Education is a core mission of the Facade Tectonics Institute. The mission of the FTI Education Committee is to advance educational programs and opportunities focusing on the design, engineering and construction of building facades for the FTI members, professionals and students. The committee is comprised of representatives from academic institutions and the profession, and as such aims to bridge the gap between the academia and industry in developing contemporary educational programs and opportunities.
Recently, we released a report, “The State of Facades Education in Academic Institutions: U.S.-Based Perspectives,” which outlines the results of a research study focusing on the state of facades education at higher-education institutions across the United States (first feature in this issue of SKINS). The objective was to identify coursework focusing on facades (or enclosure systems) and to analyze how these courses relate to the overall curricula, educational content, and teaching methods at various universities.
I had an opportunity to collaborate with several colleagues in executing the study, and preparing the final report: Gabrielle Brainard, Associate Principal and Building Enclosure Specialist at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University; Timothy Brown, Principal at Tim Brown Architecture and Associate Professor of Architecture at Clemson University, and Sunny Milosevic, Ph.D. Student at the Department of City and Metropolitan Planning and Associate Instructor at the School of Architecture, University of Utah.
Courses that introduce emerging materials and facade technologies, new fabrication methods, as well as rapidly evolving construction techniques would greatly benefit the architectural/engineering/construction industry.
The study began in 2020 by determining universities that offer facade-related courses, and by administering a survey through the FTI membership, the Society of Building Science Educators, and the Building Technology Educators’ Society. The survey asked participants to identify facades-related courses in their institutions, provide the course names and numbers, indicate course level (graduate or undergraduate), course format (studio, lecture, seminar) and the relation to the curriculum (elective or required course). Course syllabi were also collected for the identified courses. The next step of the research study involved quantitative and qualitative analysis of the submitted syllabi. The report discusses detailed results and provides recommendations on how facade education in the U.S. can be improved.
The results indicate that most of the facade-related courses are offered at institutions located in major metropolitan areas (East Region, followed by the Midwest, West and Southwest), and a slightly higher number of courses are offered by private institutions compared to public universities. Courses are predominantly graduate-level and elective courses, indicating that the pool of students who gain exposure and knowledge of facades and facade systems in the U.S. is significantly smaller than anticipated and alarmingly small given the importance of this subject matter.
The findings also indicate that U.S. architecture programs typically intertwine facade-related educational content into building technology lecture courses and integrated or comprehensive architecture design studios.
In order to improve the state of facade education in the U.S., it is necessary to expand course offerings that offer in-depth study of facade systems, design processes, physical behavior, structural analysis, technical detailing, materials, building performance analysis, etc. Courses that introduce emerging materials and facade technologies, new fabrication methods, as well as rapidly evolving construction techniques would greatly benefit the architectural/engineering/construction industry.
The recommendation for architectural programs is to carefully consider, especially in light of changing National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) accreditation requirements, how technical topics are to be more fully integrated into curricula. For undergraduate pre-professional programs, introduction to basic principles of facade design is beneficial since this allows students to understand relationships between architectural design and building aesthetics, materials and assemblies, and to develop an understanding of the relationships between enclosure design and building performance. For NAAB accredited professional programs, deeper understanding about facades’ design and performance, impact on building systems, integration with structure and HVAC/lighting systems, technical detailing, and emerging technologies is critical to prepare students for professional careers. Developing more specialized graduate programs, such as graduate certificate programs, Master of Science and Doctoral programs that focus on facades is necessary to expand research and development efforts, as well as the collective “state-of-knowledge” relating to facade systems.
We also introduced this report at the recent virtual forum on Façade Education held on May 15, 2023. The forum began with a presentation by Gabrielle Brainard, Timothy Brown, and Sunny Milosevic, summarizing the findings of the report. Then, four educators presented specific courses and teaching methods, outlining their pedagogical approaches for building enclosure systems (video clips of each are presented in this issue of SKINS):
Scott Murray, Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
Dr. Ajla Akšamija, Professor at the University of Utah
Dr. Jihun Kim, Associate Professor of Architectural Technology at the City University of New York and a Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania
Liz McCormick, Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte.
Scott Murray presented an elective seminar course focusing on facade systems, which he has been teaching for more than a decade. I presented two courses that I have been teaching, an elective course focusing on high-performance facades, as well as a comprehensive building technology course, integrated with a design studio. Jihun Kim presented a course where environmental performance analysis procedures are integrated, and Liz McCormick discussed a fabrication course that focuses on low-tech construction techniques. This issue of SKINS provides you with links to these presentations.
Developing more specialized graduate programs, such as graduate certificate programs, Master of Science and Doctoral programs that focus on facades is necessary to expand research and development efforts, as well as the collective “state-of-knowledge” relating to facade systems.
The final component of the forum included a panel discussion by presenters, moderated by Gabrielle Brainard. The discussion explored several topics, including relationships of new accreditation criteria to technical topics and building enclosures, role of building performance analysis procedures, best practices for teaching building science in academic programs, as well as future opportunities for facades education. It was concluded that academic institutions and programs should continue offering technical education opportunities, integrated with design, to undergraduate and graduate students. Offering more courses, specific programs and research opportunities are essential for improving facades education and preparing the next generation of researchers and professionals.
This issue of SKINS features several articles on facade education that were part of past World Congresses. Gabrielle Brainard’s article, Systems Thinking, surveys facade design education in accredited Bachelor and Master of Architecture programs in the United States. Alex Terzich’s paper, Teaching Facades, expands on the theme of façade education at the University of Minnesota, Pratt Institute and New York Institute of Technology. The courses were developed and taught by façade specialists from two architecture offices. As such, they provide a window into the broader questions of how architectural professionals can effectively contribute to academic curriculum.
Phillip Azalone and Amber Bartosh’s 2020 World Congress paper, Mixed Reality in Façade Education, examines how accessible digital tools, particularly mixed reality technologies, will affect the façade design process. The authors point to the potential of these technologies to supplant conventional representation, such as drawings, renderings, physical models, and animation.
And finally, this SKINS issue looks to our colleagues in Europe for their input on façade education. We are including excerpts from the European Façade Network’s efnMOBILE 2.0 Efficient Envelopes. The first article written by Professors Ulrich Knaack and Uta Pottgiesser of TUDelft, addresses the organization’s own international façade education survey, and the second article authored by Pottgiesser presents information on active façade programs in Europe.
If you are interested in façade education, please reach out to me to share your thoughts and do get involved with our Education Committee.
Ajla Akšamija, PhD
Search our extensive library.