Sustainable Buildings and Planning

Lori Troxel, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Vanderbilt University


This is an interdisciplinary, 4-week, study-abroad course. Seminars and field trips in Northern Ireland and Barcelona provide students an international perspective of urban planning, sustainable building design, and alternative energy sources and policy.

Course Size:
fewer than 15

Course Format:
Lecture and lab

Institution Type:
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs

Course Context:

This is a study-abroad course that strives to be interdisciplinary. The first year all students were engineers, but the second year the mix was half engineering and half non-engineering students. It counts as a technical elective for engineering students, but currently does not meet requirements for non-engineering students. However, a new sustainbility minor is starting this year in the School of Arts and Science and it will count toward this minor.

Course Content:

Seminars from faculty at Queen's University are given in the areas of Belfast History, Economics, Politics, Measuring Carbon Footprint, Urban Planning, and Eco Cities. Visits to labs developing sustainable materials, tidal power, algae power, and alternative energy installations are included. Several papers and blog entries are required.

Course Goals:

Students will be able to describe how alternative energy is developed in the U.S. and the European Union. Students will be able to list the advantages and disadvantages of alternative energies, urban plans, and sustainable building design. Students will be able to explain how energy policy impacts sustainable development.

Course Features:

Students visit tidal,wave,PV,and algae power research labs. By hearing lectures from a U.K. perspective, they learn how much policy impacts the development and implementation of these alternative energy resources. They also learn how it impacts the design of residential and commercial buildings.

Course Philosophy:

The two unusual pedagogical aspects of this course are the study abroad and the interdisciplinary nature. The students not only have to think in a new atmosphere, but are surrounded by students who think differently than they do. Both of these trigger many different thoughts and emotions which lead them to think more deeply and broadly about sustainability.


Assessment is based on blog entries, papers, and attendance.


References and Notes: