AA SED Introduction

Sustainable Environmental Design (SED) engages with real-life problems that affect buildings and cities across the world. Design research for the AA SED Masters programme is driven by evidence-based performance criteria following a process of adaptive architecturing, that proceeds from inside to outside, attuning built form and its constituents to natural rhythms and inhabitant activities. Key objectives of all AA SED projects are: to improve environmental quality in cities, achieve independence from non-renewable energy sources and to develop an environmentally sustainable architecture that is capable of adapting to changing climates and urban environments.

The taught programme is structured in two consecutive phases. Phase I is organised around team projects that combine MSc and MArch students on experimental and analytical testing of the design principles and computational tools introduced by weekly lectures and workshops. In Phase II, MSc and MArch design research develops independently following individual research agendas that reflect students’ home contexts, climates and building typologies. MSc candidates complete the 12-month course with a design research project that documents the architectural potential and applicability of their chosen topic in its geographic and climatic context. The MArch cycle extends over a 16-month period that culminates in a specific design application for a given site and design brief.

Refurbishing the City

In Terms 1 and 2, Refurbishing the City, a continuing SED research agenda, will launch a new round of field studies in collaboration with London-based architectural and engineering practices. In Term 1 these involve on-site observations, measurements and interviews in selected London buildings followed by computer modelling and use of advanced computational tools to explore current and future environmental performance scenarios. The outcomes of Term 1 building studies provide the starting points for design research on mixed-use building programmes in Term 2. In Terms 3 and 4, individual research for the MSc and MArch dissertation projects will encompass a diverse range of geographic locations, climatic regions, urban morphologies and building typologies.

Lecture Courses & Workshops

Adaptive Architecturing, Term 1 Providing local architectural solutions to global issues requires an understanding of what makes a good environment for occupants and how this may vary across climates, building types and individual preferences. How does architecture contribute to making good environments and can it reclaim its historical role as a tool of sustainable environmental design? This course introduces a generative framework for an adaptive, culturally sensitive, occupant-centred architecture seeking a symbiotic relationship with the city.

Sustainable City, Term 1 This course reviews theories of urban sustainability introducing instruments and tools that can be applied to its assessment. The role of urban morphology on the microclimates encountered in cities and on energy consumption and climate change is illustrated with case studies from different urban contexts encompassing scales ranging from the regional to that of the urban block.

Environmental Simulation & Performance Assessment Tools, Terms 1 & 2 This hands-on course runs in day-long weekly sessions that follow the tasks of the Term 1 team projects, introducing the analytical procedures and computational tools that drive the SED research agenda. The course begins with fieldwork techniques based on indoor and outdoor observations and environmental measurements. This is followed by computer modelling of selected processes and spaces, testing of models against measurements, and running simulations to assess the effects of solar, thermal, airflow and daylighting processes against targets and benchmarks. A range of computational tools will be introduced and applied to diagnostic tasks as well as generative processes. Their application is initially explored on the team projects providing the essential expertise  required for undertaking the MSc and MArch dissertation research in Terms 3 and 4.

Environmental Design Primer, Terms 1 & 2 This course deals with key areas of environmental design research as these relate to architecture and urban design. Topics include urban climatology and the theories of occupant comfort and wellbeing; the physics and architecture of natural light, airflow and thermal processes; the ecology and environmental performance of materials; renewable energy technologies in the urban environment; and the science and art of measurement and performance assessment.

Lessons from Practice, Term 2 Each year several practising architects, engineers and researchers are invited to present projects that illustrate their philosophy, practice and experience with sustainable environmental design. Individual presentations are accompanied by roundtable sessions exploring the relationship between practice and research. The course includes building visits and study trips in the UK and abroad.

Research Seminar, Terms 1–4 In Terms 1 and 2 the seminar provides a regular forum for critical reading and literature review providing support to researching and writing the two individual research papers that act as the foundations for dissertation projects. Students are encouraged to produce work worthy of presentation in international events and publication in journals and conference proceedings. The PLEA 2018 Conference to be held in Hong Kong in December 2018 has accepted for presentation 14 papers produced jointly by SED students and teaching staff.

For further information on the taught programme contact: Dr Simos Yannas simos@aaschool.ac.uk
For News on SED Projects and Recent Events click here 
For information on application procedures and answers to frequently asked questions click here 
To follow-up on applications to the AA SED MSc or MArch options contact: Jess Hoy  SED Admissions Coordinator Jess.Hoy@aaschool.ac.uk
The AA is a Partner Institution and Affiliated Research Centre of The Open University (OU), UK. All taught postgraduate degrees at the AA are validated by the OU. The OU is the awarding body for research degrees at the AA.

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