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WHY ‘INTEGRATED DESIGN’ MATTERS TO ASIA. How we navigate Asia’s future depends in part on how well we understand the process by which buildings and cities are designed and operated.

Asia is expected to account for 50% of additional world-wide energy demands over the next 15 years and 50% of the world’s new buildings. It already contributes significantly to rising global emissions, vanishing biodiversity, shrinking agricultural land, loss of community and ecological networks. Of the many changes which have swept Asia during the last half-century, none have been as far reaching as the recorded increase in urban footprints and densities. This demographic shift, from rural to urban, poses profound challenges to how new cities are designed, how they grow, what they displace.

The design-construction process, as we know it, is fragmented. Experts and professionals work in isolation, short-term spending overrides long-term costs, project goals do not balance multiple stakeholder needs and viewpoints. There are many barriers and lapses at the drawing-board and in policy that contribute to poor as-built performance.

Integrated Design is the active merger of knowledge and viewpoints. It is the engagement all disciplines and stakeholders – architects, engineers, builders, etc. – responsible for the built environment. It is, in effect, management of divergent, often conflicting inputs towards long-term goals. And where this process focuses explicitly on ecological and humanitarian goals, Asia’s buildings and cities are one step closer to becoming sustainable.

The Four Pillars
Focus on the Asian Context | To be sustainable is to be rooted in context, in the exchanges between building and climate, society and economy. These exchanges are in turn embedded in global economy and cross-border phenomena such as climate change. To design sustainably is influence these exchanges for the mid- to long-term future. The MSc ISD programme offers methods and techniques for understanding the situations and exchanges that define a place. All situations studied are within Asia.

Exploring Scalability from Buildings to Cities | Candidates of the programme are exposed to the different scales of the built environment, to understand their interdependence and connectivity. Buildings are discussed as sub-units of neighbourhoods, neighbourhoods as networks that extend into cities. All projects undertaken in the programme compel candidates to examine and resolve questions of wider networks.

Training Strategic Thinkers | Much of Asia today is preoccupied with checklists and tools to aid the greening of its buildings. While these can be useful as downstream checks, they rarely offer insights that are specific to a context. The programme emphasises upstream thinking rooted in an understanding of place, of asking the right questions early in the decision-making process. Candidates are taught to seek context-specific, impactful and long-term solutions.

Forging an Interactive, Integrative, Multidisciplinary Approach| The building sector in Asia is compartmentalised; the design-construction process operates in distinct silos. This disallows paradigm shifts that are necessary for sustainable thinking. The MSc ISD’s Integrated Project Studio is where new mind-sets and collaborative outlooks are formed to counter this inherent fragmentation. By emphasising collaborative decision-making – by individuals with different backgrounds and from different fields – candidates learn how to communicate and negotiate.
Singapore is at geographical, cultural and economic intersections in Asia, seen to be a developmental model for many of region’s upcoming cities.
Candidates are exposed to completed projects in Singapore such as the Gardens by the Bay. Image: Samuel Hartono
Leading experts guide the ISD cohort on the exchanges between buildings and neighbourhoods.
Image: Samuel Hartono
Teaching is in part project-based, allowing students to learn in an interactive and integrative environment. Image: Samuel Hartono