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October 23, 2007

Green High

On September 27, The Chicago Architecture Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about architecture, published The Architecture Handbook: A Student Guide to Understanding Buildings, the first American textbook to teach sustainable design and green architecture to high school students.

The book is being used in all drafting classrooms in Chicago public schools and is under consideration for curriculum in 15 states. “Our big goal all along was very lofty: It was to change the way architecture is taught in high schools,” said author Jennifer Masengarb.

Chicago’s commitment to its public school architecture curriculum has a long history. In 1982, state Senator Richard H. Newhouse founded a program to help low income and minority students train for careers in architecture and building trades.

But by 2004, it was clear that the curriculum desperately needed an update: “The materials that teachers had been using were written in 1951. And in 1951, drywall was just coming on the market,” said CAF textbook program director Krisann Rehbein.

Thus began the three-year collaboration between CAF, school officials, students, and local architects. The result—a colorful, 400-page textbook with a comprehensive teacher’s edition—is the first to standardize a green architecture curriculum for high schools.

The book centers on the Factor 10 House, a local example of green design. With the F10 House philosophy in mind, students explore their own homes, schools and neighborhoods. The textbook also surveys 10 architectural landmarks, including Andrea Palladio’s Villa Rotunda, Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation, and Glenn Murcutt’s Magney House.Proponents of the green curriculum hope that the textbook’s eco-friendly approach will have a long-lasting effect on students, regardless of whether they pursue a career in architecture. “It’s so important to arm students with information,” said Rehbein. “That’s how they become informed citizens who can participate in decisions about their own city and built environment.”

Posted by: Audrey Tempelsman on Oct 23, 07 at 01:50 PM PDT


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