Environmental Architecture Colleges: How to Choose

Environmental architects use environmental research on plants, animals, soils and climate to design eco-friendly buildings that have limited impact on natural habitats. Degree programs suitable for aspiring environmental architects include coursework in environmental design and sustainable architecture.

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Environmental architects work with scientists, activists and environmental groups to project the environmental impact of a project, such as a building, park, garden, golf course, shopping center or school campus. In order to become an architect, an individual must complete a professional degree: either a Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch.) or a Master of Architecture (M.Arch.).

Schools for Environmental Design

The following institutions offer environmental design programs at various degree levels. Tuition figures are based on the 2015-2016 academic year.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered* **Undergraduate Tuition (2015-2016)
Arizona State University Tempe, AZ 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state $10,158; Out-of-state $25,458
Rutgers University New Brunswick, NJ 4-year, Public Bachelor's In-state $14,131; Out-of-state $29,521
University of Houston Houston, TX 4-year, Public Bachelor's In-state $8,759; Out-of-state $20,519
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN 4-year, Public Bachelor's In-state $13,790; Out-of-state $22,210
University of Colorado - Boulder Boulder, CO 4-year, Public Bachelor's In-state $11,091; Out-of-state $34,125
North Carolina State University Raleigh, NC 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Doctoral In-state $8,581; Out-of-state $24,932
University of Oklahoma Norman, OK 4-year, Public Bachelor's In-state $10,090; Out-of-state $23,476
Auburn University Auburn, AL 4-year, Public Bachelor's In-state $10,424; Out-of-state $28,040
University of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM 4-year, Public Bachelor's In-state $7,071; Out-of-state $21,302

Sources: *School websites, **National Center for Education Statistics

School Selection Criteria

Students interested in environmental design programs should consider the following:

  • Find a school accredited by the National Architecture Accrediting Board (NAAB).
  • Many architectural programs include environmental design courses.
  • Students may pursue a pre-professional environmental design program before moving on to a master's and receiving licensure.
  • Another route involves completing the B.Arch., gaining licensure, then completing a master's in environmental design.
  • Some schools offer degree or certificate programs directly in environmental building design and ecological architecture that augment a professional architecture degree.
  • Some programs may use flexible scheduling or provide online classes for students to work at their own pace.

Bachelor of Environmental Design

A bachelor's degree program in environmental design suits those who want to continue their education with an M.Arch. and become licensed architects. This program includes general education courses in math, science and the humanities. Major courses include design theory, social factors, digital communications and ecology. Additional courses might involve research methods and historic preservation.

Master of Environmental Design

Typically requires a bachelor's degree in architecture and takes two years. Research methods, construction management, building evaluations and lighting form the coursework. Other courses include planning analysis, environmental policies and sustainable communities. Students typically complete a research-based thesis before graduating.

Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Architecture

Certificates are for individuals in the process of, or who have already completed, their master's degree in architecture. Comprised of four advanced courses, it takes 3-12 months to complete. Sustainable design principles, mitigating environmental effects and enhancing the community environment inform the core curriculum. Students learn about the design of energy-efficient buildings, efficient materials and resources, and managing building projects.

There are several colleges and universities that offer environmental design and architecture programs through which students can opt to pursue a bachelor's or master's degree in this field; some schools also offer a doctoral degree in environmental design.

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