SUSTAINABILITY EDUCATION IN THE ENGINEERING AND BUILT ENVIRONMENT CURRICULUM: THE CASE FOR ASIA-PACIFIC
Buildings and cities are measures of economic health in most Developed and Developing economies across the globe. The built environment is constantly changing, reflecting government policies, legislative changes and community expectations. Strategies to deliver low carbon resilient built environments require a range of different stakeholders to work effectively. Government targets, both voluntary and mandatory are putting pressure on new graduates to be fully abreast of relevant global and local issues. Increasing globalisation is finding graduates and senior professionals working on projects away from their home bases. This is putting additional pressures on graduates to understand not just the requirements for meeting the local regulatory minimum but also best practice requirements for sustainability in these regional centres.
Education has long been recognised internationally as fundamental to addressing the global challenges society faces. The unique features and issues of sustainability have a profound effect on the way academic curricula are structured. The general direction of education for sustainability is moving increasingly toward integration and innovation. However, the slow progress of the integration of sustainability in the built environment curricula may have been due in part to the practice-led approach which is hallmark of the discipline and by the assumption that sustainability already permeates the curricula by its nature.
This paper presents the general findings of the United Nations University – Institute of Advanced Studies, Promotion of Sustainability in Postgraduate Education and Research (UNU-IAS ProsPER.Net) Project on “Integrating sustainability education into existing engineering and built environment curriculum” which is aimed at developing a Guide for university academics and curriculum developers to integrate sustainability thinking and practice into built environment disciplines such as engineering and architecture at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The wider aim of the project is to ultimately ensure that sustainability is firmly embedded in the expanding/developing further courses/offerings to students within this rapidly changing environment.
In focusing on the main issues about applying the principles of sustainability in the built environment and the tensions with regulatory and best practice approaches, a regional approach was adopted for the project. This regional approach took account of international, national, local and sub-regional concerns in relation to sustainability teaching and learning, and expectations of both graduates and the industry. The project espoused a collaborative inquiry process wherein the role of the industry in assisting to achieve outcomes and ensuring that sustainability goals of projects are met. The core activity of the ProSPER.Net project was a workshop based on action research, bringing together relevant participants and shared knowledge and experiences to recommend practical approaches for integrating sustainability issues whilst understanding the theoretical dimension of sustainability and sharing experiences about what approaches best work for all stakeholders. The colloquium has contextualised the current state of sustainability integration in the existing built environment curricula in the Southeast Asia-Pacific region and established opportunities for networking and building close links within academia and the industry.