Sustainable Architecture as an academic discipline

If you haven't already, the term 'sustainable' is a word that you are going to be hearing a lot of in the not so distant future. With the doom and gloom that is predicted due to global warming, we now find ourselves in a position where every step we take on earth is going to have to be controlled and monitored in order to avoid further damage to the ozone.

In this light, it's not surprising that Universities in the USA are focusing on this issue and attempting to steer future generations toward a new way of thinking. Ferris State University is among the first to approve a Bachelor of Science Degree in Architecture and Sustainability. It is the hope that a degree such as this one will allow the architects of tomorrow to start a new trend in 'green' building and living. The trend is catching on across the USA, as different schools offer certificates and online design degree programs in Green building, Sustainable Communities, or Environmental Studies including Florida International University and Colorado State University.

Sustainable architecture is a relatively new concept in the USA, and has not been put into practice as much as one would hope. This type of architecture involves the design of sustainable buildings: Buildings that are emission-free and CO2 neutral. In other words, you won't have to pay utilities to live in one of the new sustainable homes. By design, the home can actually provide you with an energy income. An example of an entirely new community built on this premise exists in Germany and is called "The Solar Settlement." This small community of homes provides a positive energy balance and actually produces solar energy that is funneled back into their community. Each homeowner can profit from the sale of the energy that their home produces, but the best part is that there are no environmental consequences from these homes. They are entirely self-sufficient as far as energy is concerned.

The building process in sustainable architecture is intensive in order to reduce the environmental impact. The roofing system is developed with solar panels to provide energy and hot water, run off pipes funnel rain water for gardening and use in the home, and recycled materials are used to their maximum effect during the actual building.

Although the actual building of sustainable architecture has not caught on as quickly in the US as it has in parts of Europe, the focus in our country is definitely on creating a better environment for our families. Recycling programs have ramped up over the past few years and are becoming the norm. Small changes are evident everywhere, and this is due in part to mass media influence such as the Planet Green channel. Planet Green educates the public on sustainable living, including adding small elements to your everyday life such as making your own shampoo or changing big parts of your home like your appliances or your furnace. Planet Green shows us on a daily basis that even the smallest changes can have an impact, including changing out your light bulbs or monitoring how much dish soap you use.

As always, our hopes for the future lie in the education of our young. Programs such as Sustainable Architecture and Green Building are teaching our youth to think beyond what has been done in the past and put their eyes to the future of the planet.

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