MSc Advanced Sustainable Design students in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh’s Department for Social Responsibility and Sustainability have showcased their Building Futures project at the Planetary Health Annual Meeting. After the success of the inaugural meeting in Boston, Massachusetts in 2017, the second conference was held at the University's McEwan Hall, 29 - 31 May 2018.

This international conference gave students the opportunity to show how trends in building adaptation and our relationships with nature can shape future education buildings.

John Brennan, Programme Director for the MSc in Advanced Sustainable Design at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA), tells us about the project.

This project is about how cooperative processes can make visual worlds that are rigorous and ambitious. They can define future sustainable educational spaces in a rich way that goes beyond words. A multidisciplinary community of students worked together to share ideas and ambitions for places for future learning, and we used innovative processes to play to all of the participants’ strengths and to produce a truly collaborative proposal.

We used a real building - a life-expired enclosure in the heart of the University - stripped it back to its bare structure and asked the question: What will make a sustainable and responsible learning environment in 2030?


“Our design approaches were focusing on flexibility and how to provide adaptability, not just in the interior space but also for the façade or the whole building system.”

Mayela Salazar, MSc Advanced Sustainable Design student

Our commissioning group created a briefing document that set out three themes for the project. The first was for adaptable, yet dedicated space to meet and harness contemporary technologies. Complementing this was a call to develop displacement spaces - those informal areas for chance meetings, encounters and spontaneity. Finally, there was the aim to connect our learning spaces to climate, daylight and flora, reminding us of our place in the natural world.

“One of the main challenges was to understand or learn how study spaces will be used in the future,” said Mayela Salazar, a student who worked on the project, “Our design approaches were focusing on flexibility and how to provide adaptability, not just in the interior space but also for the façade or the whole building system.”

“I would very much like to see more projects like this in the future,” said another student, Clifton Esteban, “if we just keep pushing for more interdisciplinary work, more collaborative work, I think it will be good for everyone.”


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