Sunday, July 27, 2008

Memory of a New City

Memory of a New City
Nels Nelson
Memory of a New City

Oil on canvas

Wageningen University and Research Center in Wageningen (The City of Life Sciences), Netherlands, offers an Urban Environmental Management MSc where I can pursue my interest in creating communities that are more efficient living machines. The program is two years; first year consists of nine courses, second year is an internship and thesis.

The track which grabs my attention is Sustainable Building. Unfortunately, the word 'sustainability' became popular in the last few years and the Sustainable Building course at Wageningen is so young there are only two past student thesis papers to read and there are no lecture notes for sustainable building courses to breeze through. There is a dearth of information about the course, but I am given great hope by the Sustainable Building professor-on-vacation, Ronald Rovers, who wrote Sustainable Housing Projects (March, 2008 112 pages). Disappointingly, the Wageningen Library has not picked up this publication yet.

Some highlights from the Sustainable Building track of Urban Environmental Management (MUE) / MSc
On completion of the MUE programme, graduates are able to:
- demonstrate thorough knowledge and understanding of the urban environment and its infrastructure; the economic, social and political factors involved; the possibilities and limitations of technological means to curb emissions and limit resource depletion; relevant management and quality assurance systems;
- apply theoretical and methodological concepts in urban environment assessments so as to identify environmental issues at various spatial and time scales;
- independently formulate and execute urban environment research in accordance with academic standards, thus contributing to the development of the body of knowledge in the field, or to the development of creative and innovative solutions to urban environmental issues;
- work as a consultant, advising governmental organizations and commercial corporations on how best to improve current and future activities with regard to the environment;
- bring together public and private actors and communicate with specialists.

ETE-23306 Energy in the Built Environment
By the end of the course, students are able to:
- analyse the fundamental issues involved in the sustainable management of resources in and outputs of the built urban environment;
- calculate the energy quantities going in and out an urban tissue;
- propose options for harvesting these.

ETE-31306 Urban Water and Waste: Technology & Reuse
At the end of the subject students are able:
- to understand the importance of developing urban water and solid-waste management systems viewing wastewater and waste as raw materials to be sustainable processed to valuable products
- to sketch and describe current and innovative urban drainage and sanitation systems, including the generation, transport, treatment and reuse of unwanted water in the urban environment;

ETE-33306 Sustainable Building
Upon completion of this module the student is expected to be able to:
- analyse the built environment its impact on resources consumption and related effects;
- demonstrate understanding of the concept of zero-impact construction;
- formulate strategies how to achieve this goal in practice;
- demonstrate knowledge of the state-of-the-art in sustainable building design.

ETE-81836 Thesis Urban Environmental Management
I still have a few misgivings about the University and the course. Wageningen started as an agricultural school and those roots are still very evident; the Urban Environmental Management MSc seems heavier on the Environmental side than Urban. The town of Wageningen is remote. An hour train ride and a 15 minute bus ride from Amsterdam is needed to reach the city situated between fields and forests.

On the positive side, everyone is town we have met is very nice, there is a friendly Ultimate Frisbee Team WAF, the University has free coffee (and good facilities), and although it is remote, travel in Europe is generally easy and efficient. In the end, I am very enthusiastic about the Sustainable Building track. There are poorly designed and inefficient cities everywhere and without some guidance the next 7 billion people will have to live in more just like them!

[Update: a Wageningen librarian commented on this post; the library is getting Sustainable Housing Projects. I have also fixed some details to be more accurate.]