Salovich Zero+ Campus Design Project
Salovich Zero Plus Campus Design Project


Theory and Practice of Sustainable Design


Instructors:  Mary Guzowski, Professor, School of Architecture and Douglas D. Pierce, AIA, LEED AP, Perkins+Will, Professor in Practice

Course Format:  15-week seminar, 3 credits

Course Description

Sustainable Design, through its intention to generate long-term ecological solutions, greatly expands the current role of architecture by embracing a much needed whole systems, ecologically-based perspective that reconfigures both the fundamental scope of “Design” within social and ecological communities. Taking the long-view is inherent to an ecological approach to design. Sustainable Design extends deep into the fabric of civilization and the whole of life, crossing artificial boundaries defined by discipline, education, convention or convenience. By engaging in a broad, deep, multi-dimensional intention and purpose sustainable design leaves few, if any, topics of human endeavor untouched in its dialogue. Sustainable Design blends philosophy, ethics, art, science, economics, engineering and contemporary architectural practice into a new framework of design prepared to take on the present ecological challenges faced by a global society and to imagine and create a new ecological future. This course investigates the theory and practice of sustainable design methods and design processes for architecture.  Emphasis is given to the direct application of sustainable design theories, processes, principles, and strategies into everyday practice to elevate design thinking and to meaningfully address pressing ecological, social, and economic challenges of our day.  Discussions, brief lectures, readings, video, research, field studies, and case study investigations will enable students to understand the emerging theories and practice of sustainable design and how they directly inform architectural practice. 

Course Objectives

The objectives of the course are to provide:

  • Knowledge of sustainability theory and its connection to design practice.
  • Design context, strategies, and tools for evaluating sustainable design theory and practice.
  • Lessons from exemplary precedents and fieldwork.
  • An opportunity for students to actively engage in developing sustainable design solutions working with a local client, building, and site.
  • A framework for students to develop their own sustainable design theory and principles for practice.

Course Work

Ecology is from the Greek oikos, meaning household, which is the study of the relationship of organisms to their environments.  The Earth and its natural systems are sometimes referred to as the first household.  This course takes stock of our own “household,” how we live as individuals on this Earth, and how we frame our own ecological or sustainable theory and practice of design to work within the ecological patterns, processes, and structures of natural systems.  A series of reading reflections and discussions coupled with three projects are used to help to define, reveal, and apply sustainable design in our daily lives and design practice for the 21st century. 

Project Overview          

There are three projects during the semester which are broken into a series of phases:

  • Project One: Parts A + B:  focuses on development of a Sustainability Assessment of a local organization, site, and their facility. This project enables students to work with a real organization and staff through interviews, on-site evaluations, and development of a project profile of the organization’s sustainability mission, values, and goals in relation to the sustainability metrics of the site context and facility.  Project One is used to inform development of Project Two, a proposal for Regenerative Design Interventions to improve sustainability.
  • Project Two: Parts C+D+E:  involves development of a proposal for Regenerative Design Interventions (or suggested initiatives and physical changes) which the organization could make to their approach, operations, and facility to improve sustainability.  Project Two offers teams the opportunity to make real-time connections between sustainability theory, architectural practice, and the built environment.
  • Project Three: involves conducting an Ecological Footprint Study of the student’s personal lifestyle including the ecological implications of energy consumption, waste production, materials resource consumption, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, etc. based on student’s choices concerning food, transportation, housing, entertainment, material goods. They are asked to conduct a preliminary audit and to make real changes to impact their footprint. This project is developed incrementally over the semester.


Theory and Practice of Sustainable Design Syllabus


Project Statements

Project 1.A: Site and Program Assessment

Project 1.B: Sustainable Design Assessment

Project 2.C: Diagramming Sustainable Interventions

Project 2.D+2.E:  Sustainable Interventions

Project 3: Ecofootprint Assessment


Student Projects

1. Eddy Hall: Liu, Mans, Saboonian, Schaefer, and Schalow

2. Tate Lab and Church Street: Alexander, Garrison, Martinez, and Walsh