Sustainable Architecture and Urbansim: Course Description

EARTH: Myth and Reality

A representation of the respective areas of the earth's surface in descending area: ocean 69%; desert 8%; forest 8%; grassland and pasture 8%; fresh water and ice 3%; agriculture 3%; urban 1%. Areas in a state of degrading metamorphosis are indicated with an X. Each square represents 2% of the earth's surface, or 10,000,000 square kilometres, in round figures.


Sustainable Architecture and Urbanism - 12 Things You Can Do

To Build Effective Low Cost Houses and Cities © 2000 Robert Hotten


Pedagogical objectives

To deliver a foundation

Section I. History, theory

Section II. Ecology, materials, and construction

Poetic objectives

To conduct an architectural and urban design studio

Section III. Environmental design methods and studios

Studios: 1.) Visualizing the imaginary place; 2.) The sustainable house;

3.) 3 times landscaping city (3xl); 4. CEC, green design student competition; 5.) The 3rd Millenium City



Instructor: Prof Robert Hotten

Level Graduate

Course meeting times

8-January-2004 -- 10-March-2004

Course Schedule

Lesson 1 -- 10 Jan

Lesson 2 -- 17 Jan

Lesson 3 -- 21 Jan

Lesson 4 -- 21 Jan

Course description

Sustainable Architecture


Part I.

Sustainable theory

Sustainable design requires, as Derrida and others suggest, the end of history. That is the end of a certain concept of history. In the future of an unfinished universe, higher levels of organization (consciousness for example) may irrigate the field with unimagined possibilities. This then is the post-structuralist challenge for the art of eco design.

Concepts of sustainability

The first concept of sustainability is to exemplify principles of conservation, that is, synergy with nature

The second concept of sustainability is bioregionalism, or the concept that all life is on a community basis- that future shelter technology must function within bioregional patterns and scales.

The third concept of sustainability is ethical, weighing the paradox of our illusion of affluence against the injustice of environmental degradation.

Part III. Vernacular and environmental design methods and studios


Sustainable Architecture
"Imagine...the day when we will walk a site and simply absorb it. Next we check our computer for the data files about the "vertical layers." On the monitor's screen we sketch a perspective of what we want a site to look like, transformed to its new use. Then the computer lets us walk through our creation so that we can modify it as we go. When we are finally pleased with this "horizontal view" we will request a two-dimensional computer drawing from which someone else can build what we have envisioned." (Wells 1997).
Architecture and building practices today are high cost, fatalistic solutions, that keep us trapped in what is typically done. This is simply because designers, suppliers, and builders, as well as tax, insurance and real estate brokers and banks, i.e., everyone, makes more profit when houses, infrastructures, processes, and components cost more. Alternative ideas and methods exist to design and build effective low cost houses, landscapes and cities.

What follows is a typically sustainable building process that involves these steps:

There are six historical principles (vernacular trends) to improve the energy efficiency and thereby effectiveness and useability of dwellings. They are: 1) siting and vernacular design; 2) shade; 3) ventilation; 4) earth shelter, 5) thermal inertia; and 6) air lock entrances. To this list can be added six new techniques of environmental design (technologies, methods of effectiveness, and design synthesis): 7) scale (footprint), insulation, design of future alternatives; 8) on site water collection and waste disposal; 9) solar water heating panels; 10) photovoltaic electricity generation; 11) recycling and use of local materials; and 12) on site growth of food, fuel and building materials. These twelve principles can be combined, as suitable, into synthesized solutions for various locations, users and climates that meet cultural needs with available materials under local conditions. The following begins to describe these methods and technologies and is an outline of twelve things one can do towards the end of poetic and self-sufficient buildings.


Effective low cost and sustainable building design works well with an integration of historic principles and new technologies and methods. These are some of the benefits:



Robert D. Hotten, MLA, Architect (

B. Arch, M. Arch, MLA, AIA (Former), NZILA (Former Chair, Auckland), NZIA,

Registered Architect: California - #C-12081, Hawaii - #A-6540, New Zealand - #6240.

Copyright 1995-2003 Robert D. Hotten, All Rights Reserved

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