Specialising in sustainable design is an idea that has picked up within this decade, with several renowned institutions offering sustainability focused programs. Predominantly these programs choose to enroll a multidisciplinary batch of students for promoting interchanging of diverse ideas. Whether this is beneficial for specialising in sustainability is something that remains questionable. For understanding how such programs truly work and what do they equip a student with, DesignTerrains held an interview with Krithika Prakash, who is an alumna of the National University of Singapore and had undertaken masters in their leading sustainability program.
About Krithika Prakash
After graduating in 2015 with a bachelors in architecture, Krithika worked as an architect in Bangalore and Hyderabad before bending her career towards sustainability. She has a masters from National University of Singapore in Integrated Sustainable Design and at present is with Arth Design Build, Singapore as a BIM Coordinator.
MSc Integrated Sustainable Design, NUS
Focused on sustainable urbanisation of Asian cities, this one year post professional course at National University of Singapore is one of the top ranked sustainability course in the world. It encompasses a multidisciplinary approach and covers technical and spatial knowledge required to work in the domain of sustainability.
However, it is imperative to know whether the course is able to achieve what it claims. To understand its strengths and shortcomings, we are thankful to Krithika for taking out time and giving our readers an inside overview of the ISD program.
If you are considering applying to NUS for this course, this piece of conversation will benefit you in many ways!
DesignTerrains (DT): How early in your career, did you realize your inclination towards sustainable design?
Krithika Prakash (KP): Sustainability is at the forefront when it comes to tackling most major issues globally today. As an architect and a designer, I felt we as a profession are morally obliged to play a bigger role in this and set a path for the future. During my undergrad and then while I was working post that, I constantly read about what’s happening in the field of Building Design and Construction in terms of sustainability and it eventually seemed like the obvious path to choose if I were to pursue a Master’s Degree.
DT: Before choosing to study Integrated Sustainable Design at NUS, what was your perception of good architecture?
KP: Good architecture for me would always be the one that optimizes on locally available resources, site and climatic context along with the local cultural aspect that leads to a user centric design, passive design strategies and a design that allows facilitation of all the elements, rather than just build a structure. I have always been a believer of “Form follows Function”.
DT: NUS has lot to offer. What were your best learnings from the course?
KP: The best take-away for me from ISD at NUS, was the chance to work and interact closely with WOHA as part of our Studio Project. Developing and presenting our studio work every week with WOHA gave us a lot of insight into how one of the best minds in the field of architecture work, their though process, their understanding of how a good design works, their valuable feedback and review, it all helped us become better and more inclusive designers.
The course by itself helped me understand how to integrate different systems (energy, water, biodiversity, public space, food) into our design whether it is at a Building Scale or Urban Scale, as well as to realize how important this Systematic Thinking is in tackling issues related to Sustainability.
DT: When did you develop an interest in BIM, and how did it affect your perspective about sustainable design?
KP: BIM happened to me by chance. While I was pursuing my masters, I was relentlessly looking for a part-time work opportunity or an internship. That is when I got the opportunity to work with young and upcoming BIM consultancy.
BIM as a tool or a digital construction technology, immediately caught my interest and attention and the more I delved deeper into it, I realized how beneficial it is in the global effort to steer towards sustainability.
If I were to explain BIM in very simple layman terms, it helps in reducing cost, time, manpower by taking up the entire construction process and creating a sort of Digital Twin to monitor the process thereby eliminating chances of error, keep the project progress in check and eventually reducing the carbon footprint that the construction process leaves as compared to the traditional method.
BIM also helps companies to monitor their Green Mark and Constructability Score which is a mandate here in Singapore in it’s path towards achieving Sustainability.
DT: Would you like to share a few wise words for young practitioners and students, who are interested in studying at NUS?
KP: While an ISD Degree from NUS seems very lucrative, my personal take on this is that although the course teaches a few extremely important design thinking approaches in terms of sustainability, it does not teach you how to quantify these approaches.
Most companies/design firms while hiring someone for the post of a Sustainable Designer or an ESD Consultant look for a candidate who can provide value to the company by being able to perform simulations and analysis to quantify their findings, for example – how much energy does the building save? Or how much water can the building recycle thereby reducing the demand in fresh water supply? Or say something as simple as a wind simulation.
ISD has a very theoretical and an overly optimistic approach when it comes to sustainable design. The course is short and super intensive as well. While it sets you on a path that helps you approach design in a systematic thinking way, it really does not add any value or skill set to your resume/forte which is what is required in the long run in a practical sense for you to work as a Sustainable Designer or an ESD Consultant.
Cover image via – https://news.nus.edu.sg/research/top-green-building-research