Course Syllabus

Sustainable by Design C

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Semester & Location:

Spring 2022 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Elective - 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Architecture, Design, Sustainability




Charlotte Algreen,

Program Director: Henning Martin-Thomsen,
Time & Place:

Monday and Thursday 14:50-16:10 in N7-A21

Description of course:

The course will focus on sustainable strategies and how to make them an integral part of the design process and our living.  We will look at our historical development, in the western world, how did we end up here ? with these climate change problems. In order to figure out what to do about it, we have to understand where we come from. Throughout the course we will evaluate sustainable principles and how they relate to global, ecological, urban, built, material, and cultural parameters. During the course there will be ongoing discussions about climate, energy issues, behavioral change, and sustainable values.

The course will have the UN SDG’s(Sustainable Development Goals) as the worlds overall meta goals for sustainable development. We will try to relate to them all through the course, so we know them and hopefully be aware of how to work with them in all that we do.

 We will discuss the ways in which sustainability is evaluated in both the private and public sectors in Denmark and abroad. We will investigate sustainable initiatives local to Copenhagen, while looking at a variety of sustainable approaches abroad. We will synthesize common themes and threads. The course will cover orientation, siting, and appropriation of place and materials. We will look at passive and active design strategies, as well as solar geometry and daylighting. We will investigate water efficiency and how it relates to energy, climate adaptation, food production, and waste.

Course details:

There is often fear that sustainable considerations will detract from an overall design and increase the budget, whereas the opposite is true. Sustainable solutions are the most efficient in which time, money, and resources are carefully managed. This sustainable approach to deliver projects that consciously respond to local and global climate and cultural issues.

Learning Objectives of the Course:

  • To understand the impact and consequences of our lifestyle, e.g. choices of products, transportation or personal outlooks and beliefs
  • To formulate and apply sustainable solutions and concepts on all scales—and to understand how they are connected
  • To incorporate sustainable thinking as part of the design process
  • To encourage you to ask critical questions and analyze the impact of your design decisions
  • To understand and incorporate local, physical, and cultural conditions to achieve optimum design solutions
  • To begin to acquire the skill set and language required to be a relevant team player on sustainable design projects
  • To communicate ideas through discussion and develop presentation skills

Approach to teaching:

We will evaluate sustainability as it applies to different design disciplines. We will start with burning issues, followed by a study of both the built and urban environment. We will investigate both design fields through social and cultural perspectives. Finally, we will look at solutions and common ties that integrate them all. The objective of the class is to introduce you to the many aspects of sustainability and give you the tools to become a critical and confident decision-maker. The course will outline a work-flow process that integrates sustainability from the beginning of the design process. The course is taught via lectures, case studies, field studies, and group assignments. There is a strong emphasis on student presentations and the ability to communicate knowledge.


Charlotte Algreen: Cand. Arch. (Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen 1998). DGNB Consultant and Passive house designer. Working with sustainable building in own company Algreen Architects 2001-2012. Responsible for implementing sustainability at JJW Architects 2012-2014 and at Lejerbo housing association 2014-2017. External Associate Professor at DTU – Technical University of Denmark since 2013 (Sustainability and Life Cycle Assessment). Member of the Sustainability committee at The Danish Association of Construction Clients. Chairwomen Advisory Board on Sustainability for the Municipality of Lyngby-Taarbæk. Own company since 2017 ALGREEN – Sustainability, Process Management and Facilitation – working as a consultant to help the building industry and organisations to become more sustainable, mostly using the SDG’s (UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals) as the communicative tool.


Readings will be available on Canvas and should be read before lectures. Readings may be adjusted or supplemental readings may be given during the course if further clarification or understanding of concepts is needed.

