluntarily (some would say foolishly) given up caffeine, sugar, alcohol and gluten in addition to meat and dairy that I abandoned long ago in becoming a vegan – I make the following observations. I don’t pretend that they’re definitive or objective – this is a blog after all. Nor are they entirely representative of what went on at the Summit. Think of these as things to think about if we are to remain relevant for a while:

  • Our charge as designers, to do more with less. As poets have for millennia


  • What was particularly moving about Adrian Smith’s presentation is that he didn’t talk about himself or even his work. (A first for an architect?) In presenting AS+GG’s self-funded, in-progress Chicago Central Area De-Carbonization Plan, one soon comes to the realization that even if the entire city went carbon-neutral overnight it wouldn’t be enough to meet the 2030 challenge let alone offset the onslaught of global warming. We must look elsewhere to meet this challenge.


  • Self-guided tour of the new Renzo Piano designed Modern Wing is just a fancy way of saying walk around the museum for an hour


  • Art/design and sustainability are mutually supportive, mutually beneficial


  • We were wisely encouraged by Greenway founder and author Jim Cramer to look at the presentation subjects and data with a “constructive paranoia,” not with myopia or blind optimism


  • Our goal: to minimize the impact of climate change on the city


  • A realist defines sustainable development as that which meets all the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. An optimist defines sustainable development as that which meets all the needs of the present while improving the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.


  • A pessimist asks: What future generations?


  • Raising animals in order to eat them leads to land degradation, climate change, air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and the consumption of 760 million tons of grain – to animals – that could otherwise help feed the starving.


  • And so: The wisdom of serving steak at a sustainability conference?


  • Not convinced? The amount of feed it takes to feed an animal to create one 8-oz steak could fill 50 bowls with cooked grain.


  • Veganism is the new Prius


  • Autonomy is the enemy of collaboration


  • Unless its an autonomous team 


  • We all know the benefits by now. Let’s move onto co-benefits.


  • Someone ought to revise Maslow’s hierarchy pyramid to reflect the fact that people don’t care about climate and the environment until their basic needs are met


  • We ought to first focus on meeting people’s basic needs (and fast)


  • Dfn. Sustainability: not cheating on  the grandkids – David Adamson


  • There are metrics available that can put hard numbers on soft effects


  • “We’re just about Burnhamed-out.” – Wellington “Duke” Reiter


  • People are not excited by charts. People aren’t motivated by statistics. They’re motivated by statistics they can feel. Challenge: How to make the message compelling?


  • We need to talk about what we know in a way that people can understand


  • Problems growing faster than the solutions


  • U.S.’s #1 export: suburbia


  • We don’t have to be experts in each of these subjects. The beauty of design is to be the catalyst


  • Developers are motivated by money, fear and guilt. The rest of us by money, fear and consciousness


  • Guilt is Jewish/Catholic consciousness


  • The essence of religion is faith. The essence of science is doubt. – Richard Feynman


  • Our #3 problem: How to reach out beyond the design community? How to get the message about global warming and sustainability out to people who will be impacted by it?


  • Our #2 problem: Nobody wants to hear it from an architect. Architects cannot come across that they have the answers.


  • Our #1 problem: Architects are implying that they have the answers.


  • Recognize what it is we do have


  • Architects ought to borrow a page from doctors and – in building on this planet –  strive first and foremost to do no harm


  • Learning is remembering what you are interested in. – Richard Saul Wurman


  • You have to have a purpose bigger than your product


  • So we resorted to focus-group brainstorming sessions arriving at advertising-like taglines in time for lunch


  • Please Consider the Environment before Printing


  • What the design community needs to do. What people need to do.


  • You get the sense that we’re waiting for someone to step up. A hero, someone to champion the cause. To provide hope. To provide direction.


  • FedEx days: when you have to deliver something – at work – overnight.  – Dan Pink


  • “The Sentence comes from a story Clare Boothe Luce told about a conversation she had in 1962 in the White House with her old friend John F. Kennedy. She told him, she said, that “a great man is one sentence.” His leadership can be so well summed up in a single sentence that you don’t have to hear his name to know who’s being talked about. “He preserved the union and freed the slaves,” or, “He lifted us out of a great depression and helped to win a World War.” You didn’t have to be told “Lincoln” or “FDR.”  – Peggy Noonan


  • What is your sentence?


  • “Make sure what you do doesn’t turn around to bite you in the ass.”

The real value for having attended something as rich and diverse as a Summit cannot be summarized in a sentence (not even The Sentence.) What resonates after the last session is over are the relationships and friendships that were made, the meeting of minds and hearts, and the knowledge that there is a community of likeminded individuals that is greater than the sum of its however impressive parts. And for that reason alone the Summit ought to live on as long as the planet is able to support it. I came away from this event recharged, and yes, remembering what I am interested in.