Sustainable urbanism grad certificate program offered

Neuman: A new nexus for sustainability, cities and environmental design professions

The College of Architecture at Texas A&M University recently established a graduate certificate program in sustainable urbanism to be offered through the college’s Center for Housing and Urban Development. The certificate program requires 18 credit hours of studio and seminar work as well as a thesis or professional study on a specialized topic.

“Sustainable urbanism entails the integrated and collaborative design of cities and their urban environs,” explained Michael Neuman, associate professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning and chair of the new program. “The most fruitful approaches for any urbanism to be truly sustainable are to be found in designs and plans that are adaptive, context-sensitive, and range across multiple scales.”

According to Neuman, the program’s founder, sustainable urbanism represents a new nexus for sustainability, cities and the environmental design professions.

“During the next fifty years—the professional lifetime of current students—the earth’s urban population will more than double, from 3 billion to 7 billion,” Neuman said. “Eighty percent of the world’s population is projected to live in cities in 2050. As prosperity spreads across the globe and consumption outstrips resources and despoils environments, the way we live in and build our cities, or ‘urbanism,’ will be critical to our well being, and to the health of the planet. ‘Sustainable’ urbanism,” he continued, “will be key to human livelihood and global survival.”

According to a National Research Council publication, “Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability”: “Developing an integrated and place-based understanding of [environmental] threats and options for dealing with them is a central challenge for promoting a transition toward sustainability.”

The certificate program was established on the principle that sustainable urbanism is greater than the sum of individual disciplines in any college of architecture or environmental design. A&M’s sustainable urbanism program will integrate design disciplines and strengthen relations among them.

"Texas A&M's faculty has been actively engaged in innovative research and practice for planning and designing sustainable places and place-making institutions for some time,” said J. Thomas Regan, dean of the College of Architecture. “It made perfect sense to integrate ongoing activities in a cross-cutting way that will further extend our leadership in activities related to the built environment."

The mission of the Sustainable Urbanism Certificate Program is to undertake innovative research and to create a flexible curriculum that prepares future leaders to design sustainable places at a range of scales and in a variety of international settings.

The certificate program will be offered through the College of Architecture’s Center for Housing and Urban Development. It will build on the center’s outreach and partnership activities and the flagship Colonias program that has been operating along the Texas-Mexico border for the last ten years.

“Sustainable urbanism addresses social and economic equity issues facing cities and their development, in addition to restoring environments and minimizing impacts,” Neuman said. “As such, it is much more than merely energy efficiency and intelligent material use and reuse at the urban scale.”

Because comprehensive consideration of these interconnected issues requires an integrated perspective, the program will draw on the talents of faculty from several disciplines.

To provide students enrolled in the program with international exposure, four different semester away opportunities satisfying some certificate requirements will be offered through the College of Architecture. These programs include interdisciplinary urban design programs at the Barcelona School of Architecture in Barcelona, Spain; at Texas A&M’s Santa Chiara Study Center in Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy; and in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area through an arrangement with Virginia Tech University; and an interdisciplinary sustainable development program held each summer in Eastern Australia.

Marlynn May, a distinguished lecturer with the Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, is co-chair for the certificate program.

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