An ecological context for the built environment

Architects build structures that serve as environments for organisms: human beings. Therefore, it is crucial that architects understand the ways in which organisms interact with the environment and other organisms. This course will investigate topics in Ecology that will enable students to think more broadly about what it means to design living and working spaces.

Course goals

By taking this course, students will...

Student learning objectives

By the end of this course, students will be able to...

Course calendar

The calendar below is an example of how the course has been structured in the past. Like most non-studio three-credit classes at Pratt, the course meets for a total of 45 in-class hours— one weekly session of 3 hours for each of 15 weeks.

  • Week 1

    Basic Ecological Concepts; Ecosystem Services

  • Week 2

    Natural Selection and Evolution

  • Week 3

    Food Webs and Ecological Efficiency; Population Dynamics

  • Week 4

    Island Ecology; Introduced Species

  • Week 5

    Biomes, Disturbance, and Succession

  • Week 6

    Biodiversity and Conservation; Preserves and Parks

  • Week 7

    The Human Condition I: Population


  • Week 8

    Self-guided trip to the American Museum of Natural History

    Class will not meet

  • Week 9

    Human Condition II: Energy and Water Resources

  • Week 10

    Human Condition III: Urban Landscapes


  • Week 11

    Human Condition IV: Pollution and Cradle-to-Cradle Design

  • Week 12

    Climate Change

  • Week 13


  • Week 14

    Synthesis / Review


  • Week 15


Textbooks, readings and materials

Students do not have to purchase any reading material for this course. All required readings will be posted as PDFs or made otherwise accessible through the course website on Pratt's Learning Management System.

Course readings will include book chapters, government reports, articles from peer-reviewed journals (e.g., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science, Nature, BioScience), mass-market science periodicals (e.g. Scientific American), and recent articles in the popular press. To comply with "Fair Use" copyright guidelines, students will need to authenticate with a Pratt userid and password to gain access to readings.

An optional, recommended text Enger, E. D. and Smith, B. F., (2006) Environmental Science: A Study of Interrelationships, Eleventh Edition, McGraw-Hill Higher Education, New York, 488 pgs. ISBN 0073304476 is available for purchase in the PrattStore or online at your favorite retailer. Consider purchasing this if you'd like to explore further. It is NOT required to purchase this book.

There will be a small fee and subway fare associated with a self-guided trip to the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan.

Projects, papers, assignments

Assessment and grading

Final course letter grades are based on 100%–90% for A-range, 89%–80% for B-range, etc.

There are NO opportunities for extra credit.

Course policies


It is absolutely in your best interest to attend all class sessions. Absences and late arrivals/early departures will count against your Participation grade. On the comprehensive Final Exam, you are held responsible for all material covered in the course, regardless of whether you were present.

If you are absent AND if you contact me within a day of your absence, I will provide you with an out-of-class assignment which will be due at the next class meeting. This assignment will require well-researched answers to a series of questions that parallel the lecture and class discussion. Answers will require explicit citation to required articles and supplementary reading, and may require additional research to demonstrate graduate-level understanding. Timely and satisfactory completion of the out-of-class assignment will give you a chance to earn participation credit up to the full amount for the missed session. If you elect not to complete the out-of-class assignment, you will receive zero participation credit for the session you have missed. Because it is possible to complete Reading Reports two weeks before the class meets, on-time submission of the Reading Report will still be expected for most absences; exceptions for emergencies may be granted at the discretion of the instructor.


As per Pratt Institute policy: I will only consider granting an incomplete if a student in otherwise good standing within the course can provide a compelling and exceptional reason for the request (e.g., documented unexpected illness, death in the immediate family, etc.) — in writing — before the final exam, and agrees to a contract for completion of all missing material. In no circumstance will incompletes stay on a transcript for more than one semester. An incomplete will automatically change to a grade of "F" if the deadlines and expectations in the contract are not followed.

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