The cities in which we live are environments made up of not only communities of people, but also "hardware" in the form of buildings and civil infrastructure. Moreover, urban areas cannot exist independently of the natural environment. Accordingly, environmental problems and environment formation need to be understood in terms of the interrelationships between such diverse elements. In order to accomplish this task, the Department of Socio-Cultural Environmental Studies applies, at the departmental level, the Graduate School of Frontier Sciences' guiding philosophy of maintaining a transdisciplinary approach to science.
Granted that active integration of disciplines is not always necessary when it comes to certain efforts in technological development for facility construction, as long as buildings exist in cities, and urban areas share air and water over a broader space, then buildings, cities, and civil engineering will constantly pose challenges, in one form or another, in the context of their interactions. Furthermore, human social activity is at the heart of this environment. As such, when we look at the water cycle that supports human life, we see that water and sewage systems, as part of the civil infrastructure, form a link between the city and its buildings, and that the modalities of rivers and coasts are a connection between civil engineering and the city. In addition, the development of safety and convenience as elements of the civil infrastructure requires consensus-building through social interaction between the numerous stakeholders, and the role of this development in its relationships with cities, their residents, and nature must be considered in the evaluation of architecture.
Our department comprises three core programs - Society and Humanity, Spatial Planning and Design, Water and Material Cycle - as well as the course Spatial Information Science. We engage in education and research on analysis, evaluation, prediction, creation, and management of physical and socio-cultural environments at the residential, architectural, urban, regional, and global levels.
The Society and Humanity program researches civic movements and environmental problems from the perspective of urban sociology, examining the ways in which residents control environmental problems, in the context of the formation of social and legal norms. We also use cognitive/behavioral theory, paleoarchaeology, and ethnoarchaeology to form models of environmental information and human behavior within the environment, and to conduct survey-based investigation of the socio-cultural interrelationships between humans and the environment/ecosystem.
The Spatial Planning and Design program concentrates on the collection, analysis, and integration of spatial environment information, and methods for formulating and assessing designs, with emphasis on application to urban planning and building system design. Through this research, we tackle the problems of living environments (buildings and urban space) by developing design methods and technologies that can support the creation of comfortable and sustainable environments. In addition, we explore problems in optimizing the environment load of infrastructural safety, with the goals of evaluating building resistance to earthquakes and strong winds, and developing techniques for information processing and prediction of natural environment disturbances.
The Water and Material Cycle program deals with challenges in the optimization of environmental control technologies, including investigation of strategies for applying microbial functions to environmental control. Furthermore, we conduct coastal environment research for the purpose of simulating coastal material cycles and ecosystems based on theory, experimentation, and observation, and using those findings to develop methods of prediction and assessment.
Our efforts in research and education also include Spatial Information Science courses, which are offered with the cooperation of the Center for Spatial Information Science. The informatization of problems pertaining to urban environments and regional economies plays a major role in the decision-making processes associated with environmental assessment, environmental design, municipal/regional policy, and other such areas. As the many products of spatial information science provide a platform for the advancement of socio-cultural environmental studies, this partnership can be expected to lead to the creation of new environmental sciences.
By introducing a multi-faceted approach that covers the natural and socio-cultural sciences, we provide students with the ability to accurately deal with a variety of challenges in environmental studies. One of the key features of our department is that both faculty members and students "learn together" by exploring environmental topics together. It is this setting that we foster our students to be scientists who can tackle environmental problems in a broad sense by effectively employing a variety of approaches, and by conceptualizing as a culture the development of elemental technologies for supporting those approaches.
We also play the central role in the Integrated Environmental Design Program, which develops practical skills in comprehensive environmental design, and help to run the Environmental Management Program, which provides the competencies necessary for gaining urban planner accreditation.