The challenge for those involved in shaping the built-environment for the 21st century is to provide society with sustainable, energy- efficient and healthy buildings that are also user-friendly. And BIM offers itself as a vital tool in helping achieve the green goals. The features that BIM offers the construction and building industry have been seen as even bigger than the transformation CAD brought to traditional drawing practices. The revolution that is BIM, in turn, has raised global demand for high-quality architectural engineers with the right level of technical proficiency to be able to use tools like BIM. And the onus is on academic institutions of higher learning to provide the building industry with a skilled, competent and committed workforce.
Put simply, Architectural Engineering as a course is the engineering of architecture. It involves all aspects of engineering needed to turn architectural building concepts into reality. To achieve this, the architectural engineer learns not only the technical details, subtleties and innovations of engineering design techniques but also how architectural concepts and designs emerge.
In view of the unique requirements, universities have a responsibility of shaping academic programmes that combine the best of both worlds – engineering and architecture. It falls upon them to produce students who are capable of designing low-carbon, low-energy buildings to meet global sustainability targets and who have a thorough grasp of building design and use issues.
Not only that, the students should be capable of working in an inter-disciplinary environment involving architecture, engineering and construction and have substantial exposure to such topics as renewable energy, phase-change materials and smart building modelling. For this, students need to be exposed to the building industry very early on. There is significant learning that takes places through being placed in real-life situations, and for this, it is important that universities collaborate with industry stakeholders, be they master developers, developers, Green Building councils or MEP consultants, where they can roll up their sleeves and participate in energy audits and energy analysis and, overall, deepen their learning experience to the extent that they are able to hit the ground running when it comes the time to join the building industry workforce.
Dr Hassam N Chaudhry is the Director of Studies (Dubai) Architectural Engineering, School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society, Heriot-Watt University. He can be contacted at H.N.Chaudhry@hw.ac.uk.
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