A recently published report, “The State of Facades Education in Academic Institutions: U.S.-Based Perspectives,” outlines the results of a research study focusing on the state of facades education at higher-education institutions across the United States. 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.
The report was published by the Facade Tectonics Institute, authored by Dr. Ajla Aksamija, FTI President and Professor/Chair of the School of Architecture; 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.
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 results indicate that most of the facade-related courses are offered at institutions located in major metropolitan areas, 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.