A Sustainable Design Syllabus from BuildingGreen


There’s no doubt that sustainable design is finally coming into its own. As we discovered while researching our recent feature on business strategies for weathering the recession, green building is just about the only kind of building happening right now. Educators have responded quickly to the new reality: according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), at least 146 new sustainability-focused academic programs were added to the curriculum at colleges and universities between 2009 and 2010.

Professors at more than a hundred of these schools are using BuildingGreen’s online tools in the classroom, according to outreach director Jerelyn Wilson. Professors report that they use EBN articles and in-depth case studies from the high-performance buildings database not only for class research and reading assignments but also for their own lecture prep. Wilson said educators appreciate the depth and breadth of the content and the fact that it is supported by reader subscriptions, not manufacturer sponsorship.

Since 2011, our our feature articles also include discussion questions to help get students talking in class or in online forums.

Below is a sample syllabus with relevant articles found on BuildingGreen. Most of the articles require a subscription to EBN or BuildingGreen Suite; academic institutions can take advantage of special pricing through a campus-wide subscription that offers unlimited access for all faculty, staff, and students. Permission is granted for use of all or part of this syllabus.

Introduction to Sustainable Design

Course Description

Introduction to Sustainable Design is a 16-week course designed to acquaint students with sustainable (green) design. The course will provide context for the green building movement and help students understand the breadth and interconnectedness of this wide-ranging field of study.

Syllabus and Assigned Readings

Week 1— Welcome and Introductions

Lecture: Historical background on the green building movement

Video: PBS Architecture 2030 Ed Mazria —Design e2

Reading: EBN article, “Making the Case for Green Building

Reading: EBN article, “The Living Building Challenge: Can It Really Change the World?

Week 2— The Scope of Green Building

Lecture: Whole-systems thinking and integrated design; introduction to LEED

Reading: EBN article, “Establishing Priorities with Green Building

Reading: EBN article, “Integrated Design Meets the Real World

Reading: LEED 2009 for New Construction and Major Renovations; download 108-page PDF document free from the U.S. Green Building Council LEED webpage

Week 3— Looking Beyond Buildings

Lecture: Green building is about more than buildings

Reading: EBN article, “Thinking Beyond Buildings: LEED for Neighborhood Development

Reading: EBN article, “Driving to Green Buildings: The Transportation Energy Intensity of Buildings

Reading: EBN article, “Building for People: Integrating Social Justice into Green Design

Reading: EBN editorial, “Use Performance-Based Transportation Credits in LEED

Week 4— Land-Use Planning

Lecture: The importance of land-use planning in creating sustainable communities

Radio interview by SmartCityRadio with Doug Farr on “Sustainable Urbanism.” Segment includes other commentary

Reading: EBN article, “Sprawl and Health: Are Modern Land-Use Patterns Making Us Sick?”

Reading: EBN article, “Traffic Calming Ahead!

Reading: EBN article, “Cohousing: How Green is My Village?”

Week 5— Site and Landscape

Lecture: Integrating buildings into the landscape

Reading: EBN article, “Getting to Know a Place: Site Evaluation as a Starting Point in Green Design

Reading: EBN article, “Natural Landscaping:
Native Plants and Planting Strategies for Green Development

Reading: EBN article, “Growing Food Locally: Integrating Agriculture into the Built Environment

Week 6— Water Management on the Site

Lecture: Stormwater and innovative management practices

Reading: EBN article, “Cleaning Up Stormwater: Understanding Pollutant Removal from Runoff

Reading: EBN article, “Porous Pavement: A Win-Win Stormwater Strategy

Reading: EBN article, “Green Roofs: Using Roofs for More Than Keeping Dry

Week 7— Water Conservation

Lecture: Understanding and conserving what could become the greatest constraint to development

Reading: EBN article, “Water: Doing More with Less

Reading: EBN article, “Alternative Water Sources: Supply-Side Solutions for Green Buildings

Reading: EBN article, “Water Policies: Encouraging Conservation

Week 8— Energy Conservation and Efficiency

Lecture: Green building starts with energy savings

Reading: EBN article, “Getting to Zero: The Frontier of Low-Energy Buildings

Reading: EBN article, “Measuring Energy Use in Buildings: Do Our Metrics Really Add Up?

Reading: EBN article, “The Challenge of Existing Homes: Retrofitting for Dramatic Energy Savings

Reading: EBN article, “Buildings on Ice: Making the Case for Thermal Energy Storage

Week 9— Renewable Energy

Lecture: After reducing demand, considering our energy supply: renewables

Reading: EBN article, “Making Your Own Electricity: Onsite Photovoltaic Systems

Reading: EBN article, “The Problem with Net-Zero Buildings (and the Case for Net-Zero Neighborhoods

Reading: EBN article, “The Folly of Building-Integrated Wind

Reading: EBN article, “Greening Your Electricity

Week 10— Indoor Environmental Quality

Lecture: An unhealthy building cannot be a green building

Reading: EBN article, “Mold in Buildings: What It Is and How to Keep It Out

Reading: EBN article, “Construction IAQ Management: Jobsite Strategies for Ensuring a Healthy Building

Reading: EBN article, “The Chemicals in Our Carpets and Textiles

Reading: “Chemistry for Designers: Understanding Hazards in Building Products

Week 11— Broadening Our Understanding of a Healthy Interior

Lecture: A healthy indoor environment extends beyond air quality

Reading: EBN article, “Expanding the Engineers’ Comfort Zone: Working With Adaptive Thermal Comfort

Reading: EBN article, “Productivity and Green Buildings

Reading: EBN article, “Bringing Nature Indoors: The Myths and Realities of Plants in Buildings

Reading: EBN article, “Building Green Quietly…Noise Pollution and What to Do About It

Reading: EBN article, “Design for Cleanability

Reading: EBN article, “Biophilia in Practice: Buildings That Connect People with Nature

Week 12— Materials and Resources

Lecture: Understanding what goes into our buildings

Reading: EBN article, “Building Materials: What Makes a Product Green?

Reading: EBN article, “What’s New in Multi-Attribute Environmental Certifications

Reading: EBN article, “Cradle to Cradle Certification: A Peek inside MBDC’s Black Box

Reading: EBN article, “Composite Panel Industry Adapts to Pending CARB Regulation

Week 13— Materials and Resources

Lecture: Understanding building materials and products

Reading: EBN article, “Reducing Environmental Impacts of Cement and Concrete

Reading: EBN article, “Avoiding the Global Warming Impact of Insulation

Reading: EBN article, “Making Carpet Environmentally Friendly

Reading: EBN article, “Is Nano a No-No? Nanotechnology Advances into Buildings

Week 14— Building Durability

Lecture: Longer-lasting buildings are greener buildings

Reading: EBN article, “Durability: A Key Component of Green Building

Reading: EBN article, “Moisture Control in Buildings: Putting Building Science in Green Building

Reading: EBN article, “Polished Concrete Outshines Other Flooring Options

Week 15—Looking Ahead: Climate Adaptation

Lecture: Today’s buildings must be adaptable to an uncertain future

Reading: EBN article, “Design for Adaptation: Living in a Climate-Changing World

Reading: EBN article, “Passive Survivability: A New Design Criterion for Buildings

Reading: EBN article, “Future-Proofing Your Building: Designing for Flexibility and Adaptive Reuse

Week 16— Wrap-up

Lecture: Course review

August 11, 2011


There are no comments for this page yet.

Log in to add comments - Help with comments


EBN: From the Editors - September 2011

1. (no credit)

There are no comments for this page yet.

EBN Resources to Support the Classroom and the Syllabus
EBN: From the Editors - September 2011