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Learning to respond

This September, Heriot Watt University in Dubai will launch the region’s first architectural engineering undergraduate degree. The Big Project speaks to academic head and director of studies, Dr Olisanwendu Ogwuda.   As construction design disciplines continue to evolve so too does the demand for smart, responsive, structures. According to those in the industry, the creation […]

This September, Heriot Watt University in Dubai will launch the region’s first architectural engineering undergraduate degree. The Big Project speaks to academic head and director of studies, Dr Olisanwendu Ogwuda.

 

As construction design disciplines continue to evolve so too does the demand for smart, responsive, structures. According to those in the industry, the creation of such structures will depend on the training provided for the next generation of designers, developers and engineers.

This September, the Dubai-based campus of Heriot Watt University, will launch the region’s first course in architectural engineering (AE); designed to meet both demand from within the industry and amongst prospective students.

“We have looked at what has been happening in the market, particularly with green building technologies and the way things are developing,” says academic head and director of studies, Dr Olisanwendu Ogwuda.

Speaking of the “future leaders of tomorrow”, Ogwuda adds: “In the past two to three years we

have looked at developing a programme that will meet the current and future needs of the green building community.”

As a discipline, architectural engineering encompasses all the services associated with the built environment, including performance of buildings, designs for acceptable indoor environments, lighting and water supply and disposal and re-use of waste.

The four year programme incorporates three principles: the architectural design of buildings where he worked as a civil engineer for Framec Engineering Ltd. He has a PhD in sustainable construction and has spent the last 16 years sharing his knowledge in the classroom.

In 2009 Ogwuda moved to Dubai to establish Herriot Watt’s engineering programme. He has also contributed to industry and media publications, covering such topics as the disposal and re-use of construction waste.

“Buildings have to be designed first of all to be structurally stable, but we also have to look for ways to make them smart.

“Linking into that is, if buildings have to be demolished we should re-use the materials from these buildings and plan that into the demolition process.

“Concrete and brick works are already recycled and crushed, but I think if more care was taken then we could see components, like glass and timber, also re-used more.”

In anticipation of a full cohort this September, Ogwuda is also making use of his industry contacts to arrange guest lecturers, networking events and work placements.

“Huge demand already exists. When you go to schools to market the programme it’s all about green building and accreditation, this will be the generation that builds realising that you cannot just build for the sake of it.” and engineering systems; energy and sustainability; and human behaviour.

According to the institution, it’s the first course of its kind in the region, educating students to standards equivalent to those of a British university degree.

Based on a cycle of eight modules each academic year, the course addresses a skills gap in the Middle East, which has caused an increasing demand for engineers who can provide “multi-disciplinary skills at the interface of engineering and architecture”.

“We are actually training the next generation of engineers who will be educated to design a building to energy efficient standards, taking into account the needs of the occupants.

“The programme addresses the current and future issues that will need to be considered on a global scale; essentially how we will adapt to climate change.”

Future leaders

Ogwuda says the enthusiasm he sees when speaking with prospective students confirms there is a momentum for change among the next generation of construction professionals.

“Students’ eyes light up when you visit their schools to talk about the programme; for them to see that these courses are on offer and that they can actually get into a programme like this and do something great in their careers, is very exciting for them.”

Explaining that the course is unique, he adds: “Within the industry there are a lot of people at the ends of their careers who do not consider the aspects of architectural engineering in their designs. Industry needs young graduates who can come into the profession and bring this vital knowledge with them.”

The syllabus was developed by Ogwuda, in collaboration with colleagues at Heriot’s Edinburgh campus, based in Scotland.

Building smart

With a career spanning four decades and four continents, Ogwuda is well positioned to equip this next generation of engineers with the skills they need to contribute to the continued evolution of the industry.

“Compared to the UK, the community here is still developing. Mistakes are made in the design of both buildings and infrastructure in terms of energy efficiency and planning the re-use of materials when the building reaches the end of its current lifecycle.”

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