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February 22, 2017

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Programs help students lead in China's development

CHINA’S construction industry, which accounts for a significant proportion of the country’s gross domestic product, is going through dramatic changes to address ongoing economic and environmental challenges.

The National People’s Congress addressed many of these challenges in the 13th Five-Year (2016-2020) Plan, which announced key features encouraging green growth, adaptation to urban planning, and optimization of urban transport systems.

In response, there is increasing demand within the industry for innovations to reduce waste and environmental damage as well as for more energy-efficient buildings, while similar changes also extend to urban planning and design, where professionals must accommodate the rapid momentum of China’s urbanization and address environmental concerns.

With millions of people continuing to migrate to China’s cities, proper urban planning, design and construction, with a focus on sustainability, environment, and energy conservation, are essential, and there is huge demand for skilled professionals to lead this work.

A number of postgraduate degree programs at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in Suzhou are addressing this demand and equipping students with the skills they need to lead changes in China’s urban development.

The MSc Sustainable Construction program enables civil engineers to take a leadership role in promoting sustainable development, by providing creative and innovative solutions to the challenges associated with sustainability in civil engineering practices.

“The program primarily focuses on the integration of renewable energy strategies in the design of buildings and large-scale infrastructure,” says program director Konstantinos Papadikis.

“We also look at the incorporation of recycled materials into construction as well as sustainable drainage systems, building information modelling, and life-cycle assessment of engineering projects.”

Students develop skills that can be put to use on a wide range of real-world projects both when they graduate and while they study.

One such project, being led by researchers at XJTLU with a local construction company, looks into the use of recycled materials in construction in order to produce permeable pavement blocks made from recycled aggregate, a waste material from the construction industry. The 600,000 yuan (US$87,250) project could help combat urban flooding.

The Department of Industrial Design at XJTLU is also involved in the project and offers a competitive MDes Industrial Design program. Aimed at graduates or professionals with design or engineering background who want to broaden and deepen their design and research thinking, the MDes Industrial Design allows students to develop an appreciation for cross-cultural approaches toward design and product, service and systems development.

Students are given a solid preparation for careers such as design practitioners, design managers, as well as for further studies in design-related PhD programs.

Opportunities abound

The Suzhou Industrial Park area, where XJTLU is located, is an ideal place to study environment-related subjects as it is a model of sustainable construction practices and innovative urban design and architecture.

“The use of recycled materials is one of the primary aspects of the development of the area, while construction incorporates all of the technologies and methods that students will be taught in class,” says Konstantinos.

“Students take part in site visits and fieldwork and there are plenty of opportunities for them to see in reality what is actually happening in modern construction.”

XJTLU’s MSc Urban Design program also offers students the chance to see methods studied in class put into practice.

Student Liu Wang Chen says: “We go on many field trips and we have very passionate tutors. I studied interior design for my bachelor’s degree, which is more about detail on a small scale. Urban design is on a bigger scale and there are challenges involved, but I like that.”

The program allows students to engage in the complex issues of urban space production in the dynamic Chinese context. It considers the interplay between spatial design and social, economic, environmental and political issues evident in a range of urban settings. Graduates of the program, as with all XJTLU masters degrees, earn a University of Liverpool degree that is recognized by the Chinese Ministry of Education.

“When I graduate I plan to work for a design studio,” says Liu Wang, “and to gain enough experience to start my own. I recommend this program as you can learn theory and practice your design skills.”

Part-time options are available for all these programs allowing students to fit earning a highly valued degree from an international university around work commitments, while, at the same time, contributing to innovations in China’s design, construction and urban planning industries.


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