Blog Post

Learn Sustainable Design without Having to Brave the Cold and Snow

A new round of online BAC Sustainable Design courses is starting up soon. Going out in the polar vortex is not a prerequisite.

I’m about to start teaching another round of my online course, Resilient Design, at Boston Architectural College (BAC), and this provides an opportunity to reflect on teaching at BAC and, more broadly, the online instruction in sustainable design offered through this program.

20 excellent online courses

I first started teaching at BAC in 2005, when the college’s online instruction program in sustainable design was just getting under way. At that time, BuildingGreen partnered with BAC to help design the curriculum, find the best instructors available, and promote the courses being offered.

Early on, when we had just a handful of courses, I taught Sustainable Design as a Way of Thinking, a course now being ably taught by my friend David Foley. Today, the online offerings totaling almost 20 courses are housed in BAC’s Sustainable Design Institute.

Last year, I rolled out a new course examining how to achieve more resilient buildings and communities. I’ll describe more about that below. I also participate twice a year in the week-long onsite intensives that are an integral part of BAC’s relatively new Masters in Design Studies (MDS) in Sustainable Design draws from a diverse international community.

But first, I wanted to share a few snippets from my teaching experiences at BAC.

A global student body

I keep running into students whom I’ve taught. Some are now sustainable design leaders at leading architecture firms. Others are policy makers working to institute sustainability and resilience into standard practice. Quite a few are from far away—people I’ve never met, but have been impressed with their activities.


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In particular, when I teach in the on-site intensives I’m always blown away by the fascinating backgrounds of students—local students from the Boston area to students from Mexico, South America, the Middle East…most anywhere.

I’ve had students in the U.S. Military serving abroad and wanting to build skills for a new career. I’ve had students who have been in one career for decades and want to do something new. It’s incredibly inspiring to learn their stories and hear about their projects at BAC—particularly those projects that will serve to better conditions in less developed countries.

Coursework from the real world

My Resilient Design course is one of 14 online courses that start on March 23. With a maximum of 15 students, we examine the full range of resilient design measures at both building and community scales. We dive into building design, storm resilience, land-use issues, water, community, and food. And we have a great time in the online discussion forums.

With this offering of the course, I’m going to weave in some work I’m involved with in crafting LEED Pilot Credits on Resilience—so it will provide an opportunity not only to learn about resilience but also be part of an effort to enhance the way the LEED rating systems address resilience.

It should be a lot of fun.

Below I’ve listed the other courses offered this term. All are eight-week courses:

The half-semester, graduate-level courses are online, instructor-led, interactive, and asynchronous (meaning that students can access the materials any time). Courses may be taken individually or as part of the Institute’s Sustainable Design Certificate Program.

Up to 6 Institute courses are also transferrable as electives into the BAC’s online Master of Design Studies in Sustainable Design degree. See the for details.

To learn more (and register) go to, call 617-585-0101 or send an email to the BAC's Director of Sustainable Design, Shaun O’Rourke.

Published March 2, 2015

(2015, March 2). Learn Sustainable Design without Having to Brave the Cold and Snow. Retrieved from

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