„Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.“

Nelson Mandela

 The Green Buildings sector enjoys great popularity and growing international demand. The export rate in green technologies and know-how is increasing rapidly. Nevertheless, education systems lag behind the changing situation and need to be adapted. Therefore a new and challenging field of activity is established for architects, planners and civil engineers that combines the needs of the conventional occupational image with a vision: Green Building Solutions. Together with a consortium of five academic institutions in Vienna, including the University of Natural Resources (BOKU), the University of Technology (TU), the University of Economics (WU), the University of Vienna (UW) and the Danube University Krems, as well as the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) and the Austrian Passivhaus Union a program was formed that connects the theoretical knowledge and the practical expertise right on site. Green.Building.Solutions. Summer University Vienna deals with the inter- and transdisciplinary issues of green buildings and offers an introduction and outlook of sustainable architecture as well as sustainable urban development and planning while presenting leading examples and sustainable building assessment tools.

Different building assessment methodologies and labels in national and international context rose up in the last decade. Rising awareness and sensitization for sustainable construction as well as new marketing concepts will drive the trend towards green buildings. One of the first assessment methods established on the market were BREEAM and LEED. Others followed and many countries developed their own rating system or adapted existing ones to local requirements. The majority of these labels is applied on voluntary basis and seeks to act as addition to national regulations.

The concept of green building movement can be traced to the fossil oil crises and environmental pollution concerns in the 1970s and 1980s. So, most of the assessment tools have pronounced criteria on these issues. However, a modern approach on building design integrates economic, social and ecological solutions with life-cycle considerations to create sustainable and high quality buildings. Recent developments are marked by methodical enhancements and application to different building types and schemes. The Integration of the building’s operational phase and detailed life cycle cost analysis are current research areas. The certification process lacks on practical relevance on this topic.

Successfully assessed or certified green buildings are usually well documented, as the certification is in most cases a multistage process. Depending on the label the verification is more or less extensive and complex. Several supporting documents have to be prepared and assembled in a comprehensible composition following the label’s specifications.

To ensure qualitative assessments the labels offer specific training schemes often obligatory, for professionals also. Usually training courses provide access to the label specific classification and various exams the permission to entitle as assessor, auditor, accredited professional or similar. The title is used to distinguish the accreditation for different building types and system versions also. The training programs are subject to a fee and most programs are based on a modular structure. Along with a basic course for familiarization additional courses for different building types and updates for revised system variants are offered. Prior knowledge for basic courses is not necessary, e.g. to become a BREEAM assessor there are no pre-qualification requirements. Primary objective of these training programs is to impart label specific knowledge according to the rating system.

The advantages and disadvantages of such trainings are obvious. On the one hand in a short period of time many aspects of green buildings are introduced and an overview is provided. It’s a good introduction to a complex field and the participants are prepared for consulting activities as well as qualitative assessments. On the other hand it lacks of detailed and profound knowledge transfer. A sustained discussion of objectives, methods and benchmarks is done in the committee of experts and rarely accessible to training participants.

For a practical and applicable rating system it’s necessary to have clear criteria and defined methods to compare buildings against each other. It is the basis for the communication of the building’s qualities in a defined framework. But for further development and consideration of methodical enhancements as well as new subjects a serious discussion is required. However, such discussions would show some flaws in methods and benchmarks of the labels.

Adequate platforms for education on green buildings are label independent programs, where serious discussions are welcome. The aim should be to teach profound knowledge on sustainable buildings and technologies and to consider buildings in integral thinking. To look beyond the scope of specific labels enable people to critically consider assessments and open possibilities for enhancement.

Independent education is a way to connect different models of building assessment without preferring one. It gives the opportunity to focus on profound knowledge, knowledge transfer and influence behavioral patterns by changing thinking patterns. Also it enables to react on changing occupational areas, as the employment market implies the necessity of well educated professionals. The group of building assessor, auditor or similar is a recent occupation and on behalf of professionals as well as young graduates.

Facing these new occupational areas the Vienna Summer University Green.Building.Solutions was designed from October 2010 to May 2011 for its first run from July 24th to August 14th 2011 due to the lack of any comparable education program in Austria, but as for the existence of various Austrian green building examples. Green Building as education topic challenges the conceptual design from the beginning with regard to its complexity and variety which causes the necessity of interdisciplinarity and involvement of different universities.

Awareness raising and knowledge transfer of sustainable building concepts, building material and building technologies in planning as well as execution plus the acquisition of problem-solving skills in terms of subject specific questions and problems are defined as significant learning outcome for the summer university.

As to enable participative learning, the amount of maximum participants is settled with 30 persons. Multicultural knowledge exchange is ensured by offering the program to international students in different study fields, focusing on architecture and engineering. Besides having University participants, Green.Building.Solutions. wants to provide not only horizontal, but also vertical exchange and targets professionals in specific working fields. The program in general aims at bringing together different backgrounds to increase the learning situation.

The participants are accommodated in OeAD-Passivhaus dormitories. Therefore the content of teaching is actively disseminated and the possibility offered to the participants to experience the advantages of Passive Houses consciously.

Roughly summarized, relevant aspects of the Green.Building.Solutions. are:

Transdisciplinary: the functional spectrum covers all relevant disciplines of natural, engineer, economic and social science and therefore offers broad possibilities for an interdisciplinary approach by involving university institutions, non-university research institutions and stakeholders from practice.

Participation focused approach: in the context of the Bologna Declaration the summer university mainly focuses on the learners and the learning processes both through inputs and through didactic concepts and program design. Education for Sustainable Development and the independent appliance of teaching contents by means of practice-oriented projects are key aspects.

Global perspective: due to the participance of international students and professionals from different specialist fields the expertise gained within the summer university Green.Building.Solutions is taken out and applied into the specific countries of origin of the participants.

Multiplier effect: due to the global perspective the participants serve as multiplier in their home countries, but in their workplace as well.

Detailed information:
Title: BSA 2012 – Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on Building Sustainability Assessment
Authors: Rogério Amoêda, Ricardo Mateus, Luís Bragança and Cristina Pinheiro
Publisher: Green Lines Institute for Sustainable Development
eBook ISBN: 978-989-95671-6-0