Two Iowa State University architecture courses earn national recognition

AMES, Iowa -- The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) recently honored two Iowa State University architecture courses for advancing green building education.

The Bridge Studio, which focuses on the design of affordable, sustainable housing, was one of five national winners of the 2009 Excellence in Green Building Education Recognition Award in the higher education category. The course was developed and taught by Nadia Anderson, ISU assistant professor of architecture. The award includes a $1,000 cash prize.

"SCI-TECH: A Technology Sequence for Generation Green" received an honorable mention in the same category. Taught by ISU architecture associate professors Jason Alread and Thomas Leslie and lecturer Rob Whitehead, SCI-TECH is a sequence of graduate-level architecture technology courses that incorporates sustainable design principles. Iowa State was the only school to earn recognition for two different programs in any category.

The USGBC Recognition Awards honor innovative courses, projects, activities or programs that advance green building education across the spectrum of educational levels and content areas. The awarded programs are intended to serve as resources for other educators in developing and teaching sustainability coursework.

Submissions were judged on demonstrated success, ability to be replicated, scope of influence, advancement of green principles within the educational community and the fostering of a collaborative or interdisciplinary approach.

Bridge Studio

The Bridge Studio is an interdisciplinary elective studio class for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students. Anderson has taught the studio four times since fall 2007, and students from architecture, landscape architecture and interior design have participated.

The studio helps bridge the gaps between education and practice, architecture and community, and sustainability and affordability, Anderson said. Students work in collaborative teams with interns from local design firms and design and building professionals to develop affordable housing projects for organizations and communities not normally served by the design professions.

"Sustainable design is not just about technology but also about social equity and economic viability," Anderson said. "Making housing more affordable, providing access to higher quality living environments and building stable neighborhoods are all interrelated.

"The Bridge Studio looks at different kinds of technical systems to see what would be most beneficial on the social and economic sides. Above all, the intent of the program is to improve the lives of Iowans by helping them create living environments that are affordable, healthy and environmentally friendly. And our students have the opportunity to understand the critical contributions they can make as design professionals to the future built and social environment," she said.

This is not the first national award for The Bridge Studio. In March, The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards honored the course with the Grand Prize for Creative Integration of Practice and Education in the Academy. The prize included a $25,000 cash award.

Anderson also has been involved in roundtable discussions sponsored by ISU Extension to help develop a state housing policy.

"There's a lot of interest in doing demonstration projects to help illustrate how sustainable, affordable housing can be a part of any new housing policy," she said. "Just showing examples of student work from the Bridge Studio has generated a lot of excitement."


SCI-TECH is a four-semester technology course sequence for students in the Master of Architecture program at Iowa State. Semesters are broken into modules covering structural design, building materials, environmental response and human factors. The entire sequence integrates principles of sustainable design.

The program, first developed in 2003, addresses how to teach a new generation of students - "generation green" - whose interests in architecture are increasingly based on concerns for the environment and who embrace new digital design and fabrication tools.

"To be truly effective, green building education should involve the whole building in addition to the obvious systems and parameters of heat flow, solar gain and resource consumption," Leslie said.

"SCI-TECH treats every aspect of building technology as a sustainability issue, from traditional 'green' topics such as daylighting and passive ventilation to less apparent decisions about structure and material selections. These have important energy and resource implications, too," he said.

More information on the USGBC Excellence in Green Building Education Recognition Awards may be found at