Humanity is inescapably interlinked through its usage of, and interaction with, the commons, the natural resources that we all share and need, such as the atmosphere, the oceans and the vegetation. Through this symbiosis, each individual is partially answerable for the state of the planet. But access to and usage of these resources is unevenly distributed between the developed and developing world; further, the developed world places demands upon these resources that cannot be sustained, whilst denuded landscapes in the developing world contribute to ever-rising levels of poverty. In consequence, we can anticipate significant changes in climate, demography and food supplies for which innovative, sustainable solutions are needed.
To extend the viability of the commons it is essential that undergraduate engineering education encourages and nurtures sustainability in its design philosophy. Working together, engineers, architects and artists should seek to provide sustainable solutions that are in harmony with the environment and the natural resources available. The need to emulate nature in function must be accompanied by diversity in form with aesthetically pleasing designs. Minimalist design, incorporated into the precepts of sustainable engineering, rethink, reduce, reuse and recycle, is used to regulate the consumption of raw materials and specify environmentally balanced manufacturing techniques.
Architecture and engineering share a synergistic existence through their provision of basic human needs such as shelter. Architects are taught about space, the relationship between internal and external space, and the requirement that architecture fits the space in which it resides. Artists are taught about space and color and aesthetics, the necessity of constructing a environment that appeals from every angle irrespective of the use of the space and time of observation. Engineers think about the structural integrity, the resilience of the building skin to the elements, the energy losses through the building walls. The center presents a unique opportunity for students and faculty to interact, exchange skills and learn about the different ways in which each sees the world.
The Center for Sustainable Engineering, Architecture and Art – Materials, Manufacturing and Minimalism, is a space in which true cross-disciplinary conversation and reciprocal learning generate real solutions that are imagined, created and implemented. SEA2M3 develops an awareness of solutions to engineering problems that preserve the integrity of the commons. Using their ability to communicate and infused with an understanding of the world, its peoples and cultures, students create and disseminate designs suited to, and in harmony with their place of use. SEA2M3 provides a forum within which the schools of Engineering, Art and Architecture come together to develop new design criteria that yield materials, manufacturing techniques, habitats and lifestyles that are sustainable, and that, ultimately, remove the chasm between the rich and the poor. Working together, architects, artists and engineers will come to the realization that a harmonious, useful space that protects us from the elements requires the inputs and skills of artists, architects and engineers.