Programme: Advanced Sustainable Design - MSc

Year: 2020

At Edinburgh College of Art (ECA), Paul was able to explore his interest in sustainability through a series of collaborative and individual industry-related projects.

Since graduating, amid a pandemic, Paul has joined a start-up company in Austria where he continues to apply sustainability measures to residential architecture.

Why I chose to study Advanced Sustainable Design - MSc

Two main components influenced my decision to study at the ECA. The first one being the city itself, which I fell in love with on a visit a few years earlier. Experiencing the energy the city radiated and the way student life was integrated with it made me an instant admirer and I longed to return.

The other reason I wanted to study at ECA was the focus of my degree programme: advanced sustainability. In general, sustainability is a topic most universities might include briefly but rarely teach and embody to the same extent as ECA does. Further, the opportunity to interact with professionals and peers with different backgrounds and experiences made the decision to study at ECA quite simple. I felt that it would be an excellent fit for me and vice versa. Looking back, this has been one of, if not the best, decisions of my life.

Paul Treichl
Image courtesy of Paul Treichl

"In general, sustainability is a topic most universities might include briefly but rarely teach and embody to the same extent as ECA does."

Paul Treichl, Advanced Sustainable Design - MSc alumnus

My time at ECA

My time at ECA was filled with people from a variety of backgrounds who shared a similar interest in sustainable design, people I cherish greatly, who I can now consider my good friends. The small size of the degree programme, and the connections to the wider university, allows you to get to know everybody in and beyond your programme. The familiar and firnedly interactions with lecturers and other students across the university made me feel welcomed when arriving in the city and have ultimately given me the room to flourish.

I think mentioning the head of my programme, John Brennan, and how he interacted with and guided us is more than due. In general, all of the staff I had the pleasure of interacting with must be thanked for their kind manner.

The courses themselves always offered room for trial and error, the chance for us to learn from our mistakes, and the opportunity to base our research around our specific subject interests. I remember that, for example, in nearly every project, we could change the climate zone to fit our backgrounds or interests.

In addition, group tasks were beneficial and constructive learning opportunities, rather different from the group tasks I was used to. Every project I took on, either in a group or by myself, was a new learning experience that made me rethink my thought processes and, along the way, gain valuable skills. Furthermore, each project had the involvement of an industry expert (based on the topic we were working on) which made me feel even more involved in the project and the environment we proposed solutions for. This holistic approach to design solutions offered at ECA has influenced me in my future career.

If I could start again, I would attend more events provided by the university, especially in welcome week, and celebrate with my peers on every occasion possible.

Work by Paul Treichl
Image courtesy of Paul Treichl
Work by Paul Treichl
Image courtesy of Paul Treichl

My experiences since graduating

Unfortunately, my experience of studying at ECA was cut short when in March 2020 all courses had to transition to online learning as a result of the global pandemic. Thus, I left Edinburgh in April and wasn’t able to celebrate with my peers and teachers as planned. This abrupt change of scenery left me saddened, as I had immensely enjoyed my time in Edinburgh. My career plans at this point were not definite, but I knew I wanted to use my newfound knowledge in a meaningful way.

In October of 2020, I started working with a start-up in Austria which focuses on mid-rise residential modular construction in wood. In particular, we try to shake up the construction industry and the broader sector of the built environment. In my position, I combine various sustainability measures on different scales and work together with engineers, material scientists and experts in multiple fields to plan and build residential buildings. Buildings that benefit people with as little as possible of a carbon footprint - in short, we try to design long-term living spaces that consider and favour the bigger picture rather than short term profit.

I benefited immensely from my time studying at ECA, especially in my current job position, which highly values a collaborative, multi-topical, approach to working. Working together with people from different backgrounds with different experiences at ECA prepared me to do the same in my current job. This is an approach that I believe significantly improves the work experience for all involved.

I understand that my experience since graduating from ECA is unusual. However, I think my most significant achievement since graduating is finding my current role and place in the industry and staying true to my values and beliefs that undoubtedly have been shaped by my time in Edinburgh.

My advice to new and current students

I know this might sound a bit cheesy, but be true to yourself and remain open to learning.

In either case, whether you’re just starting at ECA or you’re graduating, you’ve come a long way and can be proud of your achievements. Know your worth, your strengths and weaknesses and be open to new things and eventually all will fall into place.


Are you interested in studying Advanced Sustainable Design - MSc at Edinburgh College of Art?

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