The Environmental Design Professions

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Today the construction industry, with the leadership of the environmental design professions-architecture, engineering, landscape architecture, and urban planning-has the technical resources to enclose and control the climate of an entire urban area within a single structure. You know of large shopping malls, stadiums, and other big building complexes throughout the United States that point to this possibility of completely enclosing and controlling a defined area of our physical environment. You also know of the rapid advancements being made in ground, water, and air transport facilities to service our physical environment. Further, you recognize the increasing attention being given to the remaking of existing urban areas and to the preservation and enhancement of our nation's natural resources-its open spaces, wilderness areas, and water and air resources. All these activities involve the services of those trained and experienced in the environmental design professions. If we are to rebuild a good share of our existing development and preserve our remaining natural resources, it is easy to see that environmental designers have an immense task ahead of them. The career opportunities are commensurate with this great challenge.

Those directly involved in the design and construction of our environment are not the only members of the environmental design profession. As in every other vocation, the art and science of environmental design requires the services of those who teach its disciplines to others who search out, record, and interpret its activities to society. Thus, these professions include many career opportunities for those whose basic training is in design but who wish to devote their talents to design education, archaeology, construction science, technical writing, or other fields that combine a background in design with a unique talent in a second discipline. Your future might well be in one of these combined careers.

To illustrate the broad range of career opportunities open to those who choose to enter the environmental design professions, we can make a simple checklist of some of the disciplines included in or related to these professions. In reviewing this list, you should note again that architecture is the basic art and science of the environmental design professions; that those trained in architecture therefore have the broadest choice of career opportunities in the design of our physical environment.


Those trained and experienced in architecture have a variety of career options available to them. You may choose to pursue one of these alternative careers after investing a few years in the profession and finding that a personal interest in one facet of the design and construction process has developed into an expertise recognized by others and requiring full-time attention to refine. Alternatively, you may switch careers after having mastered the conventional practice of architecture. Here are five such alternative careers that have proved rewarding to the many architects who have chosen to pursue them.

Preservation and Rehabilitation

The study of the history of architecture is a basic interest of those drawn to the fields of architecture and other elements of environmental design. Courses in architectural history comprise a significant portion of the architect's education. For most architects, an interest in the roots of the art and science of architecture continues throughout their career. This interest is shared with the public. For instance, a fair share of the recreation and tourism business is based upon a general popular fascination with our heritage and the lifestyles of our ancestors. If you were to vacation in Europe, for example, your itinerary would almost certainly focus on visiting structures and places important to the development of our Western culture. In this country, we have long given special recognition to places such as Mount Vernon and Monticello that are associated with our nation's early leaders.

In recent years, the growing popular interest in knowing more about and conserving our heritage has extended our concern for preserving more and more of our existing structures. Young families are interested in fixing up older homes, and businesses frequently look for the opportunity to rehabilitate existing commercial structures. Public officials view the adaptive reuse of our older structures as an option equal to tearing down that structure and replacing it with a new facility. Federal, state, and local organizations devoted to preserving structures and districts have become important political forces in the establishment of public policy.

The movement in historic preservation and rehabilitation can take the form of saving entire blocks or districts as well as individual buildings. Further, the movement extends to all building types, from individual residences and commercial buildings to entire neighbourhoods in urban areas. The interest may involve landmark structures of importance to our cultural heritage because of some person or event associated with that structure. It can also simply encompass a building or neighbourhood having a special unity of design within a larger, mixed urban setting.

The saving and rehabilitation of these structures and districts has now become a significant career opportunity for architects. Rehabilitation work requires structural and other feasibility studies to determine the cost and time requirements of saving the structures and to find an adaptive use that may be placed in the rehabilitated facility. Most recently, changes in the tax legislation, building code requirements, and funding assistance have made investment in rehabilitation activities more attractive.

Because of this growing interest in historic preservation, increasing numbers of public and private agencies and of architectural firms are devoted to serving this interest. Consequently, many students and practitioners are devoting portions of their careers to preservation. Given the recent renewed awareness of our cultural heritage and our concern for conservation of resources, it seems certain that preservation and rehabilitation services offered by the environmental design professions will continue to provide significant career opportunities.

Construction Management and Development

Construction management is a relatively new discipline within environmental design. It arises from the need to provide greater overall coordination to the design and construction processes from the beginning of programming through the completion of construction and the occupancy of the facility.
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