Taubman College

Sustainable Design

The Master of Urban Design Program is committed to sustainable design, both in studio and in academic courses. The program's core faculty offers courses in the topic, one a MUD requirement, another one that may serve as a MUD elective or selective. Meanwhile Taubman College's architecture and urban planning programs feature sustainable-design courses led by a diverse faculty in planning, landscape architecture and architecture. And the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources and the Environment provides additional courses from which urban design students may choose. (Note: Please visit Taubman College websites for latest information about courses that may change year-to-year.)

The following two sustainability courses are taught by the program's core faculty.

UD 729 (MUD Requirement)

The Sustainable City: Design, Planning, and Development
Instructor: Kit McCullough
Credits 3

Sustainable urbanism goes beyond reducing energy consumption of individual buildings to create energy-saving urban environments that maximize opportunities for walkability, transit use, and building efficiency that are inherent in dense urban environments, while simultaneously addressing related issues of urban equity and diversity. It is increasingly evident that issues of sustainability and energy consumption must be addressed at the urban scale, on many fronts, and by interdisciplinary teams that can work together to find synergistic, holistic solutions. How can we shift public investments and policies toward better public spaces, transportation systems, and infrastructure? What changes will need to be made to the existing zoning and other regulatory systems, and how can these changes be implemented? How can the real estate and finance industries be encouraged to invest in mixed-use developments and construction methods that produce more energy-efficient buildings with longer life-cycles? How can design illustrate and ensure that sustainable development will result in a better quality of life for all?

This course brings students together in interdisciplinary teams to work on proposals for actual development sites, capital improvement projects, or policy initiatives where they can wrestle with these and other broad questions and find the common ground that will be necessary to support workable, implementable solutions. The goal of the course is to better equip a new generation of professionals to respond to the global crisis caused by resource exhaustion and climate change.

UP 696/ARCH 503 (MUD Selective or Elective)

Sustainable Urbanism and Architecture
Instructor: Douglas Kelbaugh
Credits: 3

An in-depth exposure to American and international urban planning, architecture, urban design, and landscape architecture that is environmentally sustainable, as well as culturally enriched, aesthetically accomplished, socially equitable, and economically viable.

The built environment accounts for approximately half our planet's energy consumption and carbon footprint, and strongly impacts global climate change and resource depletion, both of which can be dramatically reduced by good design and planning that also improves the quality of life, health and community for humans and other species.

The lectures, class discussions and student presentations will include a wide range of scales and topics, such as personal ecological footprints, passive solar design, social and economic justice, suburban sprawl, waste and water management, agriculture and food, cultural norms, alternative urbanisms, and energy- and environmentally-conscious buildings, cities and landscapes, as well as related laws, regulations, policy and best practices.

Class meetings will consist of a combination of lectures (including guest lecturers when appropriate), in-class exercises, and discussions based on reading assignments.

For their semester project, students will form interdisciplinary teams; select an urban or regional scale project or problem that addresses sustainability in the American built environment; develop a proposal, feasibility analysis and implementation plan; and present their findings to the class.


Other Taubman College courses with a sustainability focus include:

UP 576 (MUD Selective or Elective)

Ecological Design Approaches to Brownfield Development
Instructor: Joan Nassauer
Credits: 3

This course will draw on practicing experts to introduce students in these disciplines to the wide-ranging issues that must be integrated for sustainable brownfield redevelopment: law and public policy, public health, public perception, environmental justice, environmental health, risk assessment, remediation, land planning, real estate finance and construction. Readings, lectures, a field trip, a charette, and a workshop critique of student work by visiting experts will allow students to gain a breadth of knowledge of factors that interact to affect the success of brownfield redevelopment.

