Sustainable Design Director Rob Fleming Featured in Grid Magazine

Philadelphia University professor Rob Fleming, director of the M.S. in Sustainable Design Program, was featured this month in the cover story of Grid magazine, a publication focused sustainability on Philadelphia.

Fleming, who cofounded the Engineering and Design Institute at Philadelphia University in 2000 with Chris Pastore and the M.S. in Sustainable Design Program in 2006, is one of the nation’s leading experts in sustainable design education.

The Grid article — “The Laws Have Changed: How Rob Fleming and Philadelphia University are Writing the Rules of Sustainability Education” — draws a detailed picture of the innovative, yet grounded approach of PhilaU’s program.

Grid praises the program’s diversity, drawing students from a variety of backgrounds and having them work together on real world projects. “It’s the interdisciplinary approach, perhaps more than anything else, that makes Philadelphia University’s M.S. in Sustainable Design unique among the sudden proliferation of university sustainable degree programs,” writes Grid’s Brian Howard.

“It’s an approach that seems to be working,” the article says. “With just a few graduating classes under its belt, the M.S. in Sustainable Design has already landed two alums, Alex Dews and Adam Agalloco, in high-ranking positions (in Philadelphia’s) sustainability office.”

Fleming’s approach to sustainable design education challenges students to bring their best ideas to the table to meet stringent sustainability requirements. “We’re assuming gas prices of $10 to $15 dollars a gallon,” Fleming said of student designs. “Fuel is relatively cheap right now, but we want to be prepared for a future where energy is much more costly.”

The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification system, designed to promote high energy efficiency and sustainability building, is a positive step in the right direction, Fleming said, but for his students, LEED certification is just the minimum on the bar of success.

“Eventually, LEED certification might be the requirement,” Fleming said. “What we’re working toward is designing 100 percent carbon-neutral buildings.”

As Grid points out, PhilaU’s program doesn’t just teach students to design smart, sustainable buildings, but teaches them to do so while meeting real-world cost constraints — a vital part of sustainable design education according to Fleming.

“Students are designing to budget,” said Fleming in the article. “If you want to have money for solar panels and geo-thermal, you’ve got to make the building less expensive, which means you don’t do all the fancy stuff you’d normally do in design school. … If you’re a sustainability professional and you don’t get the money part, you can’t be in that conversation.”

To read the article in Grid magazine, click here.

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