Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
CTBUH to play Accreditation Role in Sustainable Tall Buildings Masters Course

The University of Nottingham, Department of the Built Environment has long been a center of excellence for tall building design teaching and studio. Many students over the past several years have come through their architectural education at the department, having produced exciting and challenging tall building projects. The first high-rise design studio at the University was founded under the tutelage of CTBUH Executive Director, Antony Wood, back in 2002, and has been run by David Nicholson-Cole since 2006. Following its continued success, which has seen student designs published in the Urban Land Institute Journal, The Big Project, Crain’s Chicago and many other publications globally, the studio has been expanded into a dedicated one-year Masters Course – the MArch in Sustainable Tall Buildings.

Antony Wood, Philip Oldfield and Sabina Fazlic review the student work
CTBUH Executive Director, Antony Wood, visits the University of Nottingham, Department of the Built Environment to undertake an initial review of the new MArch in Sustainable Tall Buildings course, and to meet the students

This unique new architectural course, which commenced in September 2009, examines how sustainability can be a major design generator for tall buildings, whilst at the same time introducing students to the essential design concepts and issues that all tall buildings face – structure, façade, ground floor interface, core design, vertical transportation, services, form and orientation, mixed-use planning, urban response, etc. Instead of simply focussing on tall buildings in the western world, the course takes a global look at the typology, embracing tall building design that is inspired by the climatic, cultural and contextual aspects of place and location.  The Masters Course consists of two tall building design studios supported by four lecture / seminar modules focussed on tall building design and construction, architectural research methodologies, and façade design and technology. It is concluded by the undertaking of a significant research project exploring an architectural, technological, regional, cultural or theoretical aspect of tall buildings.

The commencement of this new course also sees the appointment of CTBUH Research Coordinator Philip Oldfield as a Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Nottingham. Philip will co-direct the MArch in Sustainable Tall Buildings alongside David Nicholson-Cole, and will also lead the High-Rise Architecture Research Group at Nottingham. The course is also supported by the invaluable teaching input of distinguished guests and practitioners from key organizations around the world. Over the past several years, these have included Ken Yeang (Llewelyn Davies Yeang), Ken Shuttleworth (Make Architects), Chris McCarthy (Battle McCarthy), Dirk Krolikowski (Richard Rogers Partnership), Fred Pilbrow (Kohn Pedersen Fox), Neven Sidor (Nicholas Grimshaw Architects), Mario Cucinella (Mario Cucinella Architects), Maurice Peakin (Canary Wharf Group), Neil Squibbs and Tony McLaughlin (Buro Happold), Alastair Guthrie (Arup), Matthew Wells (Techniker), Andrew Watts (Newtecnic) and many others.

Water Tower: Sadie Alsop, Samantha Barclay & David Brook. Interim Review work. Systems Strategy (left) and Cut-away Part Section

Water Capture and Recycling Tower, Rotterdam, by Sadie Alsop, Samantha Barclay & David Brook. Interim Review work 2009 - Systems Strategy (left) and Cut-away Part Section (right).

The CTBUH – who enjoy a strong relationship with the University of Nottingham – will play an accreditation role in the new MArch in Sustainable Tall Buildings course, with CTBUH Executive Director Antony Wood acting as external examiner. This role will see Antony responsible for providing feedback on the course’s structure, organization and the final student outputs.

With this in mind, on December 9th, 2009, Antony visited Nottingham to undertake an initial review of the course, and to meet the students – a visit that coincided with the ‘interim critiques’ of the first studio project entitled ‘Tall Buildings: Climate, Culture, Context’. This studio is run on five sites, located across the globe – Abu Dhabi, Chicago, Mumbai, Rotterdam and Singapore. The brief calls for students to reject the air-conditioned, rectilinear glass box that is so prevalent in cities around the world, and instead to design tall buildings that are inspired by environmental issues and the unique cultural and vernacular traditions of the city their project is located in.

Antony Wood, Philip Oldfield, Sabina Fazlic and Ivan Jovanovic at the 'Tall Buildings: Climate, Culture, Context' interim reviews

Although the student designs were only at an interim level – the final submission of the project was several weeks away – they still demonstrated an in-depth understanding of tall buildings and a variety of unique design ideas inspired by the five cities.  One student project, inspired by vernacular living patterns in Abu Dhabi, has examined how to reinterpret traditional Arabian courtyard-living into a high-rise residential building. Another project acknowledges the critical lack of potable water in the Middle East and proposes a tower with building integrated passive desalination technologies, in order to generate enough potable water for the whole building using nearby seawater. Another project aims to recreate the traditional streetscape of Mumbai, but in a vertical plane, by creating a series of stacked streets in the sky. These are inhabited in the same way as in any street in Mumbai – with a mixture of residential and residential-scale office and retail function. In addition, other projects examine diffused natural lighting, vertical university functions, water recycling, conservation and capture, culture and festival in a tall building, vertical greenery and skygardens, prefabrication and future adaptability, wind and solar energy capture, and much more.

Arham Daoudi & Akshay Sethi: Diffused Light Tower
Diffused Light Tower, Abu Dhabi, by Arham Daoudi & Akshay Sethi. Interim Review Work 2009 - Facade Study (left) and Ground Floor Interface (right).

Organic Water and Vegetation Tower, Singapore, by Mat Bryant, David Calder & Pranali Shah. Interim Review work 2009 - Section (left) and Aerial View (right).

The final design work from the studio promises to be both exciting and challenging, and as always, the CTBUH will communicate the completed projects via our website, newsletter and journal.

For more information on the MArch in Sustainable Tall Buildings, please click here, or contact the course co-director Philip Oldfield at