ARCH 505 (MUD Selective or Elective)

Liquid Planning
Instructors: Jennifer Maigret, Maria Arquero de Alarcon
Credits: 3

The course will look at the Great Lakes Watershed Basin and analyze the overall hydrological system from different disciplinary lenses. Throughout the semester, students will work in multidisciplinary teams to examine the implications of storm water management practices in the nested scales of the built environment, and will speculate on a new paradigm that moves from a water-proof urbanism to a water-prone set of disciplinary practices. In an attempt to contest the role of political boundaries in the liquid planning and design of our region, we will test our interventions in the area defined by Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, and the contributing watersheds. This water line carries the international border between Canada and the United States, and its largely urbanized and industrialized shorelines.

The class will integrate readings, site visits, lectures and discussions with problem solving exercises (documents) and software tutorials (ArcGIS and Rhino). Lectures will include several invited specialists considering watershed resource planning and management from other disciplinary points of view including policy, economics, public health, ecology and engineering. Tutorials will teach how to use software critically, thereby enabling an innovative approach to input, analysis and output of data through the specific parameters of research questions. Visual representations will play a key role in providing a platform to organize and communicate information associated with complex problems with precision and clarity to a wider audience.

Assignments will be organized around group work and will engage analytical mapping and diagrams in order to cross-register scales and disciplinary concerns. Group work will ultimately produce design documents, three-dimensional models, material tests, and a short report documenting the work performed through the semester.

ARCH 505 (MUD Selective or Elective)

ET Landscape Infrastructure Seminar
Instructor: Geoffrey Thun
Credits: 3

Within the context of increasingly complex networked ecologies and economies, energy and mobility infrastructures, social dynamics and cultural forces that attend the conditions surrounding contemporary urbanism, it is in part the architect's capacity for lateral thinking, visualization, and synthesis of these forces and flows that may enable interdisciplinary groups to work on the challenging questions of our time. Cultural desire for meaningful and effective means towards sustainable strategies that operate at the large scale of urban and regional systems has created the demand for new types of GeoDesigners that are able to gather, analyze, parse, prioritize and visualize a range of potential design scenarios relative to the complex forces that attend a situation in a context of dynamic feedback loops that enable careful decision making and where design is developed in parallel with the assessment of instrumental impacts.

This course introduces senior graduate students to a range of methods, techniques, and digital tools incorporating GIS based data to illuminate ways of working effectively in these context – an emerging design method where research, dynamic modeling and intervention inflect and shape one another. Critical readings in complex systems theory, landscape urbanism, and industrial ecology will be paired with technological research linked to the term research project. Special guests with disciplinary specific knowledge will inform seminar work and provide feedback to the group as the project situation is unraveled and developed.

Students will work as a single seminar-wide team on a specific matter of urgent concern that spans a regional context, synthesizing perspectives from a range of disciplines, and developing contextual mappings and analysis from which design proposals will emerge. This form of action research is emerging within graduate education across disciplines as a strategy to introduce concretized complexity into the domain of academic speculation.

UP 532 (MUD Selective or Elective)

Sustainable Development: Resolving Economic and Environmental Conflicts
Instructor: Nicholas Rajkovich
Credits: 3

A growing body of evidence suggests that human populations world-wide are not living on the earth in ways that can be sustained indefinitely given current patterns of natural resource consumption, population growth, land development, and institutional arrangements. In response to this predicament, the concept of "sustainable development" has become prominent in popular and academic policy-making and planning debates over the past decade. Does the notion of sustainable development itself offer any useful guidance for making public policy and planning decisions, or is it merely an attractive oxymoron that different interests can agree on only at an abstract level? The goal of this class is to explore this question in depth. The course begins by considering the variety of ways in which our current lifestyles, locally and globally, are not sustainable, and then works through the concept of sustainable development from different vantage points: in terms of fundamental principles, scale (from global to local), and institutions, policies, and laws. Finally, the course addresses a variety of policy-making and planning prescriptions that have been offered and assesses whether and how those various prescriptions will likely work in practice. Working in groups, students test these theories of sustainability by applying them to selected client communities in Michigan.