A new degree offered in 2020 at the University of Wollongong will bridge the gap between the professions of engineer and architect.

UOW’s Architectural Engineering degree will develop students’ integrative design skills and inspire them to create buildings that are functional, efficient, beautiful, stimulating and have minimal environmental impact.

The degree was inspired by the award winning solar decathlon houses ‘Illawarra Flame’ and ‘Desert Rose’ built by student teams from the University of Wollongong and TAFE NSW.

Solar Decathlons are held around the world annually and invite student teams to design and build sustainable and energy efficient homes that compete across 10 contests, from architecture to sustainability.

The Illawarra Flame and Desert Rose came first and second in their competition years in Datong, China, and Dubai, UAE, respectively. The Desert Rose house was also recently awarded the Australian Institute of Building Excellence award 2019 for the best residential project under $1 million in value.

UOW’s award winning Desert Rose team in Dubai, 2018

While the wins were a huge success, it was during the planning and building process that Professors Tim McCarthy and Paul Cooper noticed a gap in students’ skills set.

“While working with both industry and students during the construction and infrastructure development that spanned across the disciplines of engineering and architecture, we noticed that students needed better developed skills to bridge the gaps between creative design, plans, modelling and construction,” said Professor McCarthy, Head of UOW’s School of Civil, Mining and Environmental Engineering.

“We consulted extensively with industry to find out what skills were currently lacking in engineers working in the built environment sector and where we could add value to this field. This led us to develop a bespoke architectural engineering degree where graduates will be able to use the most modern technologies to co-design human habitats and ensure their safety and sustainability.

By integrating into our programs the use of building information modelling, we’ve been able to test and improve so many of our buildings’ design features, saving us time and money in construction”, he said.

Researchers from the UOW’s Sustainable Building Research Centre had input into the Architectural Engineering specialisation, which sits within the Bachelor of Engineering. Dr Emma Heffernan, course coordinator and senior lecturer for the program, is excited “about combining engineering with architectural knowhow to boost the energy efficiency, durability, and sustainability of our buildings and infrastructure”.

Dr Emma Heffernan, senior lecturer for Architectural Engineering, in front of the Illawarra Flame house

“Being able to design, renovate, and retrofit flexible buildings that adapt to different needs is so important as we adjust to a global future of climate change and increasing urbanisation,” she said.

“This degree will lead to graduates having not only the high-level skills of traditional engineering disciplines in this sector (for example, civil, mechanical and environmental engineering) but also a core of the architectural skill set with an in-depth awareness of integrated building design, building codes and aesthetics. These are all skills in strong demand by the construction industry and built environment sector”.

While the Illawarra Flame house – a retrofit of a former housing commission house, which achieved net zero energy efficiency, is currently available for public tours, the Desert Rose house, which is a purpose-built home for dementia sufferers living in an extreme climate, is currently being rebuilt after recently returning from the competition in Dubai and opens to the public in February 2020.

Find out more about Architectural Engineering here.