Sustainable Success for Heriot-Watt

Heriot-Watt University has become the only Scottish institution to be named a Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design, in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering,

The University's School of the Built Environment is one of four such Centres of Excellence to be established at UK universities, the others being Loughborough and Sheffield Universities and University College London. Jointly they will form a national network to demonstrate and exchange best practice in teaching and research for the sustainable built environment.

The school will introduce a uniquely international aspect to this network as Heriot-Watt is about to launch built environment programmes at its new Malaysia Campus, and already has well-established engineering programmes delivered in Dubai.

Low carbon design

The new Centre of Excellence aims to integrate the School's existing research expertise in low-carbon building design within the core curriculum of its undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. For example, Heriot-Watt has developed initiatives such as a Low Carbon Futures tool which enables building designers to test for the risk of overheating in future climates.

The Centre will also ensure that graduates are used to working within an inter-disciplinary environment involving architecture, engineering and construction. It will also offer bespoke Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses and training packages to industry.

Professor Lynne Jack, the new Centre's Director, said, "This is a tremendous opportunity for the School and for the University. It will allow us better to equip our graduates with the skills needed to challenge the status quo in current design practice, and through research and practitioner-informed interdisciplinary teaching, further develop our educational philosophy and provision in sustainable building design."

The Case for Centres of Excellence

The rationale for improving teaching and research in this area comes from an Academy report published last year, The Case for Centres of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design. The primary aim is to enhance the curriculum for undergraduate engineering students, enabling them to experience interdisciplinary, collaborative problem solving to help them unlock their potential for innovation.

The four centres of excellence will ultimately collaborate to deliver a common core curriculum and approach in interdisciplinary education for engineers while maintaining their own individual characters and interests.

Heriot-Watt and the other universities chosen all work closely with the construction industry to develop their engineering design courses to be as relevant as possible to the work students can expect to do in the construction industry when they graduate. Visiting Professors from industry, such as the Royal Academy of Engineering sponsored Dr Dorte Rich Jørgensen, are a key part of this approach and will be heavily involved in developing the new centres of excellence.