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Principles Of Sustainable Design

Build Academy via Independent


This course will explore the context, motivations, frameworks and perspectives necessary to build a deeper understanding of sustainability and to form a solid foundation for sustainable design. The course will be followed by a course focused on the practical aspects of sustainable design.


This course will begin by placing sustainability in its historical context in relation to other drivers of major world view shifts including Renaissance and Modernist paradigms. A close reading of the first and second invisible hands of wealth will be presented in order to reveal sustainability as a powerful motivation for action towards a sustainable future. A number of frameworks including the Quadruple Bottom Line and Integral Sustainable Design will be studied in order to organize those actions into holistic relationships. Finally, the course will take a deeper look at the state of energy and environmental systems and their impacts which sets the stage for the final Impact Project and also lays the groundwork for the second course in the sequence: Methodologies for Sustainable Design.


Week 1: The Context for Sustainability: Beginning at the origins of the planet and finishing with a close study of world view shifts in the relatively short time frame of humanity on the planet.

Week 2: Motivations for Sustainability: Resolving the duality between self-interest (greed) and empathy (altruism) as a means to build a new platform for “progress” in the 21st century.

Week 3: Frameworks for Sustainability: Moving beyond superficial greening efforts to authentic sustainability that features the use of the holistic Quadruple Bottom Line.

Week 4: meta Frameworks for Sustainable Design: The multi-lens and meta-paradigm approach of Integral Theory and Integral Sustainable Design.

Week 5: Perspectives on Energy Systems: This module features a close look at energy system (non-renewable and renewable) from an Integral perspective in order to build energy literacy as a foundation for effective sustainable design.

Week 6: Perspectives on Environmental Systems and their Impacts: This module will study the impacts of non-renewable energy sources and human progress around the globe as a means to build an expanded environmental literacy.

Week 7: The Impact Project: The course ends with the completion of an “impact project.” where students will collaborate to design and implement a short project that addresses the myriad problems and opportunities presented by sustainability.


At end of this course students will be able to: 

Analyze the origins and founding principles of sustainability Synthesize the competing motivations of empathy and self-interest to build a foundation for a new sustainable world view

Combine the cultural, ecological, economic and experiential forces into holistic frameworks for sustainability

Analyze the state of the world’s energy and environmental systems and value the critical role of built environment professionals in responding to that challenge


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