Five minutes with Dr Chris Jensen

29 Jun 2020

Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has partnered with the University of Melbourne to develop a stream of the University's Graduate Certificate in Environmental Design. The Higher Education Relief Package means fees for a full time 4 subject stream for this course have been reduced for Australian citizens and permanent residents who commence full time study in Semester 2, 2020.

We spoke to Dr Chris Jensen, Coordinator of the Graduate Certificate in Environmental Design, to find out more about this learning opportunity.

Why did the University and GBCA collaborate to develop a stream for the Graduate Certificate?

Both the University of Melbourne and GBCA recognise the importance of continuing education for professionals, which must combine theoretical and practical knowledge. We have partnered with the GBCA to develop a stream in the Graduate Certificate in Environmental Design (GCED) that is tailored to people who have a specific interest in the assessment and accreditation of the built environment. People working in this space are usually from an Architecture or Engineering background, so they may not have been exposed to all aspects of green buildings, or if they do, they are keen to learn more. My experience is as an ESD consultant and Green Star Accredited Professional (GSAP) followed by 9 years as an Academic so I am very conscious of the importance of the combination of theoretical and practical knowledge. 

What can students expect to take away from the Green Building Accreditor stream?

Where practice is very focused on project outcomes, the University is more interested in the development of ideas, application of concepts, and new ways of thinking. An example of this would be to explore ideas like, “what are the barriers to sustainable innovations?”, or “How does the concept of an ecosystem apply to design strategies?”. The Green Building Accreditor stream provides this type learning to compliment the more practical GSAP training. I hope students coming out of this stream have more questions about the industry status quo than when they begin!

What type of students does the course hope to attract?

The GCED is open to students with an undergraduate degree in a cognate discipline (e.g. Architecture, Engineering, Design, Science, Environment), or any discipline +2 years of relevant professional experience. The six streams in the GCED course are aligned with relevant industry discipline such as the Green Building Accreditor, Advanced Building Systems or Environmental Planning, but also allow experience in more traditional academic areas like research. So I think the answer is the GCED course hopes to attract students interested or working in this area already that want to learn more, quite possibly to advance their career in the field.

The course opens a pathway of career options. Can you take us through some of these?

I would expect anyone interested in this course would already be aware that Environmental Design and Sustainability crosses all aspects of the built environment, and there are many directions you can go - This course provides the opportunity to gain skills in an area of interest to advance their career in that direction. Careers that would be relevant in addition to ESD / Green building accreditor include project management, government policy, façade design or property development. Importantly, the course includes a range of subjects, so students can choose what is relevant to them.

Construction will play an important part in Australia's economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, at the same time, projects are having to consider how buildings can better respond to a changing climate. How does the course content cover these issues?

COVID-19 has highlighted how much impact we have and how this is reduced when we put the brakes on society, which in a way makes it easier to understand the path forward and make the business case. COVID, like sustainability, is a global challenge that can’t be solved at the individual level. The effect of COVID is that we can now understand what a big effect mass behaviour change can make - I’m guessing there will be organisations out there looking at their vast office spaces and wondering if they should have just invested in the ‘work from home’ model. That’s a good example of the new way of thinking we need to adopt.

Learn more about course content, learning outcomes and entry requirements of the Graduate Certificate in Environmental Design.

Visit the course page