Programs leading the way


Sustainable Design Literacy: A Foundation for Transformed Practice

an interview with Richard Graves, AIA


Some programs are voluntarily moving ahead to educate students beyond the minimum requirements currently described by NAAB, acting as models for the rest of the field, and advancing the definition of sustainable design literacy.


Richard Graves, AIA, is director of The Center for Sustainable Building Research at the University of Minnesota, where there is both a traditional Master of Architecture (M.Arch) degree program and an advanced Master of Science (M.S.) in Sustainable Design. He says basic sustainable design concepts, originally taught in the M.S. program, are being migrated to the core curriculum of the M.Arch program. For example, NAAB does not require students to learn how to set and design to specific, measureable outcomes. “NAAB doesn’t set a target, whereas we’re giving them targets of net-zero—very aggressive and absolute targets,” Graves explains.


Graves also says the school is more focused on teaching integrative process compared to what is described in the NAAB requirements. “We’re trying to teach students how to collaborate with outside experts—how to bring other experts into the design process,” says Graves. “We’re trying to change the paradigm of the architect. We’re trying to teach you how to design beautiful things, but know enough to understand what these others are telling you, and then figure out the design implications.”


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