Image shows MSc Advanced Architectural Design graduate, Theodora Fiamegkou's Bioluminescent Pavillon
Image by: The Bioluminescent Pavilion designed by MSc Advanced Architectural Design graduate, Theodora Fiamegkou

RGU at the forefront of architectural design with CIAT Centre of Excellence status

By Jenny Frost - 06 May 2022

RGU’s accreditation as a Centre of Excellence status by the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists recognises The Scott Sutherland School's strategic use of technology in architectural design and research. Course leader, Dr Theo Dounas shares an insight into the significance of the CIAT accreditation, its impact on student learning and how it is changing the role of architecture.

Architecture is driven by a desire to solve problems. Initially this involved providing the most basic forms of shelter, however the ever increasing complexity we face, means successful architects are increasingly required to use sophisticated computation tools to drive their design. This creates the need for advanced strategies for architectural design.

Architectural Technology offers a way to transform the world of architecture by fundamentally changing the manner in which we develop digital tools for design and by creating imaginative zero carbon futures. For example digital tools allow the generation of thousands of design solutions and the evaluation of their Carbon and Energy performance in seconds, a feat that shifts the discipline from a pre-modern one to a contemporary one, relevant to society’s needs.

Beyond design, digital tools allow us to create better bridges between the architectural design and its construction, eliminating the performance gap that is responsible for thermal leaks in buildings. Additionally they take away uncertainty in projects by enabling the architect and technologist to make data-informed decisions in the performance of their designs.  

Architectural Technology is at the heart of learning at The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment. The University is the only institution in Scotland to be awarded CIAT centre of excellence status. This recognises the high standards of our teaching staff and resources, along with our research and the impact it’s having on society and industry.  

The School offers two courses in architectural design including one of the oldest undergraduate courses in Architectural Technology (BSc Hons), which provides students with the necessary resources, skills and attributes to be successful in the industry and the wider creative sector. Both courses provide excellent research and industrial links that foster forward thinking and the real life scenarios for students to work on. This helps future proof careers as graduates acquire relevant skills in Digital design, Design for Manufacture and Assembly, Building Information Modelling but also delve into the cutting edge software such as Rhinoceros & Grasshopper, Blender & Sverchok, Dynamo and Revit.

The MSc in Advanced Architectural Design (AAD), builds on skills learnt in the BSc and as one of only a few courses of its kind in the UK, the year long, research led course equips students with the technical skills necessary to play a lead role in future design projects.

The AAD students are currently creating high-density low carbon housing towers for Aberdeen, along with a mini project where they use blockchain technologies in their design for the common areas. The blockchain technologies create a circular economy in the design that directly lowers the carbon and waste impact. This allows for a more equitable, fair economy around each project. 

The use of blockchain technologies is also at the centre of Archchain, an RGU-led research project that examines the application and development of high performance prototypes of blockchain and smart contracts in architectural design and the construction industry.

Employability amongst alumni is extremely high, with a third of graduates from the BSc finding work before they graduate. The course also has embedded sessions with RGU’s Careers Hub and plays a leading role in RGU Innovation Awards. With CIAT Centre of Excellence status renewed, RGU now has accelerated opportunities for research projects between university academics and industry professionals, as well as increased links for students with industry.

As for the future, Advanced Architectural Design is becoming increasingly important because it provides architectural practices with graduates who are strategic and capable of tackling the many societal and business challenges. As we seek to reach our net zero targets and become more sustainable, this will become ever more imperative.

Dr Theo Dounas is a registered, chartered architect and Learning Excellence Leader at The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment where he directs the MSc in Advanced Architectural Design and leads the School’s digitization. 

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