Program in Environmental Design

University of Colorado Boulder

Curriculum

Environmental design includes the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban and planning design, as well as research pertaining to these fields. The bachelor in environmental design curriculum is a design studio-based education, which requires the completion of design-based studio experiences every semester, along with a number of complementary courses, general electives, and environmental-design electives. At any time students may declare an emphasis in architectural design, landscape architecture design, urban and planning design, or design studies; they must declare an emphasis during their third-level studio. All graduates from the undergraduate program earn a bachelor in environmental design degree with an emphasis in architectural design, landscape architecture design, urban and planning design, or design studies

In the core, bachelor in environmental design students take a sequence of courses, which emphasize the knowledge, methods, and practices, common to the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban and planning design. As the established design professions are increasingly collaborating on complex design issues related to the designed environment, the mix of core courses reflects these trends.

The program requires that students complete courses in a clear series of prerequisites, but includes flexible opportunity for general studies and elective courses. Students must meet the prerequisites of any course before enrolling in subsequent courses.

The Design Emphases

Students may declare an emphasis at any time upon enrollment, but must declare an emphasis before enrolling in any third-level design studio. In addition, students must meet the required prerequisites for each level. Students will declare an emphasis in architectural design, landscape architectural design, urban and planning design, or design studies.

The BEnvd degree and its emphases is a preprofessional program of study intended to prepare students for entry into graduate study, though many bachelor's in environmental design students find employment in careers allied to the professions without undertaking graduate study. Depending upon the particular requirements of graduate professional programs at other institutions, the BEnvd degree may lead to advanced standing, which can shorten the duration of graduate studies. After completing the BEnvd degree, a professional master's degree will be required for professional licensure in architecture or landscape architecture.

Environmental Design Curriculum: Thematic Structure

The undergraduate Program in Environmental Design encourages interdisciplinary study and collaborative work on real-world programs. It also encourages a breadth of knowledge, including knowledge in the liberal arts and in other general studies, which prepare students to be critical thinkers and communicators. 

The first year of the core introduces students to fundamental design ideas and practices, to the concepts of analysis and problem solving, to human factors, to ecology, to design history and theory, and to the relationship between environmental design and ethics. The following three semesters challenge students with design problems at a different scales within the built environment: at the scales of urban building, landscape, and design. Each of these design challenges underscores the interdependency of scales upon one another and the complex connectedness which characterizes the built environment.

The final three semesters of the curriculum offer students the opportunity to emphasize architecture, landscape architecture, or planning and urban design. Students wishing to pursue academic work that crosses disciplines can pursue design studies. During the final two years of study, students may earn opportunities to engage in service learning in the community or in design-build, they may study abroad, or they may have opportunities for more individualized research.

Course codes for this program are ARCH and ENVD.

Careers in the Design Professions

The program prepares preprofessional undergraduate students for professional graduate study in the design professions. As with other four-year preprofessional degrees, such as the bachelor of science or bachelor of arts in architecture, the BEnvd prepares students for study in a master of architecture (MArch), master of landscape architecture (MLA), master of urban design (MUD), or master of urban and regional planning (MURP) degree program.

It is common for bachelor's in environmental design graduates to receive advanced standing for the work they have done in our program, which allows them to complete a graduate degree at other design schools in a shorter time.

Architecture

The four-year BEnvd degree is not accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) as a professional degree. NAAB does not accredit BA Arch, BS Arch, or BEnvd degrees; the NAAB only accredits Master of Architecture (MArch) and five-year Bachelor of Architecture (BArch) programs. The BEnvd degree prepares students for a NAAB-accredited masters program.  In this sequential program of study, students completing the BEnvd  will normally be asked to complete a minimum of four semesters of additional course work (60 hours of credit) after admission into one of 95 NAAB-accredited graduate programs nationally.

In addition to the MArch, prospective architects must complete three years of internship and must pass a state professional licensing exam. This process is overseen by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), some of which may be completed concurrently with studies.

Planning

The practice of planning is currently not licensed in most states. Professional membership and certification is overseen by the American Planning Association (APA) and the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). Degrees in the field are accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning.

Although students interested in entry-level positions in planning may find the BEnvd degree adequate, an advanced degree (MURP, PhD, or other graduate planning focus) is highly desirable. Students primarily interested in professional practice should obtain a graduate degree in urban planning, in urban and regional planning, in urban planning and community development, or in urban design. Students interested in teaching or research in planning should complete a PhD.

Landscape Architecture

To obtain a license, landscape architects should have an advanced education and work experience, as well as pass the national examination. In the United States, licensing is overseen both at the state level and nationally by the Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards (CLARB). Accreditation of educational programs is voluntary. The Landscape Architectural Accreditation Board (LAAB) accreditation process evaluates each program and provides an assessment. Advanced Standing for graduate study is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, according to the standards of each graduate program, determined in accordance with a student's prior academic accomplishments as demonstrated in the application portfolio and transcript.

Design Studies

There is an increasing demand in the design, construction, and development industries for people who combine an understanding of design with a specialized understanding of related fields like computing, management, finance, or marketing. Some students may use the design studies major as general preparation for graduate study in any number of academic fields that are also concerned with the design and planning of the built environment, including anthropology, geography, sociology, psychology, historic preservation, and architectural, urban, and environmental history. Other students may use this emphasis to prepare for further graduate study in a professional field related to architecture, landscape architecture and planning, including business, law, journalism, public administration, product design, and digital design. Design thinking is increasingly recognized in the business world as a valuable expertise in the analysis of the design of corporate structures and business plans, industrial processes, manufacturing, marketing, and other related pursuits. Excellent design constitutes a fundamental aspect of sustainability in any field.

As the design studies curriculum is tailored to each student, students in this emphasis must outline and receive approval of their individual course plan by a faculty sponsor and the director before undertaking design studies. Participants in this emphasis are expected to attain a competent level of understanding and skill in architecture, landscape design, or planning. They are expected to demonstrate proficiency in design thinking and design practice as these relate to architecture, landscape design, planning, or urban design. They must complete the requirements of the five-semester, 75-credit core. Once admitted to the design studies emphasis, students are expected to develop and demonstrate a high level of understanding and proficiency in one specialized aspect of these fields, or in one of the cognate fields. A minimum of 30 hours of course work must be approved and completed within design studies.

Year One

  • Semester I. The first semester of the core introduces students to the broad range of issues and forces that interact to affect the shape and form of the designed environment, including human factors and land ethics.
  • Semester II. The second semester introduces critical design theories and practices which can effect change at different scales and levels of complexity. Areas of study extend to ecology, as well as to the history and theory of the built environment.

Years Two and Three

  • Semesters III to V. The first semester of the three-semester sequence focuses on issues surrounding sustainability in the contemporary urban environment. The second addresses issues related to the appropriate design of the landscape at the scale of the house, the neighborhood, the city, and the region. The third focuses on construction and building technology, how these affect design at the scale of the building, and how these choices relate back to the larger environment.

Years Three and Four

  • Semesters VI to VIII. Students must declare an emphasis by their sixth semester. During these semesters, students pursue more specialized study within their emphasis. Students may also have opportunities for praxis (applied practice), service learning within the community, research, or study abroad. The program recognizes several certificate programs, within the program and across the campus, which can substitute for praxis and for other requirements.  Students with an overall GPA of 3.3 or higher may also propose a thesis project to work on in their senior year of study to receive Latin Honors.