Ecological Practices

Students at work in their master's thesis.

The Ecological Practices Graduate Research Group critically engages environmental systems, and examines the role that architecture and urbanism play in harnessing and stewarding them. 

Our research recognizes the built/natural environment as a complex web of interacting parts constantly exchanging energy and resources. In keeping with this perspective, we are interested in developing architecture and urban design that is as dynamic as the context from which it arises. 

Architecture, along with its allied professions of urban design, landscape architecture, and planning, must be in the forefront of creative thinking about the post-industrial era. Because we make and unmake the world daily through building, we are responsible for a large percentage of resource extraction, depletion, energy use, carbon emissions, waste and transportation costs. It is projected that buildings consume as much as 60% of the world’s energy divided between our industrial production and buildings for other uses.

The Ecological Practices Graduate Research Group offers an intense exploration of the role that our discipline plays in the making of the next world. This focus requires collaborative association with allied professions and disciplines, reinforced by our close relationship with the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, and through existing Dual Degree Programs. Using seminars, studios, research, design/build and study abroad, faculty and students endeavor to understand the opportunities and responsibilities of creating a more sustainable, healthy, vibrant and resilient world.

Related Courses

This studio initiates an inquiry at the intersection of industrial activity and ecological practice; it seeks to borrow from the systemic organizations of ecological systems to organize and construct industrial places. Both require understanding of how resources flow between and among many participants as part of a complex, interdependent system.  

This interdisciplinary seminar will study how ecological and social models of biology such as those advanced by Huxley and Waddington played a crucial role in the reformulation of the built environment as part of a complex system of adaptive interactions. 


In the first half of this course, we will develop our own surveying tools in the shop to investigate a portion of the abandoned Bethlehem Steel site Lackawanna, New York. Tools developed in the class will incorporate traditional remote sensing and surveying equipment (for position), digital and analog monitors (for phenomena), and will be recorded on a paper template.

In this course, students read broadly across disciplines and time periods, texts bound by their critical engagement of speculative futures in the built environment: science fiction, architectural history and theory, art and literary criticism.
The Ecological Practices Graduate Research Group Fall 2019 Studio will start a year long project to design an architectural and landscape intervention that facilitates observation of both the landscape and local wildlife in Silo City. This studio will address how one turns a once functioning industrial site into a site of ecological renewal. 
This course maps the terrain of ecological practices through examination of ten canonical project + text pairs.  The collection of ten buildings circumscribe a wide landscape of practices defined by differing agendas, logics, locations, and times.  The close examination allows one to better situate each in its technological and critical context, and gain insight into how such practices emerged.
This course focuses on researching and representing ecological systems and phenomena, with a concern for how visualization practices can reveal and synthesize complex social, political, and environmental relationships.
The Ecological Practices Graduate Research Group’s studio (Spring 2019) will develop and fabricate a set of experimental bioclimatic façade and screen installations that address the role of the architectural surface in the building’s adaptation to its local ecology and its ability to provide ecosystem services.
As we consider the impacts of our actions in the age of the Anthropocene, the challenges of creating more visceral, experiential resonances in the environment is often elusive, especially as we find ourselves ever more accountable to metrics and standards of performance. How do we, as designers, harness the power that architecture already yields – as forms of communication and vehicles to shape lived experiences – to address social, economic, and ecological issues, while still advocating for design itself as an essential and critical force in our culture? How will we intervene and build with resonance in the face of the Climate Crisis?
In the last two decades, some of the most comprehensive redevelopment projects in North America were initiated by economic anchor institutions. The accomplishments of these initiatives have been mixed and subject of wide-ranging debates. Furthermore, as a sign of the increased presence of medical institutions in redevelopment, environmental determinants of health and wellness concepts increasingly factor into urban design discussions. The studio will operate at the confluence of these topics and explore the gaps between anchors through speculative projects at various scales.
The Intellectual Domain course for the Ecological Practices Graduate Research Group will question how we perceive, define, represent, construct and reconstruct our world in relation to an evolving concept of “nature”. The course will focus on the intellectual trajectory of concepts of ecology, environment, and nature and their manifestation in art, architecture, and landscape architecture. 

Affiliated Faculty

Martha Bohm examines the intersection of design with energy efficiency, healthy materials and ecological sensibility through research, teaching and critical practice. She is an associate professor of architecture and associate dean for academic affairs.
Joyce Hwang is associate professor and associate chair of architecture at UB. Through her teaching, research and critical practice as director of Ants of the Prairie, she confronts contemporary ecological conditions through creative means.
Associate Professor - Department of Architecture - Hayes Hall 313 - (716) 829-5913
Nicholas B. Rajkovich, assistant professor of architecture, investigates the intersection of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and adaptation to climate change. He directs UB's Resilient Buildings Lab.