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Practice : Winter 2009
fEaTURE ] SOlaR DEcaThlON The Boston Architectural College is competing in the U.S. Department of Ene rgy’s Solar Decathlon. We are one of 20 schools worldwide selected to design and construct a net-zero e nergy solar home on the National Mall in September 2009. Typical of the BAC, our students have brought us to this place. Self-starters, high achievers , able to both think about designing how we should live on the earth, and able to implement a beautiful and responsible scheme for doing so, BAC students from all our design disciplines are challenging the nor mal way of things with this two-year-long student project. We could not have chosen a better time for the challenge. Americans, it turns out, have inherited a system of constructing and financing housing that provides buildings which are unaffordable, do not last nearly long enough, and require huge infusions of fossil fuels just to be livable both summer and winter. While many supposed innovators have been concentrating on the form of housing in the past, it is housing’s per formance that also requires a major focus from designe rs. At the same time, American higher education has inherited a system of organiz- ing knowledge and understanding into separate academic disciplines, creating false boundaries between bodies of knowledge and producing areas of intellectual endeavor that are very narrow, whose adherents speak mainly to themselves. The Solar Decathlon provides the BAC a way to address both these conditions simultaneously by presenting us a model of problem -based learning. The problem is how to house 10 billion people on the earth over the next generation in a way that integrates them with the planet’s ecology as we now understand it. Was this part of the curricu- lum when you were in design school ? I didn’t think so... yet this is how we are approaching design education at the BAC in 2009. Students from all our disciplines are collaborating on the Decathlon through a shared educational model developed over the last year by the students themselves. Our plan is for this model to migrate to other parts of our curriculum, based on its success in the Decathlon project. Partnered now with Tufts University; engaged in collaborative learning, integrated design, and ultimately, integrated project delivery: this is what we are doing, on the international stage ; and as a result, no matter how the actual Solar Decathlon competition ends next September, the BAC wins. The BAC seeks cash and in kind donations to support the 2009 Solar Decathalon . For more information on how you can best suppor t the Solar Decathlon BAC/Tufts Team, please contact tracey.thompson @the-bac.edu or 617.585.0281. Why WE aRE IN ThE SOlaR DEcaThlON Our students are thinking about how we should live on the Ear th and how to implement a beautiful and responsible scheme. Dean Jeff Stein, Head of the School of Architecture (l–r) colin booth, Sarah howard-mchugh, antje Danielson, NREl rep. mike Wassamer pRacTIcE 41