Sustainable Architecture Diploma: Meet the Instructor, Explore the Training

Herzing instructor, Sam Graceffa has over 20 years of experience in sustainable architecture and building design

Sustainable architecture is a very fast-growing field throughout Canada and across the globe.

This industry is all about designing structures with minimal environmental impact. Sustainable building designers use cutting-edge technologies and products to conserve energy, lower costs, and protect natural resources.

In recent years, we've seen a huge push toward sustainable building. From governments to construction companies to homeowners, many people are invested in reducing the energy costs, harmful emissions, and overall ecological footprint of our homes and cities.

This is an excellent time to begin a career in sustainable architecture, and you don't need a university degree to get started. Herzing's sustainable architecture program prepares students to become architectural technicians, drafters, appraisers, or assessors in the "green" building field.

Exactly what can you expect in class? Are you a good fit for this program?

This week, we interviewed program instructor, Sam Graceffa to learn more. We found out where graduates get hired, what projects students do in class, career options after college, and which skills you need to succeed in this industry.

Read on to explore the sustainable architecture program and see if this training is right for you.


Q: Sam, can you tell us a bit about your background in architecture?

Sam: I obtained a bachelor's degree in engineering from Concordia University. After graduation, I was recruited to work in the United States in both Michigan and North Carolina, where I focused on facility building and facility construction for approximately seven years.

At that point, I decided to come back to Montreal. I began working for a residential housing construction company, and stayed with that organization for 15 years. Then I decided to make a career move into teaching.

I have been teaching the sustainable architecture program at Herzing College for almost two years now, and have genuinely enjoyed every moment. Herzing is an excellent environment for teaching and learning.

It even inspired me to pursue a bachelor's degree in education at the University of Sherbrooke!


Q: What inspired you to move from architectural designing to teaching?

Sam: In the U.S., I worked in energy management.  My focus was reducing the energy consumed by buildings, which included incorporating new technologies that are both environmentally friendly and energy efficient. 

Becoming an instructor in the sustainable architecture department was a natural progression. I really enjoy working with students, helping them succeed and pushing the limits of architectural design.


Q: What are the most valuable skills you teach in this program? What are employers looking for?

Sam: We teach all the essential technical skills and competencies, such as AutoCAD, building codes, and sustainable building standards and techniques. However, we also teach other skills that are key for building a successful career in this field.

These include good working habits, resourcefulness, and the ability to balance design with environmental impact and ecological footprint. This is the complete package today's employers are looking for.


Q: What are some hands-on design projects students do in your class?

Sam: Our students do a lot of hands-on design projects! A favourite is the "Ecological Wood Construction Project", where students get to learn and apply the principles of sustainable architecture in wood by designing their own concept.

Another great example is the "Ecological Renovation Project" where students work on updating and renovating older buildings to be more eco-friendly.

We also do a "Site Analysis and Feasibility Project", which ties together a lot of different elements like environmental analysis, topography, site planning, building codes, and green building design.

Every student completes the program with a professional portfolio of design projects that are extremely relevant to the current economic environment.


See a Complete Course List for Sustainable Architecture Training


Q: Where do Herzing sustainable architecture graduates get hired?

Sam: Most graduates obtain entry-level positions in architectural firms, construction companies, and land surveyor firms.

Many companies have hired graduates from our program, including McGee & Associates, George Elbaz Architecture, Sygma Group, Barin LLP Architecture & Design, GMI Architects, Urban Immersive, and Martha France Architecture & Design. 


Q: What natural skills and strengths does someone need to be successful in this program? 

Sam: Most successful students have artistic/creative skills along with good spatial vision. Also, it's very helpful if you can visualize concepts in 3D.

If you want a career in sustainable architecture, you will also need soft skills like good communication, the ability to truly listen to the client, and fully understand their needs and requirements.

After all, architecture is a client-driven domain. You must have a strong sense of customer service.


Q: What can you tell us about the internship?

Sam: The goal of the internship is for students to integrate and apply all the skills taught in class. This is their chance to work in a real architecture environment. They get to assist senior architects in their designs, and in some cases, create concept designs (3D models) for clients.

The sustainable architecture internship runs for 13 weeks. It's a very important part of training, as it helps students transition from school to their first job as professional building designers.


Q: What backgrounds and age groups do your students come from?

Sam: We have students of all ages and backgrounds, including many international students.

It's becoming a very diverse group. I really enjoy learning about all the different architectural styles and cultures from my students' home countries.


Thank you, Sam, for giving us this tour of the sustainable architecture program, career options, and tips for success. We're very lucky to have you on the faculty at Herzing College!


Have More Questions About Sustainable Architecture Training at Herzing?

If you're interested in learning more about the Sustainable Architecture program, we recommend getting in touch with an admissions advisor. An advisor can guide you through courses, careers, tuition, and financial aid options. We also have services and support for international students.

The program is 24 months long and includes a 13-week internship. Training is delivered online in both English and French.

Click below to explore the sustainable architecture program and chat live with an admissions advisor right now. We're here to help!

Explore the Sustainable Architecture Diploma Program



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