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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

SCUP-43 Tuesday 10:00 am
July 22, 2008 - 11:30am

For the first hour-and-a-half, this morning, I attended a presentation entitled "Fragile Projects". The presenters were three project managers from a major higher-ed architectural firm, and the title related to the processes necessary to create interdisciplinary spaces on campus. Some new spaces, some rehabilitated spaces. Some classrooms, some libraries, some campus centers/unions.

Sustainability was a constant theme throughout the presentation. The impact of sustainability considerations had its own major section, and the impetus of sustainability considerations behind much of the movement towards inter- and multi- and trans-disciplinary campus projects was mentioned throughout.

One theme that it'll take me a while to process spoke of "break[ing] down traditional academic boundaries and their physical distinctions". When I think about Greenback's campus, the physical distinctions -- the way we tacitly reinforce segregation of academic disciplines by putting most of their activities into space that's exclusive to each -- is kind of overwhelming. Sure, their are some shared classrooms. The "have" schools and colleges lease classroom space to the "have nots". There are a few classrooms in residence halls and other buildings, and those get used by various departments (or, more often, by interdisciplinary "centers"). But, as a whole, it's quite possible to go through a day as a typical Greenback student and not (except perhaps at Starbuck's) see anyone majoring in a different discipline.

Lots of good themes that I'll need to think about before posting on, but a couple of key strategies to share right now:

  • include all parties in the planning process, and seek consensus, but make decisions vertically
  • create champions for sustainability and/or interdisciplinarity, and include them at all stages, but don't give them veto power
  • within each involved discipline, identify and protect the truly irreducible components
  • similarly, identify redundant or overlapping components, and combine them to create smooth information/concept convergence among the disciplines
  • be absolutely clear on the mission for the project. Test it. Torture it. Eliminate ambiguity. Eschew obfuscation. Then use the mission statement as a key determinor in all project decisions.

Lots more to follow. (Expect regular references over the next couple of weeks -- these folks were coming from a much more hands-on perspective than have my ruminations, yet we seem to have reached a lot of similar conclusions. That's always gratifying.)


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