Why I chose to study Advanced Sustainable Design - MSc
At the time of applying, I was looking for a master's degree programme with a focus on design and sustainability which would complement my bachelor’s degree in architecture. The Advanced Sustainable Design (MSc) programme offered at ECA, within the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA), captured my attention as a highly-ranked school for this specific subject area and the programme structure seemed to be exactly what I was looking for.
Being part of the MSc Advanced Sustainable Design programme allowed me to acquire critical skills which have broadened my understanding of the built environment and the subsequent impact of sustainable design practices, which I have applied and will continue to apply at the centre of my professional work.
My time at ECA
I studied at ESALA for one year from September 2017-2018. The programme was studio-based, which meant that I made frequent use of the facilities the university has to offer including the library, computer studio and wood workshop. A standard week included a combination of lectures and tutorials, incorporating both group work and individual projects. The opportunity to collaborate with my peers on projects enriched our design proposals through the sharing of skills and professional experiences.
The project that I felt to be most successful was my final submission for the Advanced Sustainable Design course, named the Habitat School. The project entailed designing an environmental strategy for a learning space, that extended beyond a conventional classroom, to become various outdoor learning spaces. The Habitat School was a 3.5km footpath loop navigating the lower zone of Loch Faskally in Scotland, providing experiences through different habitats. Raising awareness of the importance of ecosystem functions, their conservation, and their interaction with our building fabric.
During this project and several others we were advised by, and received feedback from, local engineering firms and subject experts who specialised in the topic of the project. This input from professional experts offered us different perspectives and overall enhanced our proposals and understanding of the subject.
One of the things I will take away from the course is an improved understanding of the importance of the social, economic, and environmental pillars within a design project. I also enjoyed the Computational Simulation course and my dissertation research, which focused on human behavioural patterns and their relationship with domestic energy consumption.
If I could start again, I would not do anything differently when it comes to the time that I dedicated to the assignments. However, I would try to enjoy the experience more and get to know the academic staff and the rest of the programme cohort better. In the end, this is a time in your life where you have both the opportunity to explore the industry and also to have some fun.
My experiences since graduating
Leaving Edinburgh and ECA was difficult for me. I got to know myself better during my time there and it remains one of the most memorable times in my life. I did not want it to finish and I was sad to say goodbye.
When I came back to Mexico, I thought that I would join the academic sector as a professor or continue my work as a project leader for environmental certifications. However, after my time at ECA, I returned with a clear idea of what I wanted for my professional career. In 2018, I took one of the most meaningful steps in my professional life and I co-founded my own company GreenMinds, a Sustainability Consultancy firm based in Mexico, where since 2019, I have been responsible for overseeing the operations and environmental and sustainability strategies for a variety of different projects in the built environment.
I genuinely believe that my time at ECA was one of the most challenging, yet one of the most rewarding stages of my life. Being an overseas student at ECA teaches you to evolve in a very particular way; you meet people with different views and experiences from all over the globe, who teach you about various working schemes and methodologies that shape your education. I believe my time at ECA prepared me for the challenges that came after, specifically in workload, time-management, the level of quality required for a project proposal delivery. Having worked in group projects throughout my time at ECA I left with the skills and disposition to listen to ideas different from mine.
Since leaving ECA in 2018, my biggest achievement has been starting my own company. Just a few months after this monumental decision, the COVID-19 pandemic hit us all, and it became even more challenging to keep progressing. I am happy to say that GreenMinds is still breathing, evolving every day, and allowing me to implement what I learnt at ECA and ESALA in real-life senarios.
My advice to current and new students
If you are about to enter your first year my advice would be to enjoy your time here! Have as much fun as you can. Take walks around the city and make lots of friends, grab a coffee from Black Medicine or Söderberg, eat a burger from the Holyrood 9A and go for a Sunday stroll through the Meadows or the Royal Mile. Listen to your professors; they will be among the brightest and most experienced people you will meet. Absorb everything they say. Take notes during your lectures and read your papers in advance. Listen and learn from your classmates.
For those who are graduating this year, you did it! take a minute and look back at what you have done. Congratulations and please don’t ever forget that you can make your dreams come true.