Campus: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo -- June 29, 2005
Cal Poly's Sustainable Design Curriculum Wins Top National
Award for "Ecological Literacy"
Cal Poly's Sustainable Environments minor program has won top national honors
for "ecological literacy" from the American Institute of Architects.
The Sustainable Environments minor and its core interdisciplinary courses on
environmental design (called "EDes" on campus) are all offered by Cal Poly's
College of Architecture and Environmental Design (CAED). The college also offers
a Sustainable Environmental Design Education curriculum project.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) named the CAED programs as the
first-place winner of a grant program designed to recognize architecture programs
that promote ecological literacy.
In announcing the award the AIA selection team lauded Cal Poly's program as the
"obvious" first choice because it is both interdisciplinary and comprehensive.
The AIA selection team reviewed 49 programs at architecture schools across the U.S.
Cal Poly was one of three grant winners named at the national AIA Convention on
May 19 in Las Vegas. The winners each received a $3,000 grant, courtesy of the Tides
Foundation, as recognition for their immersion of students in ecological literacy
"Due to the numbers and prestige of the competing schools, we were surprised and
gratified to win this award," said Architecture Professor Jonathan Reich. "Because
Cal Poly is a polytechnic university, we've felt the need to work harder to make
the program broad and theoretical, as well as practical and technical. Following
the principle of ecology - that everything is connected - we've also made the
interdisciplinary aspect of the program a priority," continued Reich.
"Ecological literacy" is a term coined by author David Orr that implies a broad
understanding of the relationship between humans, societies, and the natural world.
The AIA's Committee on the Environment undertook the research and award program to
address their concern that many architecture schools are turning out graduates
with little ecological knowledge even though design professionals are well suited
to be open to the perspective.
Margot McDonald, architecture professor and co-director of the Renewable Energy
Institute (REI) says the goal of the Sustainable Environments Minor, EDes courses,
and SEDE curriculum is to educate and prepare the next generation of practitioners
in those fields for leadership in innovation and sustainable design.
"Cal Poly is uniquely positioned for teaching and practicing sustainability due to
the combined presence of the professional colleges of Agriculture, Architecture
and Environmental Design, and Engineering that cover all aspects of living systems,"
National representatives from the AIA/COTE Ecological Literacy project will visit
Cal Poly in July to prepare the "AIA/COTE Ecological Literacy Report" to be
published in the fall.
The report will summarize their study and include feedback from the field highlighting
early and recent initiatives; education awards and fellowships; green curriculum
efforts; and surveys of students, professionals, schools and educators. Two CAED
programs,"Agents of Change" and "Solar Decathlon," will be profiled in the report.
About CAED's "Sustainable Environments" Program
The program began with the course "Sustainable Community Development," 15 years
ago and was taught by CAED faculty members Dan Panetta and Henry Hammer. The course
was eventually expanded by faculty members Brian Kesner, Paul Wack, Walt Tryon,
and Walt Bremer, who organized a group of courses university-wide into the current
"Sustainable Environments Minor."
The minor includes two team-taught interdisciplinary "EDes" courses covering
theory and implementation of "sustainable design."
These minor courses are now taught by Jonathan Reich, Paul Wack, Joe Donaldson, D.
Gregg Doyle, Tom diSanto and many guest lecturers from across the university and
from the community at large. For more on the program, visit
and click on "Sustainable Environments."
The minor was expanded to include sustainable environmental design in architecture
and landscape architecture. Professors Margot McDonald, Cathy Corlett and professors
emeriti Ken Haggard and Polly Cooper further expanded the program with support
from the California Integrated Waste Management Board and Cal Poly's own Renewable
Energy Institute (REI). Visit
http://www.calpoly.edu/~sede/home.html for details.
Contact: Ray Ladd, (805)756-7432,