Understanding students’ perception of sustainability in architecture education: A comparison among universities in three different continents

Authors: Paola Boarin, Antonio Martinez-Molina, Ignacio Juan-Ferruses


Journal of Cleaner Production | Volume 248 | 1 March 2020



Educational institutions around the globe have taken definitive steps to curtail the increasing dependence on energy in the built environment by promoting the education of sustainability-minded professionals. Since a large portion of the global energy dependence can be attributed to the building sector, integrating sustainability coursework within the curricula of architecture programmes is a logical development. This study takes a step forward in understanding how different architectural programmes implement sustainability education within their respective curricula. The research team investigated research-focussed and professionally-accredited undergraduate and postgraduate architectural programmes offered by three tertiary education providers in different continents (Oceania, Europe and North America) and assessed their respective impacts on student designs in regard to sustainability considerations. The researchers collected and analysed over 300 student opinions and evaluated their correlation with the educational programmes offered by the institutions through a mapping, an analysis and a comparison activity on the implementation of sustainability-related topics and courses. Results show that nearly all of the participating students generally consider sustainability a key aspect of their education; however, the particularities of student opinions with respect to sustainability outcomes in designs largely vary and seem to depend on the goals and design focus of each programme. This better understanding of the effects produced by the depth and distribution of courses across architecture curricula contributes to the assessment of teaching approaches and learning outcomes from the three universities against the global trends and, therefore, to support ongoing and future curriculum development activities.