GENIUS – Better Schools, Better Cities

The GENIUS (German ENgenireeng Integrated for Urban Sustainability) workshop, held in Shanghai end of September offered the space for an exchange among school practitioners (teachers, head of schools, architects, parents and engineers, etc.) on the key success factors to create healthy and conducive learning environments. The project is initiated by the University of Stuttgart and CONSTELLATIONS in the frame of the „Shaping the Future – Building the City of Tomorrow” campaign.

The GENIUS project’s mission is to further promote knowledge for sustainable design for school buildings and leverage the potential that Germany and China have in this regard.  The key drivers for change in this field, are the rising expectations from parents towards quality education for their children; more stringent regulations from the government, including higher requirements for greener buildings; and new ways of learning that require different environments. More innovative, interactive, experiential spaces are needed to foster collaborative work and to fit increased communication and experimentation in education.

It is crucial, from the beginning of any building project, to bring all stakeholders to the table and keep the dialogue during the entire planning and implementation phase. The German architect company dieBaupiloten, took this into account and offered “The Visions and Negotiating” game, a simulation game to explore the complex and divergent needs of all stakeholders, creatively negotiating and developing a common vision for the school. The more intensely the participants reflect on their needs, the more these can be effectively incorporated in the future design – saving time and money in the building process.

The workshop offered the participants an experimental process for integrated and sustainable design for school buildings. The awareness has been raised among all stakeholders that facilitating the group of stakeholders with different views is necessary, to keep a legitimacy of the best solution and not favor one perspective over the other. However, the question is who takes over this function: the architect, the engineer, or else? The common challenge also remains as: for the technical side of the planning, what is not seen is as important as what is visible: solutions are as much services as they are products and technologies. The engineering part, from simulation to optimization is crucial to ensure the evaluation of solutions and adequate planning from a costs, resource and quality perspective. Yet usually invisible and therefore not valued enough.

The participants and everybody who is interested stay connected in the GENIUS WeChat group, that provides a platform for further exchange. The CCSBC We-Chat will provide more information on German methodologies and solutions for sustainable buildings in Germany and China. If you are interested in joining the group, please contact Chu Yan at