A postgraduate course aimed at integrating low-carbon engineering solutions into architectural designs is now being offered at UNSW with the assistance of the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

The Integrated Design Studio is the first of its kind in NSW and brings together students from the Faculties of Engineering and the Built Environment to design more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly buildings.

Course convenor and Director of the Co-operative Research Centre for Low-Carbon Living, Professor Deo Prasad, says the course is testing how an “integrated design approach can deliver the highest performance in green buildings”.

“We are encouraging students from different disciplines to begin collaborating and to bring their perspectives together early in the design process, so that engineering solutions can be built into a more optimised design, rather than added as an afterthought,” says Prasad.

Dan Nguyen and Jacqui Salter, both Masters students from the Faculty of Built Environment, have completed the design studio course, working in a team with architecture and engineering students to re-design the Materials Science and Engineering building at UNSW for their assignment. 

“The current building is outdated. It’s been designed for a different era, so it doesn’t meet the requirements of the high-tech research that’s being conducted inside,” explains Salter. 

Nguyen says the team aimed to design a “socially cohesive space” with additional study spaces to encourage student interaction. Storm and rainwater tanks and solar thermal power generation were also integrated into the design to reduce water and electricity consumption.

Nguyen hopes to take concepts learned in the course back to his home in Vietnam. “It’s a developing nation, so it could greatly benefit from the integrated design concepts, to produce affordable, efficient housing.” 

As Prasad points out, interdisciplinary collaborations between engineers and architects will be increasingly required in the future: “With high performance, zero-carbon goals for buildings, you absolutely need an integrated approach to achieve these outcomes.”

For the students, the workshop was a learning experience. "Architectural education has traditionally been more concerned about form, for example, and engineers have traditionally been trained to make architectural concepts work from an engineering perspective," says Salter. "But working in teams, with multi-disciplinary collaboration, turned this inside out. It's been a fantastic experience." 

The Integrated Design Studio has been developed with the assistance of the NSW Government’s Office of Environment and Heritage through its Energy Efficiency Training Program. 

Media Contact: Cassie Chorn | UNSW Media Office | 02 9385 5405