Sustainability within interior design curriculum in UAE & impact on design mindset

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The British University in Dubai (BUiD)
Because of the alarming situation of the current global environmental problems, Arab nations need to take immediate and comprehensive action in saving the environment. One of these actions is offering environmental education as one of the solutions. The United Arab Emirates is facing as serious situation, as the World Wide Fund for Nature organization WWF published the Living Planet Report in 2008, which declared that the UAE had a highest per capita Ecological Footprint. Consequently, the UAE government is playing a vital role towards sustainability nowadays. Sustainability is the key-solution to the problems our environment is experiencing today, which are slowly and lethally damaging our planet Earth. Interior designers should be able to know the causes of the earth’s problems and determine how to resolve, avoid, heal, and otherwise restore the damages done. Education is one of the problems, which affect the design practices in sustainability. Hence, it is necessary to amend the design curriculum to be able to help interior designers to have the high sense of responsibility toward caring for our environment by integrating sustainability principles in the curriculum of interior design program. This study aims to explore the current status of sustainability within same major in all universities in UAE, while proving and evaluating the impact of early incorporation of sustainability in interior design curriculum and its impact on the design mindset, and to investigate the difficulties and limitations which prevents the incorporation of sustainability into the interior design curriculum. In order to achieve this goal, all accredited universities in the UAE have been selected and analyzed, however only three of them have been chosen to study the impact of incorporating sustainability into their curriculum. Two surveys were conducted with students and instructors in four universities that have different levels of sustainability integration in their curriculum. An interview with instructors who are involved in teaching sustainability has been conducted. Lastly a field experiment has been issued with 38 interior design 2013133128 II students in order to examine how early incorporation of sustainability to the design curriculum will affect the mindset. The study showed that after incorporating sustainability in each design class in design III as a field experiment, 38 projects applied sustainability principles on their projects within only 8 weeks. Only 30% of UAE universities are offering obligatory Sustainable courses; therefore the rest 70% of are offering only elective Sustainable courses, which means 70% of our students might take it or might not. 50 % of the universities are offering specialized course, which means it is related to the design practices, and only 20 % integrated sustainability within the requirements of design studio. Moreover the ratio of the core credit hours and elective credit hours showed that the range of the elective credit hours in these universities is between (20-33%). In conclusion, the instructors and students who participated in this study emphasized the importance of integrating sustainability with other parts of the curriculum besides highlighting the lack of knowledgeable instructors to teach the needed courses as they are playing a critical role. 89% of the students agreed to see more courses offered related to sustainability while 97% from our students believe that integrating sustainability in each design class is helpful. Moreover, the educators underlined the significant role of the higher education in leading the developing plan of building new generation of sustainable interior designers to contribute in saving the earth. Finally, in order to minimize the ecological foot print of the UAE, this study recommend for the UAE government to integrate sustainability into interior design curriculum via incorporating sustainability within each design class. Sustainability should be mentioned in the submission requirements throughout design I, II, III, IV and V so graduation projects can potentially harvest what has been seeded through all of the design courses. Moreover, we should minimize the credit hours of the universities’ requirements and increase the core or the major credit hours in order to focus more in the market needs, as the completion out there is really high.
interior design curriculum, United Arab Emirates (UAE), sustainability, environmental education, UAE government, ecological foot print