College of the Canyons Faculty Interview

Jason Oliver

College of the Canyons Architecture and Interior Design Department Chair

How It All Began

Jason’s passion for energy and sustainable architecture was ignited during his early days as a student at a community college in Southern California. He found himself drawn to the intricate dance between aesthetics and energy efficiency in building design. To him, designing a building was not just about creating visually stunning structures, but also about ensuring that they performed efficiently in terms of energy consumption. It was this delicate balance that truly excited him.

As he delved deeper into the world of architecture, Jason’s journey led him to the University of Colorado, where he pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Design followed by a Master’s degree in Architecture. However, what truly set him apart was his commitment to learning on the job. Jason worked for an architecture firm while studying, and this hands-on experience taught him how to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application. It also led to his pursuit of a professional credential in sustainable building practices offered by the U.S. Green Building Council known as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

Commitment to Education

In 2003, Jason embarked on a new adventure—teaching. He joined College of the Canyons and brought his wealth of knowledge and experience to the Architecture and Interior Design program. He saw teaching as an opportunity to inspire the next generation of architects and designers and foster their introduction to sustainability.

Throughout his tenure at College of the Canyons, Jason has actively participated in the program’s growth and evolution. He became the department chair in 2017, overseeing the education of students who aspired to become architects, engineers, and construction professionals. His vision was clear: to equip students with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the dynamic field of sustainable architecture.

A typical day in the program is diverse and engaging. The curriculum includes a wide range of courses, from traditional lectures covering architectural theory to design studios where students learn to bring their creative visions to life using performance based, iterative design methodologies. The program’s students have a reputation for excellence, often participating in prestigious national design competitions and winning accolades.

Preparing Students for Success

Jason is particularly proud of the program’s involvement in the Solar Decathlon hosted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). “The students have a knack for pushing the boundaries of sustainable design and energy efficiency” Jason explains. “Moreover, they have expanded their horizons by engaging in Project-Based Learning with international partner universities in Central and South America, as well as Europe.” These unique opportunities allow students to collaborate with peers from diverse backgrounds and gain a global perspective on sustainable architecture.

What makes College of the Canyons’ program truly unique is its forward-thinking approach. It is one of the first community colleges to offer extensive coursework in sustainable building design through its LEED Green Associate prep program. Jason and his colleagues are also in the process of developing a Bachelor’s degree in Sustainable Architecture, a groundbreaking endeavor that would make the college the first in California authorized to offer an upper-division degree in Architecture grounded in the principles of pursuing a net-zero environmental impact.

The most rewarding part of teaching, according to Jason, is watching his students thrive professionally and personally. He takes immense pride in knowing that his guidance has set them on a path to fulfilling careers in sustainable architecture. As they entered the workforce, they not only designed buildings but also play a crucial role in shaping a more environmentally conscious future.

As Jason looks ahead, he has valuable advice for future students and those aspiring to join the sustainable architecture industry. Beyond technical skills and academic knowledge, he emphasizes the importance of networking and building relationships with industry professionals. He believes that these connections will open doors to exciting opportunities for learning and employment.