Required Reading/Viewing/Listening:

    •  Aravena, Alejandro “My Architecture philosophy? Bring community into the process”. TedGlobal 2014. October 2014. December 09, 2016.  [TED Talk]
    • Asquith, Lindsay, and Marcel Vellinga. Vernacular Architecture in the 21st Century: Theory, Education and Practice. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.
    • Before the Flood. Dir. Fisher Stevens. Perf. Leonardo DiCaprio. National Geographic’s, 2016. Film. Web. [YouTube]
    • “Buildings—Exploring the Sustainable Buildings of Tomorrow.” Copenhagen: Sustainia Co Monday Morning, 2015. Issuu. Why Buildings Matters, Benefits of Sustainable Buildings, Planning Tools.
    • Carlota Perez, Professor of Technology and Socio-Economic Development.  'Techno-Economic Paradigm shift'. EMF Summit 2018[YouTube]
    • “Carolyn Steel on How food shapes our society.” Web.July 2009.  [TED Talk]
    • “Guidance on Life-Cycle Thinking and Its Role in Environmental Decision Making.” (2014): 1-18. Building Green. Sustainable Materials Management Coalition. Web.
    • Herbener, Jens André talk on Nature is Sacred [YouTube]
    • Heschong, Lisa. Thermal Delight in Architecture. MIT Press, 1979. p.18-31
    • Hawken, Paul, Amory Lovings and Hunter Lovins. Natural Capitalism: Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1992. Intro, Chapter 1
    • Jane Jacobs, The Ultimate Placemaker - Podcast
    • Kate Raworth 'Doughnut Economics' Lecture 2018 
    • Material world: Kasper Guldager at TEDxCopenhagen 2012. [YouTube]
    • McCarter;Robert, and Juhanni Pallasmaa. Understanding Architecture. New York City. Phaidon, 2012. Print
    • McDonough, William, and Michael Braungart. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. New York: North Point, 2002. Print.
    • McLennan, Jason F. The Philosophy of Sustainable Design: The Future of Architecture. Kansas City, MO: Ecotone, 2004. Print. Chapter 14 - The Sustainable Design Process: Holistic Thinking
    • SLA. "Climate Adaption and Urban Nature." (2016): n. pag. SLA Architects. Web. 02 Dec. 2016.
    • Story of Stuff Project “Story of Stuff (2007, OFFICIAL Version)” Online video clip. YouTube. April 22, 2009. December 09, 2016. [YouTube]
    • Wilson, Alex. "Getting to Know a Place: Site Evaluation as a Starting Point for Green Design." Environmental Building News 7.3 (1998): n. page. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.
    • Hjortshøj, Rasmus. Our urban living room: learning from Copenhagen. Stockholm: Arvinius Orfeus, 2016. Two Urban Spaces
    • Berners-Lee, Mike. How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything. Vancouver: Greystone, 2011.
    • Leave No Waste, But Knowledge
    • Design at the intersection of technology and biology
    • Examining the Economics of a Circular Economy
    • Cities100-2019-Report.pdf
    • Chemical farming & The Loss of Human Health
    • Let the enviroment guide our development 
    • Architecture Guide UN17SDG_Vol 2_UK_web single pages-1.pdf 

Field Studies: 

The field studies are a primary experiential learning component of the course. These activities should be viewed as an integrated component of the lecture course. The visits will illustrate and expand directly upon the content of the lectures and readings. Copenhagen and its examples of sustainable design will provide the basis for in-class field studies.


You will be evaluated on your ability to think critically, analyze, discuss, and conclude. You will be challenged to demonstrate your comprehension of the course material and ability to provide clear and concrete analysis using your own voice. Working in teams and communicating ideas through presentations has a strong focus in this class. All projects are created according to this approach.




Engagement in lectures, discussions, in-class design activities, and field studies, including thoroughness of homework assignments and attention to readings


Video - Registration of places/urban room


LCA - Life Cycle Assessment (group poster presentation 8-10 minutes)


Sustainable Log Book (individual hand-in)


Academic Regulations


DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -


Course Summary:

Date Details Due