I’ve been thinking a lot about the benefit of design & imagination in construction education recently.
In my opinion the role of an engineering education is not only to teach graduates to think, but to inspire them with the endless possibilities of design. There are many sources of inspiration and whilst students usually reference cultural precedent in their design, resource efficiency is a key issue that can also inspire the imagination. If we equip students with knowledge of the issues and some basic techniques for resource efficient design we can leave it to their imagination to come up with designs that will enable society to solve the problems it faces.
We must however, teach sustainable design in an interdisciplinary manner as no single construction discipline has all the skills necessary to solve all the problems. Designing the buildings of the future will involve all the disciplines from the outset and we need to reflect this in education. I believe that it will become essential for architectural schools to build close relationships with engineering departments. Interdisciplinary teaching with experiential and peer promoted learning will raise the performance of architectural and engineering students alike.
Sustainable design is a philosophy, not a set of rules to stifle individual expression. Sustainability has to be integrated at every level of society from simple changes in individual behaviour to the large scale re-planning of our urban centres to cope with fuel depletion. I am confident that if we inspire future generations of students to think creatively about the problems that confront society, the solutions that they come up with will surprise us all.