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College of Design

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Broad Scope of a Housing Studies Education

The overall theme of this semester is to dig deeper into my required multidisciplinary work outside of the housing program - courses in economics, historic preservation, and environmental science make up the bulk of my school schedule. Although we are only in our second week of classes, I am already beginning to see how all of these courses (which are outside of the housing department) tie into today's major housing-related issues. As I've said before, the scope of housing studies is surprisingly broad and there are many different ways of digging deeper into your specific area of concentration. Here are a few examples of what I'm talking about:

Historic Preservation, taught by the Department of Architecture, introduces us to a practice which has just recently become mainstream in the past few decades. We will learn the basic concepts of the preservation, restoration, reconstruction, rehabilitation, and stabilization of historic properties. Quite often, these properties are houses, housing complexes, or historic residential districts (there is a plethora of local examples right here in the Twin Cities). It is quite likely that housing graduates working in residential development will deal directly with preservation-related projects, whether it be in the nonprofit or for-profit sector. Historic preservation is a completely different ball game than building renovation and remodeling, and I feel that the knowledge I gain in this course will somehow be applicable in my future profession.

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I am also taking a course offered by the Department of Environmental Sciences, Policy, and Management, called Environmental Life Cycle Analysis, which teaches us the cradle-to-grave approach of products and industrial processes. An Environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) essentially quantifies the environmental impacts of a product's full life - examining impacts from all stages, such as extraction of raw materials, production and distribution of energy, product use, reuse, and final disposal. It's actually pretty difficult to wrap your mind around just how much goes into any single manufactured product, and how it affects the Earth's delicate ecologies. In this new era of environmental awareness and sustainability, learning LCA is important for housing students like me who are interested in residential building products, materials, processes, and emerging technologies. Knowledge of LCA gives us the skills to professionally assist in the purchasing of building products, selecting materials, and identifying alternative methods to make a project more environmentally friendly.

I hope this was at least semi-enlightening to you all! Feel free to direct any questions or comments in the section below. There really is a lot to learn when it comes to housing!

Hopefully September is off to a good start for you all!

Jesse - Housing Studies, B.S.