CCHU9001 Humanities
Designs on the Future: Sustainability of the Built Environment

[This course is under the thematic cluster of ‘Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth’.]

[This is a certified Communication-intensive (CI) Course which meets all of the requirements endorsed by HKU’s Senate, including (i) the teaching assessment of oral and digital communication ‘literacies’; and (ii) at least 40% of the course grade assigned to communication-rich assessment tasks.]

Course Description

[This Common Core course is run in ‘flipped classroom format’, i.e. the bulk of the course content is delivered on-line and classroom sessions are run in workshop format with a wide range of group activities and interactive exercises.

Information about the course, and flipped classroom teaching can be viewed at:

The course is intended to inspire thinking about the way we should construct our living environments in future, in order to find the most sustainable balance.  It explores a range of broad issues including: population and urbanization; materials resources; and human systems (such as transportation and public health), in order to understand the concept of ‘sustainable development’.  It evaluates the different media and strategies that people have used / are using to advocate for more sustainable approaches to the environment and community.

This course is run using a ‘flipped classroom’ pedagogy.  Students are required to undertake up to one hour of pre-class activities (typically watching and responding to on-line course videos) in preparation for the classroom sessions which are run in workshop format involving a wide range of group activities and interactive exercises. There are no tutorials in this course.  The on-line components deliver the bulk of the course content, in class activities are designed to develop understanding of the content, to explore contexts and interconnections, and to actively apply it to different scenarios.

Video trailer for the course  –

Reflections on ‘flipped classroom’ approach used in the 2016-17 course  –

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate understanding of the built environment in relation to its physical and socio-cultural context, and to develop and articulate ideas about the relationship between man and his environment and how human experiences and qualities are expressed in their constructions.
  2. Identify current issues relating to sustainable development and evaluate the extent to which these influence, and are influenced by, the landscape and built environment.
  3. Be able to evaluate the strategies adopted by people in making sustainability arguments, and to be able to develop an effective proposal for action on a local sustainability issue.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)

Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Online course material 16
Reading / Self-study 36
Classroom sessions 20
Workshop / Review 4
Assessment: Reading responses 12
Assessment: Project assignments 40
Total: 128

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Critical writing 20
Participation in online activities 15
Participation in classroom activities 15
Assignments and presentation 50

Required Reading

The four set readings which the students are required to read and make a written response to, will be announced in the introduction session. The readings are on current issues and will be in a variety of media, but typically will be between 2000 and 5000 words each. For example, the four readings for the 2013-14 course were taken from the following sources:

  • Brown, L. R. (2012). Full planet, empty plates: The new geopolitics of food scarcity. Earth Policy Institute. [Chap. 6]
  • HKSAR Government. (2013). A clean air plan for Hong Kong.
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). (2013). China’s green long march: A study of renewable energy, environmental industry and cement sectors.
  • Vergragt, P. J. (2006). How technology could contribute to a sustainable world. Tellus Institute.

Recommended Reading

Students are encouraged to read more widely, outside these set readings, to gain a fuller understanding of each topic and the following texts are recommended for that purpose.

  • Blewitt, J. (2008). Understanding sustainable development. London: Earthscan.
  • Burdett, R., & Sudjic, D. (Eds.). (2008). The endless city. London: Phaidon Press.
  • Cronon, W. (1996). Uncommon ground: Rethinking the human place in nature. W.W. Norton & Company.
  • Easterling, K. (2005).  Enduring innocence: Global architecture and its political masquerades. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. [Introduction, p1-14, El Ejido, pp. 39-62]
  • Graham, S. (2009). Disrupted cities: When infrastructure fails. Routledge.
  • Hall, P. (2002).  Cities of tomorrow: An intellectual history of urban planning and design in the twentieth century (3rd ed.). Wiley-Blackwell. 
  • Jackson R. J. (2012).  Designing healthy communities. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Jacobs, J. (1993). The death and life of great American cities. New York: Modern Library. 
  • Loh, C. (2004). Forward. In T. Mottershead (Ed.), Sustainable development in Hong Kong (pp. xvii-xxii). Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
  • McHarg, I. L. (1995). Design with nature (1st ed.).Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  • Rogers, P. P., Jalal, K. F., & Boyd, J. A. (2007). An introduction to sustainable development. London: Earthscan.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Mr M.R. Pryor
Division of Landscape Architecture, Faculty of Architecture
Tel: 3917 7961
Teacher(s) Contact
Mr M.R. Pryor
Division of Landscape Architecture, Faculty of Architecture
Tel: 3917 7961