ENVIRON M153

Introduction to Sustainable Architecture and Community Planning

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Theodore Bardacke Full Profile > N/A Overall N/A Easiness N/A Workload N/A Clarity N/A Helpfulness
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Walker Wells See Full Profile

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A very awesome class taught by the legend himself, Walker Wells. This class is only offered during the summer and winter, and it is a mix of students studying environmental science, architecture, and environmental engineering ( maybe some others out there too but I'm not too sure). As an environmental science major, this is by far the easiest class I've taken at ucla, and though I probably didn't take away as much as I could've from the class, I definitely felt that the class gave me a great introduction to the planning and humanities side of environmental science, especially in water. The class is very group work-heavy, and I'd say the assignments push you to "read your environment" and pick apart many details that you probably wouldn't have noticed before learning about them in this class. I felt really bad for Walker and our TA though because the class was online. The class had 999 slots, and around 60 people enrolled (which is like 300% more than usual, but unsurprising given that more people are able to take summer classes since they were moved online), so they had a ton of grading to do and often took a while. However, I'd imagine this will change moving forward, so hopefully it won't be an issue for anyone. Also, Walker wasn't the most apt with zoom, so he did often have some hiccups, but no biggie, teaching is just his side gig, and he still was able to teach a lot of good stuff.

Logistics: Since I took the class over summer (session A), it was supposedly much faster paced, but even then, it was extremely manageable. The meetings were once a week for 4 hours, with a 30 minute break in between (for most of the lectures). 5/6 of the lectures were dedicated to learning, while the last lecture was for final presentations (which actually spanned two days, though you had the option to choose which day you wanted to present). However, even with 3.5 hours of lecture, it was still quite hard to digest everything that Walker said. He isn't the most amusing lecturer tbh, and about half of his slides don't have words (good and bad thing). Other topics were pretty common sense, like why humans made buildings in the first place, or how skyscrapers became possible because of the invention of the elevator. However, a lot of the topics were still super interesting. Technically, you have quite a few readings to do every week, but during class, we didn't really talk about them at all, and I did like none of them, so they aren't necessary, but you'll definitely take more away from this class if you do them all.

Grading and Assignments: Participation is a good 10% of your grade, and apparently everyone is supposed to talk in normal in-person classes, but because of the sheer size of the online class, participation wasn't graded through this way. Instead, we had 1 CCLE discussion board that we had to do, as well as a proposal for our group final project that counted for participation. However, Walker still gives lectures with the expectation that people will participate, and he can dedicate upwards of 45 minutes just for discussion. It really isn't bad; most of the in-class discussions were just about assignments that we did, and people often stepped up to the plate to participate, but it seems that in past years he would randomly call people if no one answered. Apart from this, there's 3 assignments, and a final project. The first one is really easy and just on carbon footprint and how you can change your behavior, as others have mentioned. The second one is technically kinda new, because typically a field trip to Santa Monica would take the place of this assignment. The assignment was basically to pick a building/area on/off campus or that you know and describe some features of it and how you could enhance it with nature-like elements. These two assignments were 15% each. The third assignment was a group project, with groups that were randomly assigned based on interests (water, behavior, transportation, etc.) that you checked off in a survey at the beginning of the quarter. It's supposed to be a full-blown poster, and normally you would have to chip in some money to get that crap printed out, but since it was online, we just made it on Canva. Again, it was along the lines of picking a building or project and sorting out pros, cons, sustainable features, and some basic info (some of which, like financial info and architects, are pretty hard to find). It should be noted that the building/project of choice doesn't have to be about the topic you chose in that survey. Also, this project has to be presented during class, and although I didn't present because there were just way too many groups, it's really laid back, and after some basic info, Walker chimes in and dissects various elements of your poster and links them back to class concepts. Pretty neat. This project was worth 20%. Lastly, The final project, worth a whopping 40%, was with the same group, and you're supposed to redesign some real-life parcel of land around LA (everyone is assigned the same one) into something more beneficial that's related to your topic, all while incorporating concepts learned throughout the class. You submit your 10 slides and present them to the class, ideally for 10-12 minutes. This is also very doable as long as you don't have too many ideas, focus on how your deliverable will benefit the community, create a practical/feasible project, and INCORPORATE CORRECT INDICATORS (you'll know what this means when you get to it). Yes, indicators are like a huge point in this project, so don't forget them. Although the project and presentation were easy, Walker discusses some of your points after you present, and he can be quite picky (even doing as much as pointing out grammar errors). It's good feedback though, and the more concisely you present, the more time you'll have for feedback, and thus the more points of correction you'll have when submitting the slides (yes, you get to fix them before submitting them). However, be ready to know all parts of your project quite well (which is a given of course), because he does like to ask you further about certain things or challenge them, so a divide and conquer strategy might not be the best move (or if you do so, at least know what everyone else is doing).

That's pretty much it to this course; no exams, just assignments. Definitely doable with another, and maybe even 2, other classes during summer session. Just keep in mind that because the class isn't rigorous, it's really up to you to get a lot from this class. I was definitely excited to take this class after hearing Walker speak during the Sustainability Talks, and although it wasn't the most mind-blowing class, it definitely has reminded me why I love my major. 8/10 would take again.

Summer Quarter 2020
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