Building Sustainable Communities

Student Success Story

Portrait of Nancy Springett

Nancy Springett

Master of Liberal Arts, Sustainability Degree Program '14

Sometimes academic work can be theoretical or abstract. But not for Nancy Springett. Already a licensed architect, she wrote her thesis on self-sufficient, sustainable residential building designs in Saudi Arabia. And now she’s bringing her thesis to life.

Springett and her husband, residents of Warwick, RI, are partners in a venture to develop a 1,200-acre site in Riyadh that will include housing units, schools, and a wellness center. The project is supported by technology and planning that optimize resource usage.

What made you decide to return to school?

I had been a practicing architect for 15 years. I spent many years designing public schools, and four years with a firm whose focus was on multifamily housing projects.

In 2009, I was finishing a 241-unit apartment building in Boston and, because of the economic crisis, found myself without employment.

I decided to take some classes, building on my architectural background, and thought this field would be a valuable addition.

How has your Extension School experience influenced the path you’ve set for yourself?

The classes I took in the program, combined with my architecture background, have prepared me to focus on incorporating sustainable practices in our project in Riyadh.

I’ve been able to research energy and water usage for housing, and make recommendations for our project. The Saudi government heavily subsidizes the prices of fuel, water, and energy for domestic consumption, which has disincentivized conserving water and energy.

What I like most is that it is an exciting and challenging project with a focus on providing a lifestyle of health and wellness for the community.

What do you like most about the work that you do?

For the past four years, I have had the opportunity to work with an experienced team of professionals—including experts in corporate strategy and finance, physicians, and master planners—to develop a sustainable community that is going to enhance the standard of living for the young population of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Among my next steps will be to analyze the energy and water use of a typical Saudi household and identify opportunities to conserve natural resources that are economically and environmentally feasible.

What I like most is that it is an exciting and challenging project with a focus on providing a lifestyle of health and wellness for the community. There will be neighborhood village centers where residents can walk to schools, markets, and wellness centers.

The center of the community will have a hospital, a university, and a technical college that will provide healthcare and education, and create jobs for the city.

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