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The University of Texas at San Antonio combines its colleges of engineering and architecture

Higher Education

The University of Texas at San Antonio combines its colleges of engineering and architecture

LPA Architects’ local office pushed for this to better prepare students to meet climate change challenges.


By John Caulfield, Senior Editor | August 30, 2021
The University of Texas at San Antonio's new College of Engineering and Integrated Design debuts this week

The need to address climate change was one of the impetuses that drove the University of Texas to merge the colleges of engineering and architecture, planning, and construction on its San Antonio campus. Image: UTSA

Effective September 1, the University of Texas at San Antonio will launch its College of Engineering and Integrated Design (CEID), one of the few academic programs in the U.S. that combine engineering, architecture, and construction.

The new college will have 4,300 students, 117 faculty members, and 41 staff. It is the result of a year-long discussion by the University’s Integrated Design Initiative Task Force, that was formed in April 2020. Also instrumental in encouraging this consolidation is the San Antonio office of LPA Architects, whose Principal Mark Oppelt sits on the University’s Professional Advisory Council, and whose firm has long advocated the cross-pollination of engineering and architecture, especially now when the industry’s response to climate change requires more complicated solutions that involve both disciplines.

“This is the path the industry will need to travel for a more sustainable world,” Oppelt tells BD+C. He explains that as LPA has honed its specialty in sustainable design, it has come to appreciate the importance of incorporating engineering into the design process that often calls for complex MEP and HVAC systems to achieve sustainable results.

LPA Architects, with six offices in the U.S., is the largest architecture firm to meet or exceed AIA’s 2030 Challenge targets over the last two years. “We want our designers to understand engineering, and our engineers to understand design,” says Oppelt.

“LPA is a national leader in integrated design, and having Mark on the Advisory Council has been very impactful in informing the best way to shape this new program,” states Sedef Donager, Ph.D, Interim Director of the School of Architecture and Planning.

 

ONE COLLEGE, TWO SCHOOLS, THREE DEPARTMENTS

The new college brings together the academic departments and programs formerly under the College of Engineering and the College of Architecture, Planning, and Construction. CEID is organized administratively into two schools: one for Civil and Environmental Engineering and Construction Management; and another for Architecture and Planning. The new college has three departments: biomedical and chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, and electrical and computer engineering.

While students and faculty had collaborated on projects when the two colleges were separate entities, this combination will present more students with greater opportunities to work together, and—perhaps more important—prepare for working in an industry where firms are expanding their disciplines to remain competitive. (Oppelt says that at least half of LPA’s workforce in San Antonio graduated from UTSA.)

At present, the new college will use existing buildings on its campuses, but Oppelt suggests that UTSA’s plans to beef up its physical presence in downtown San Antonio could impact the new college down the road. Also in the future, all students in this program will be required to complete either an internship, a research project, a study abroad experience, or a service-learning initiative while pursuing their undergraduate or graduate degrees.

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