Sustainable Design-School of Architecture - Carnegie Mellon University

The School of Architecture is in the forefront of Carnegie Mellon's strategic commitment to environmental sustainability as an educational and organizational force.

In parallel, a number of programs have expanded their offerings and faculty numbers dedicated to environmental education and research—including Civil and Environmental Engineering, Engineering and Public Policy, and the Heinz School of Public Policy. The university is also committed to improving its physical facilities and its growth to meet the highest level of LEED and other sustainable goals for the built environment.

We have identified sustainable design, also known as green design, as central to the mission of the School of Architecture. The result of this commitment is a series of 2 studios and 6 required courses where environmental quality is central, along with 3-5 departmental electives in addition to 8-12 university electives in the area of sustainability.

Four full-time faculty (all tenured), and three adjunct faculty (professional practitioners) consider design for sustainability central to their teaching, research and/or practice; with central roles in environmental education and research on campus and with the Green Building Alliance ( of the City of Pittsburgh:

  • Volker Hartkopf, Ph.D.
  • Khee Poh Lam, RIBA, Ph.D.
  • Stephen Lee, AIA
  • Vivian Loftness, FAIA
  • Jeff Davis, AIA
  • Kevin Gannon, AIA
  • Christine Mondor, AIA

The graduate program in building performance is built on the principles of sustainability, with over $1 million of research funding annually. In addition to matching grants and contracts, the Center for Building Performance and Diagnostics (CBPD) is supported by an industry-government consortium, and is one of only two National Science Foundation IUCRC dedicated to the built environment. Established in 1988, the Advanced Building Systems Integration Consortium (ABSIC) is a university-industry-government partnership pursuing research, demonstration and development towards improving the quality and performance of commercial buildings and building systems. The graduate research focuses on both new science and new engineering developments for environmental sustainability, including simulation tools, design guidelines and decision support tools, innovations in systems and systems integration, as well as demonstration projects.

The School of Architecture, the CBPD and ABSIC have a detailed, working definition of sustainability:

Sustainable design is a collective process whereby the built environment achieves new levels of ecological balance through new and retrofit construction, towards the long term viability and humanization of architecture. Focusing on environmental context, sustainable design merges the natural, minimum resource conditioning solutions of the past (daylight, solar heat and natural ventilation) with the innovative technologies of the present, into an integrated "intelligent" system that supports individual control with expert negotiation for resource consciousness. Sustainable design rediscovers the social, environmental and technical values of pedestrian, mixed use communities, fully using existing infrastructures, including "main streets" and small town planning principles, and recapturing indoor-outdoor relationships. Sustainable design avoids the further thinning out of land use, the dislocated placement of buildings and functions. Sustainable design introduces benign, non-polluting materials and assemblies with lower embodied and operating energy requirements, and higher durability and recyclability. Finally, sustainable design offers architecture of long term value through 'forgiving' and modifiable building systems, life-cycle instead of least-cost investments, and timeless delight and craftsmanship.

Required Courses

48-215: Materials & Assemblies
48-300: Architecture Studio: Site
48-312: Site Engineering 
48-315: Climate & Energy
48-410: Acoustics & Light
48-412: Mechanical Systems
48-405: Systems Integration
48-415: Advanced Building Systems


LEED™ Buildings and Green Design Concepts
Productivity, Health and the Quality of Buildings
Zero Energy House