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


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.

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.  

Affiliated Faculty

Martha Bohm is a professor of architecture and the faculty lead for the GRoW Home, UB's award-winning entry in the 2015 Solar Decathlon. Her research and teaching intersect design, ecological practices, sustainability and environmental systems.
Joyce Hwang's research and creative practice confronts our contemporary ecologies, with current works incorporating wildlife habitats into constructed environments. She is a recipient of the 2014 Emerging Voices Award from the Architectural League of New York.
Laura Garófalo-Khan’s research, pedagogy, and practice focuses on the conjunction of natural and architectural systems.
Brad Wales has 28 years experience working years as a sole practitioner registered in NY and NJ. His work focuses on community-based green projects, focusing on mixed-use design, streetscape and pocket park design, and passive solar design, with an overall emphasis on issues of durability.
Sean Burkholder is an architect whose work coalesces around issues characteristic of the Great Lakes region, including urban vacancy, fresh-water ecosystems, infrastructural re-purposing, dredge material management and the urban/water interface.