Center for Sustainable Engineering, Architecture and Art - Materials, Manufacturing and Minimalism

There is general acknowledgement that humankind is facing a complex set of inter-related problems associated with the future availability of, and access to, potable water, food, material resources and environmentally benign sources of energy. Humankind is essentially looking at the requirements for its survival – with the fate of each individual inextricably interlinked through their 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 start to witness significant changes in climate, demography and food supplies for which innovative, sustainable solutions are needed.

Past engineers have contributed to this situation – future engineers will play a key role in providing solutions to these questions. The engineering challenges are formidable – almost incomprehensible – yet it is likely that simple processes that emulate nature will provide truly sustainable pathways to ensure our survival. Shirley Strum Kenny, President of Stony Brook University, quoted recently in the New York Times [A. DePalma, "The Sustainable Hampton," in The New York Times: Education Life, 8/27/2008], stated “Sustainability is going to be the defining issue of the 21st century”. It is essential that undergraduate engineering education stress the need for truly radical changes in design philosophy and engineering practice that extend the viability of the commons. Engineers create the resources that enable us to customize our environment and so must assume responsibility for its state: true “Renaissance” engineers embrace the societal and environmental consequences of their solutions with as much rigor as they do the scientific and technological issues.

it is essential that undergraduate engineering education encourage and nurture sustainability in its design philosophy. Working together, engineers, architects and artists seek to provide sustainable solutions that are in harmony with the environment and the natural resources available. The need to emulate nature in function is accompanied by diversity in form with aesthetically pleasing structures. 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 space 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 a 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, seeks to develop an awareness of solutions to engineering problems that preserve the integrity of the commons; it is a space where true cross-disciplinary conversation and reciprocal learning generate real solutions that can be imagined, created and implemented. 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 students from 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, reduce the chasm between the rich and the poor.