Environmental design degree returns to Boulder campus administrative structure

Published: Sept. 17, 2012

Provost Russell L. Moore announced CU-Boulder has resumed the administration, management and governance of a bachelor’s degree in environmental design with the start of the 2012-13 academic year, and is beginning a visioning process for how to fully integrate environmental design into the wide array of related programs on the Boulder campus.   

Offered since 1970 as part of the College of Environmental Design, in 1992 CU-Boulder’s undergraduate environmental design degree became a part of the College of Architecture and Planning at CU Denver. Oversight of the environmental design degree was returned to the Boulder campus in July after recent comprehensive internal and external reviews recommended administratively separating the activities on the two campuses. Further, Moore said, recommendations included building on existing CU-Boulder strengths in environmental sciences and engineering to make the professional design education distinctive.

“Now that the environmental design program is wholly a CU-Boulder entity, we have the unique opportunity to develop a cutting-edge program that will capitalize on the existing strengths on our campus, notably those in the environmental sciences, sustainability, environmental policy and engineering,” Moore said.  “Following upon recommendations from a recent external review, the campus will start an open conversation this fall on how best to integrate environmental design into the campus in order to capitalize on the natural synergies that will exist between the current environmental design program and other programs on our campus.”

The conversation will be led by a CU-Boulder committee constituted last year to assist in the administrative transition of environmental design to the Boulder campus and charged to be centrally involved in the visioning process of the program moving forward. Associate Professor Sharon Collinge, of ecology and evolutionary biology and environmental studies, will chair the core committee, which includes professors Kirk Ambrose, art and art history; Michael Brandemuehl, Paul Chinowsky and John Zhai of civil, environmental and architectural engineering; Susan Clarke, political science; Sam Fitch, environmental studies; and James White, geological sciences. The core committee will work closely with the director and faculty of the Program of Environmental Design and professionals in the field as the visioning process progresses.

JoAnn Silverstein, director of the Program in Environmental Design, is hosting an open house for students, alumni, environmental design professionals, faculty and staff on Friday, Sept. 28, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. The open house, which will include an exhibit of student work, refreshments and remarks from Silverstein at 2 p.m., will be held in the Environmental Design Building, room 134.

“The environmental design faculty have created curriculum to address the new challenges facing design professionals -- greater sustainability of buildings and cities, global needs for housing, responsible resource management and adaptation to the impacts of climate change,” Silverstein said. “Our vision for the environmental design degree is to provide innovative interdisciplinary education to prepare students for practice and advanced study in the design-based fields of architecture, landscape architecture and planning, with the knowledge that those professions are in the midst of significant change.”

This fall nearly 800 environmental design students are enrolled in studios, lectures and seminars taught by 30 faculty with academic and professional expertise in adaptive buildings, urban design and landscapes that support society’s domestic, civic, cultural and industrial/commercial activities, Silverstein said. 

In the program, students are learning to apply state-of-the-art educational technology including computing tools, digital image databases, fabrication equipment and media for display and presentation of designs. The curriculum also draws from Boulder campus scholarship in the sciences, social sciences and technology fields in order to enable environmental design graduates to develop new standards and materials for “green” buildings, to anticipate the environmental, social and economic impacts of development, and to design for energy and water efficiency in buildings and communities. 

Moore added that the university is continuing on a path to create graduate curriculum in environmental design.

For information on the Program in Environmental Design visit http://academicaffairs.colorado.edu/envd/.