Teaching The Future of The Architecture Profession with Michael Ermann

On today’s episode of the Young Architect Podcast, Michael spoke with his good friend and university professor, Michael Ermann, about the power of active learning and what to think about when preparing to choose a university and taking the AREs.

Michael Ermann Young Architect Podcast Teaching The Future of The Architecture Profession with Michael Ermann Podcast

Architect Michael Ermann

On today’s episode of Young Architect, Michael spoke with his friend Virginia Tech Professor Michael Ermann about architecture education and the new 5.0 architect registration exam.

Michael Ermann is a professor of architecture at Virginia Tech where he teaches studio at every level, building systems, code, and pro-practice content to train future architects.

Michael began his route to architecture by studying Mathematics as his undergrad at Tulane University, without an architectural focus.

He became interested in is architectural acoustics. While he was working to help create performing art spaces with Artec Consultants in New York City, the firm suggested that he go to the University of Florida for graduate school in architecture.

Not only has Michael been teaching for many years at Virginia Tech to ensure that his students will have a long-term recall of how to keep up to code with the buildings that the will either create or renovate. But as a side hustle, he has also taught at least 50 live ARE prep seminar courses across the country, created a series of videos on YouTube, and published an extensive amount of material at Amber-Book.com to help people prepare for their AREs.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode

  • Michael’s love for architecture and what schooling was like for him at Tulane University.
  • Michael’s first experience with architectural acoustics in New York City.
  • Why it was so easy for him to choose University of Florida for his graduate degree in architecture.
  • Why Michael was so interested in studying architectural acoustics.
  • How Michael began his teaching career and why he chose that path rather continue working as an Acoustical Consultant.
  • Michael’s experience volunteering to teach to his son’s 4th grade class.
  • The power of active learning for any career.
  • What ARE prep courses Michael has taught across the country.
  • Why Michael began to record videos of him teaching material and how he started this project.
  • Why some content such has air conditioning is better taught via a video than by a book.
  • How to get a discount on The Amber Book Courses by signing up with a friend.
  • Michael’s take on the new pilot program that uses architecture school to study for the exams.
  • Michael’s favorite piece of advice for studying for the AREs.
  • Why it’s a great idea to schedule out a week to take an exam every day to get it all done.
  • What it’s like working at a university and dealing with the different challenges.

 Top 3 Takeaways from This Episode

  • Active learning is one of the best ways to really take in all of the material that you’re consuming. It can be hard to retain information just from reading about it. If you really want to learn something well and keep that information for the long term, active learning practices acting out a situation.
  •  Study all of the material and take all of the exams at once. Plan to take one exam a day. You shouldn’t be studying for long periods of time in between exams. It might be expensive to take all of the exams at once, but it’s still the same price as taking the exams at once as it is spread out over a period of time.
  • Academia is better prepared to teach space, form and composition, then the firms. The firms are much better equipped to be teaching young architects about software, codes and pro-practice topics, then academia. As educators, we’re not trying to prepare the people your trying to hire as entry level staff. We’re focusing more on preparing the people who will replace you after you retire. Preparation for the first five years after school are less important, then the remaining years when the architect starts to make big decisions that impact the built environment.

Michael Ermann’s Advice for Aspiring Architects

“When it comes to studying for the AREs, the most important thing is to understand the content. The second is that there is a time tax levied on people who are unable or unwilling to think probabilistically. If you study really hard on the exams, there’s a high probability of passing. But if you’re thinking to yourself, ‘How much will I have to study in order to pass?’ then you’re missing the point. You could study for a lifetime and not pass or you could study for just four hours and not pass.”

“Your goal should not be to pass the exams. Your goal should be more meaningful than that. You should be aiming to get your license.”

“If you want to go for sustainability, focus on energy. Don’t focus on products, materials, methods, or construction. 95% of the environmental impact of a building is in its operation. Architects are often seduced by a material that says it’s ‘sustainable,’ but if you’re planning to build a sustainable building, I’d recommend that you focus more on the operations and the energy that we use today than the materials.”

“If you want to make a high performing building, the top five important things are energy use, energy use, energy use, day lighting and energy use. It will obviously vary depending on the environment and the project.”

Favorite Quotes

“We all think we have pretty good memories, but I think it’s better to study intensively for short period of time, rather than over a long period of time so that you don’t forget anything.” – Michael Ermann on why it’s better to intensively study for the AREs.

“While I was attending the University of Florida, I started to learn about the economic theory of the importance of being unimportant. It’s really straight forward. If you’re the only person at your university, firm, or wherever you are in your town who can do something unique, it allows you to have a certain amount of leverage and flexibility.” – Michael Ermann on the opportunities who will have if you become a specialized expert in one area of your field.

“We remember things when we get to act them out and we remember things as we hold props while we’re talking about them. We remember and understand things better if we can be the electrician, or be the unit of water, or be the refrigerator unit. It really doesn’t matter if you’re a college student or a professional or an elementary student. Active learning is active learning.” – Michael Ermann on why active learning is so beneficial to help us become better students and architects.

“There’s a perception amongst parents that there is a short cut to licensure, but there really isn’t when it comes to choosing which school to attend.” – Michael Ermann on choosing your education.

“When you’re preparing for the AREs, my advice is that you should focus on the content and not the format of the exams.” – Michael Ermann on where you should focus most of your attention when preparing for the AREs.

Resources Mentioned in the Show


Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect, Founder and Head Coach of the ARE Boot Camp Coaching Program & Online Study Group.

Hi I’m Michael Riscica.

My goal is to help as many people as I can PASS their exams and succeed in their architecture careers.

This is accomplished with the following offerings:

Free FB group that is 12k+ members strong
Low-cost, high-value upcoming webinar
Affordable and Quality ARE Study materials
Professional Development and Powerful Networking
Premium 10-week ARE study program