The Center for Sustainable Engineering, Architecture and Art – Materials, Manufacturing and Minimalism, seeks to develop an awareness of solutions to engineering problems that protect the commons. SEA2M3 is a space where true cross-disciplinary conversation and reciprocal learning generate real solutions that are imagined, created and implemented. Using their ability to communicate and infused with an understanding of the world, its peoples and cultures, students create and disseminate designs suited to, and in harmony with their place of use. SEA2M3 provides a forum within which students from the schools of Engineering, Art and Architecture come together to develop new design criteria that yield materials, manufacturing techniques, habitats and lifestyles that are sustainable, and that, ultimately, reduce the chasm between the rich and the poor.

Humankind is facing a complex set of inter-related problems associated with the future availability of, and access to, potable water, food, material resources and environmentally benign sources of energy. Humankind is essentially looking at the requirements for its survival – with the fate of each individual inextricably interlinked through their usage of, and interaction with, the commons, the natural resources that we all share and need, such as the atmosphere, the oceans and the vegetation. Through this symbiosis, each individual is partially answerable for the state of the planet. But access to and usage of these resources is unevenly distributed between the developed and developing world; further, the developed world places demandsupon these resources that cannot be sustained, whilst denuded landscapes in the developing world contribute to ever-rising levels of poverty. In consequence, we can anticipate significant changes in climate, demography and food supplies for which innovative, sustainable solutions are needed.

To extend the viability of the commons it is essential that undergraduate engineering education encourages and nurtures sustainability in its design philosophy. Working together, engineers, architects and artists should seek to provide sustainable solutions that are in harmony with the environment and the natural resources available. The need to emulate nature in function must be accompanied by diversity in form with aesthetically pleasing designs. Minimalist design, incorporated into the precepts of sustainable engineering, rethink, reduce, reuse and recycle, is used to regulate the consumption of raw materials and specify environmentally balanced manufacturing techniques.

Architecture and engineering share a synergistic existence through their provision of basic human needs such as shelter. Engineers design the infrastructure that provides food, water, energy and communications and are ultimately accountable for the state of the planet and its welfare. They are responsible for the provision of accurate, unbiased information to planning and development authorities to enable them to make decisions that preserve the integrity of the commons.

Sustainable Engineering and Development (EID 357), the first of a series of courses dedicated to the principles outlined here, is to be run for the first time in the Fall Semester of 2005.

Learn more about SEA²M³

Contact: Toby Cumberbatch (


Projects & Links

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.