Queens University lecturer on importance of including 'climate emergency' in architecture teaching

Aleksandra Deineha and Rio Smith, 1st Year Architecture Students UL with Peter Carroll, University of Limerick
Aleksandra Deineha and Rio Smith, 1st Year Architecture Students UL with Peter Carroll, University of Limerick -Credit:Eamon Ward

Architecture schools have joined forces to ‘radically transform’ how they teach the next generation to meet our climate and housing challenges.

The building sector is one of our biggest emitters and a tranche of changes mean they will have to operate differently in the years to come but it all starts with planning and design.

So over 160 students from eight schools across the island came together to start ‘Building Change’ at University of Limerick’s school of architecture on Thursday.

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The first of its kind initiative, funded by the Higher Education Authority, saw them share sustainable pilot projects with all eight architectural schools, north and south, in a bid to break down barriers and share knowledge for their common goal.

These ‘show and tells’ looked at everything from carbon neutral construction, the circular economy, design for disassembly, embodied energy and were based on the UN’s Social Development Goals.

It is hoped the event will also help their lecturers to design architecture curricula that deliver for a rapidly changing world.

QUB architecture lecturer, Laurence Lord, told us: “I’m here... observing and understanding how it’s going to see if we can be potential partners.

“They are following the UN Sustainable [Development] goals... housing policy in the south and RIAI climate challenge 2030.

“It’s trying to align all those but from a teaching perspective, what’s most interesting is how they are trying to align their curriculum.

“People are opening up their books and sharing how they are teaching, what they are teaching.

“A lot of carbon emerges from building practice,” he added.

“From our perspective, teaching next generation architects, it’s important what they specify in their buildings, how they make their foundations, how much steel is in the structure, how much green space is incorporated. How do we cool buildings, how do we warm buildings? All of that is embedded from day one.

“When I was in college we weren’t looking at how we change our existing buildings... adaptive reuse.

“This is how architects are going to be practicing increasingly in the future so it’s important we teach architects how we do this and how we deal with the climate emergency.”

Technological University Dublin; University College Dublin; the University of Limerick (SAUL); South East Technological University; Atlantic Technological University and the Cork Centre for Architecture Education are all collaborating on Building Change: Designing a Resilient Future through Architecture Education. Lecturers from Queens University and University of Ulster were also there to learn.

Emma Geoghegan, Head of Architecture at TU Dublin, said: “It’s fantastic to see how engaged students are in this process to radically transform the curricula.

“Many of them have been inspired to pursue a career in architecture and design because it is such a crucial area in terms of climate action and sustainability, which we know is a huge motivator for younger generations.”

Head of Architecture at SAUL, Peter Carroll, added: “We’re bringing together students from every school of architecture on both sides of the border to share their learnings from hands-on pilot projects and to inform our transformation of the curricula.

“We’re asking students... what areas they want to see prioritised in the curricula change and how they can mobilise to create an all-island student society or climate-led action group which will carry their skills and knowledge from our studios into practical application in their future careers.”

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