The University of Sheffield is one of four UK universities that are to set up Centres of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design, in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering. The new centres at Heriot-Watt University, Loughborough University, the University of Sheffield and University College London will form a national network to demonstrate and exchange best practice in teaching and research for a more sustainable built environment.
The rationale for improving teaching and research in this area comes from an Academy report published last year, The Case for Centres of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design. The primary aim is to enhance the curriculum for undergraduate engineering students, enabling them to experience interdisciplinary, collaborative problem solving to help them unlock their potential for innovation. The centres will also help to provide continuing professional development to engineers already working in the construction industry.
The four centres of excellence will ultimately collaborate to deliver a common core curriculum and approach in interdisciplinary education for engineers while maintaining their own individual characters and interests.
Decarbonising our society depends crucially on tackling emissions from the built environment, as set out in 2010 in the Academy report Engineering a low carbon built environment. Author Professor Doug King FREng is leading the initiative to set up the new centres of excellence. He says:
“UK Construction is changing rapidly as the industry assimilates new requirements for sustainability and new working practices. The education of construction professionals is also under scrutiny for its relevance to this new paradigm. The new Centres of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design will develop new research-led teaching for engineers. They will prepare engineering graduates to deliver the sustainable buildings the UK needs at substantially lower cost than is presently achieved. The savings will be measured in billions of pounds to the UK economy and a substantial reduction in commercial risk for developers.”
The universities will work closely with the construction industry to develop their engineering and architectural design courses continue to be as relevant as possible to the work students can expect to do when they graduate. Visiting Professors from industry are a key part of this approach and will be heavily involved in developing the new centres of excellence.
The University of Sheffield encourages its engineering and architecture students to undertake live projects in industry to help develop the cooperation, outreach, research and education which are key to integrating the principles of sustainable design. Professor Fionn Stevenson, architecture co-director of the new Centre, and incoming Head of School, said:
“Sheffield is committed to producing socially engaged and technically excellent professionals in the built environment. Sheffield School of Architecture is at the forefront of pioneering joint programmes with engineering in the UK. We have recognised the need to upskill architects with new specialisms which provide a sound understanding of key issues in building physics. This is really essential in order to improve sustainable building performance.”
Dr Buick Davison from the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering and Co-director of the new Centre said:
“With the support of the Academy’s Visiting Professor in Building Engineering Physics scheme we developed and introduced a unique integrated Masters programme in Architectural Engineering Design in 2008. This successful programme combines Structural and Mechanical Engineering with Architecture and is dual-accredited by the JBM and IMechE. Hosting an RAE Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design is a great endorsement of what we have managed to achieve in a very short period of time and will be a launch pad to develop further this exciting area of teaching and research. Working collaboratively as part of a network of RAE Centres of Excellence we seek to have a much greater influence in bringing about the changes needed in policy, practice and training in order to meet the considerable challenges associated with the design and delivery of sustainable buildings.”