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September 2008
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Sustainability and Campuses

As a follow up to last week’s Green Building Festival Here in Toronto I thought I would talk about Green Initiatives and Sustainability on Campus. With three universities attending, U of T, York and Ryerson, I mentioned (here) that they all spoke to their campus ‘greening.’

By the time the roundtable discussions were over I understood why there is a gap in Sustainable Cities, Green Infrastructure, and everything in between,

The universities fail at a grassroots level to provide programs to students.

Two individuals from Fleming College and Humber College spoke to new programs about Sustainable Design and Building for cities. But I challenge to say that this is not enough. Students are still drawn to the traditional programs, be that general arts and sciences, architecture, engineering, etc. There needs to be a change in what is taught to our students, we need to incorporate courses in sustainable development into the core curriculum of undergraduate students.

I decided to look at 5 schools across Canada and compare them in terms of their general science, engineering and architecture courses. The schools I chose were The University of Toronto, Queens University, The University of British Columbia, McGill University, and The University of Western Ontario.

General Sciences
Outside of the environmental offices there is not much to offer in terms of a sustainable development or design courses. I also decided to investigate which schools offered an urban planning program. It seems that over the past couple of decades that this program has really begun to grow and expand, urban planning has also become a well recognized degree for students to have.
The University of Toronto
The environmental program offered is traditional, but there has been a movement to integrate new ‘sustainable’ courses into the curriculum. New courses include Assessing Global Change, Urban Sustainability, and Ecological Technology.
There is no urban planning program at the undergraduate level, only one at the graduate level.

The University of British Columbia

There are no sustainable courses in environmental science, or the general sciences.
And like U. of T. there is only an urban planning program at the graduate level.

Queens University
Within the science department, specifically environmental, there are courses on Sustainability and the Economics of Sustainable Development.
Again like U.of.T and UBC there is only an Urban Planning Program for Graduate Students

McGill University
McGill also has a traditional environmental science program with no courses on sustainability.
There is an undergraduate program for Urban Planning. The Urban Systems Department is housed in the geography department and does not cover much on sustainable city development.

The University of Western
At Western there unfortunately is not a strong environmental program, it is a more a physical environment program, with courses such as The Physics of the Earth and Tectonic Theory.
The undergraduate Urban Planning has Land-use Planning but nothing on ‘green’ development


It should be noted that all but one of the schools have strong environmental engineering courses, which tend to look somewhat at sustainable development. Comparatively environmental engineering typically represents a small proportion of engineering students, however, it is a start. The universities had programs at the graduate level, but my focus was at the undergraduate level.

The University of Toronto
Focusing on the traditional courses from structural analysis to steel and concrete design there are no courses in sustainable development. There are some courses that civil students must take in transportation but nothing in terms of a sustainable cities course.

Queens University
Again Queens focuses on the traditional engineering courses. It also appears that they do not have an environmental stream. (I apologize if they do, I could not find it easily).

The University of British Columbia
Again a focus on the traditional courses. UBC does, however, offer much more in terms of transportation courses, including sustainable transportation for cities.

McGill Engineering
Much like the other schools, McGill focuses on the traditional engineering courses. The engineering school does contain an urban planning department within it.

The University of Western
Nothing in their core engineering classes. In fourth year there is a full year design course, where students take a project from inception through the design process. Looking to build a LEEDS certified building students have had the option to build a LEEDs accredited building. There is also a sustainable development program, but for countries going from undeveloped nations to developed nations.
To become an architect it takes eight years and many exams. Not surprisingly most Architecture programs are only offered at the graduate level.

The University of Toronto
The Architecture school is also home to the urban planning school. The masters program is very traditional focusing on structures and interior design. There is only one ‘green’ course, Urbansite Technology.

The University of British Columbia
UBC again has a traditional Architecture school, but within the program there is also an Environmental Design course housing a sustainability area.

Queens University
Does not have an Architecture school.

McGill University
Not only is there a traditional masters program, but McGill also offers students in the building sciences to start Architecture in their fourth year. Although not core courses there are two courses, Sustainable Design and Structure of Cities, that may be taken as electives.

The University of Western
Does not have an Architecture school.

I also thought I would mention the University of Calgary. Not only do they have a masters of Architecture (M.Arch) but also a M.DES, a masters of Environmental Design. It is a combination of traditional Architecture and ‘Green’ Architecture. Courses in the M.DES include Environmental Design and Management of Regional and Cultural Landscapes and Sustainable Futures and Planning Scenarios.

The future of our development is in the hands of the current students. As a whole, campuses need to shift their teachings to include environmental, ‘green’ design into the core curriculums. No doubt some students will reach out to these sustainable technologies, but in order to make ‘green’ main stream it is time we shift our teachings.