Experimental Sustainability Studio

The Experimental Sustainability Studio (ESS) at Birmingham School of Architecture & Design brings together staff and students to explore innovative and experimental approaches to sustainability within our School, Faculty, City and Region.

The ESS is both a series of interdisciplinary ‘pop up’ teaching and activism events throughout the academic year, and a design think tank embedded in our design studio culture. Through design challenges, theoretical debate and technological exploration, it aims to enable students to build the critical awareness and depth of knowledge necessary to challenge 'business as usual' and create radical change. The project has involved over 450 students and staff in online cross-School and wider faculty events exploring individual and collective responses to climate action and has been instrumental in placing sustainability at the heart of the School’s ethos.

The un sustainable development goals

‘The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership. They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.’ (United Nations, 2021)

The Experimental Sustainability Studios are committed to supporting our school community to achieve more sustainable ways of working, living, and learning. We support the UN SDG’s and strive to embed them in our practices working towards a more sustainable future for all.

Our commitment to sustainability

At Birmingham School of Architecture & Design we believe the major issues facing our time require an urgent response. In 2019, the UK Government, Birmingham City Council, the professions and the University declared Climate Emergency in response to the long term impact of overconsumption of the earth’s resources and the resulting climate change and biodiversity loss. Then in 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement increased their presence with protests around the world against every day and institutional racial injustices to people of colour against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both of these major global crises are affected by the spatial and material characteristics of the environments that we design. In addition, we must consider the intersection of these social/environmental injustices with poverty-bias, gender identity and sexual discrimination. We are proud that our student body in the School is one of the most diverse in the UK. We see this as one our great strengths and this puts us in a position to lead the way and empower our students to make change.

Policy change and declarations of support are important vehicles in driving these changes but it is a change in mind-set that will have the greatest impact. We believe there is a pressing need to educate ethical practitioners who have the knowledge, expertise and energy to respond to the crises we face. We can no longer continue designing for practice as usual, we need to radically rethink what design needs to be. Our courses are taking a pro-active stance against these injustices; we aim for our graduates to be politically, socially and environmentally responsible with knowledge and understanding of sustainable, inclusive futures, an activist mentality and the tools to make positive impact.


As designers of the built environment, urban landscapes and products we use every day, our students have the potential to make a measurable impact to the Climate and Biodiversity Crisis and combined with our course specific sustainability focuses, the Experimental Sustainability Studios ensures that students are developing the skills, attributes and knowledge to tackle these challenges head on. This skillset is central to the future of our disciplines and a priority for creating highly employable graduates.


The Experimental Sustainability Studios create events which integrate research, praxis and activism. Collaborative practice is central to these events where staff and students deliver projects in partnership with each other and with organisations beyond the university and across the city of Birmingham. This principle sits at the heart of Education for Sustainable Development, and drives our work in embedding sustainability in the curriculum and addressing environmental injustices in many different settings.

Birmingham School of Architecture and Design

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