Waterloo introduces unique architectural engineering program

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Prospective students who have a hard time choosing between Waterloo’s civil engineering and architecture programs will now have another option beginning next year: architectural engineering.

The new Waterloo Engineering offering, which combines architectural design with building engineering, will launch in September 2018.

Developed to cover the whole gamut of building design, construction, assessment and refurbishment, the recently approved program will provide students with the technical knowledge and skills to design energy and structurally efficient buildings.

Waterloo’s architectural engineering program is one-of-a-kind in North America.

“What makes our program different is that it’s the only one with a full studio stream and a fully compulsory co-op program,” says Scott Walbridge, the director of Waterloo’s architectural engineering program. “The students will have a home in a studio where they’ll work on projects and take a studio course every term.  We think that’s really important for the pedagogy.”

Walbridge, a civil and environmental engineering professor, says graduates of the program will have the expertise required to respond to the unique challenges currently facing the building industry. Those challenges include determining how to repurpose older buildings that are becoming functionally obsolete and reducing the impact humans are having on climate change.

“People have done studies that show roughly a third of the impact on greenhouse gases can be attributed to buildings,” Walbridge notes. “So if we want to effectively change that, it’s essential to make buildings more energy efficient.”

Another obstacle the curriculum will address is the lack of communication that often occurs within the construction industry. The idea behind the program is to train engineers not to replace architects, but to be able to speak their language better and collaborate with them and other professionals such as planners and design engineers to create high-performance buildings.

Anne Bordeleau and Scott Walbridge

Anne Bordeleau, director of Waterloo's School of Architecture, and Scott Walbridge, director of Waterloo's architectural engineering program, look at the type of model that could be created by students in Engineering's newest program.

Best University for the program

Walbridge says the University of Waterloo is the ideal place to launch architectural engineering because of its strong civil engineering and architecture programs and renowned co-op program. He expects the types of employers who will hire co-op students and graduates are firms specializing in building performance and structural and/or architectural design, as well as construction companies, regulatory and government agencies.

A maximum of 85 students will be admitted to the first year of architectural engineering, which will be an accredited engineering program. Housed within the civil engineering department on the Waterloo campus, the curriculum will include direct collaboration with architectural students in third year. Two studios and a maker’s space will be built on the Waterloo campus for the studio component.

Walbridge says the program will appeal to students who have strong math and science abilities and want to harness their creative side as well.

“One of the things that got us excited about this whole concept as it was evolving is that we’d go to university fairs and the University’s fall open house and talk to prospective students who would say that they were having a hard time deciding between civil engineering and architecture,” says Walbridge. “We feel that this program will be perfect for those types of students because now they won’t have to make that difficult choice.”