Margot McDonald


Photo of Margot McDonald

Position Professor
Office Hours F23 By appointment only 

Areas of Expertise


Margot McDonald is a professor of architecture at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo whose teaching has focused on an integrated project delivery studio with the disciplines of architecture, structural engineering, construction management, and landscape architecture before serving as interim department head.  Other teaching areas include building energy courses (heating, cooling, lighting, acoustics, water and waste), historic preservation, and 4th year design in the B.Arch. program at Cal Poly-SLO.

Her professional consulting work includes collaboration with Sasaki Associates on the sustainability master plan for Cal State University-Monterey Bay and as a team member on a campus proposal for a biological solid waste and wastewater resource recovery facility for Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. In 2004, she was recognized for leading the Sustainable Environmental Design Education (SEDE) program (, a comprehensive curriculum framework for architects and landscape architects funded by the California Integrated Waste Management Board.

She has been a design juror for the energy utilities programs, “Savings by Design” and the "Leading Edge Student Energy Competition." She is the faculty advisor for the Sustainable Environments Minor, an interdisciplinary degree program that collectively received an AIA/Committee on the Environment eco-literacy award in May 2005. In 2006, She was appointed chair of the US Green Building Council’s Formal Education Committee and elected to the Board of Directors of the American Solar Energy Society (ASES). She began her affiliation with ASES in 1987 after attending a national solar conference as a graduate student working under University of Oregon Professors John Reynolds and G.Z. Brown. She has also served as Chair and Vice-chair of the Solar Buildings Division of ASES.

Professor McDonald is a licensed architect in the State of Oregon. She holds a Masters in Architecture degree from the University of Oregon as well as undergraduate degrees in Mathematics and French from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She is a doctoral candidate (ABD) in the Geography Department at UC-Santa Barbara where she is designing a climate classification system for passive and low energy buildings in California.


Educational Credentials:

Ph.D. candidate (A.B.D.), Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara
M. ARCH. University of Oregon, Eugene, OR  
B.S. Math. University of California, Santa Barbara             
B.A. French, University of California, Santa Barbara          

Teaching Experience:

Professor, Architecture Department, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

Professional Experience:

Architect, Thallon & Edrington Architects, Eugene, Oregon 
Intern Architect, Robertson Sherwood Architects LLC, Eugene, Oregon     
GIS Programmer, Henningson, Durham and Richardson (HDR), Santa Barbara, CA    


Architect, Oregon Board of Architectural Examiners (1990-present)
NCARB - National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (1990-present)
LEED AP – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (2002-present)

Professional Memberships:

AAG (American Association of Geographers)
AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) and Historic Resources Committee (HRC)
ASES (Fellow, American Solar Energy Society)
IALD (International Association of Lighting Designers)
SBSE (Society of Building Science Educators)
USGBC (US Green Building Council)


Selected Publications and Recent Research:

  • McDonald, Margot and Carolina Dayer, editors.  Activism in Architecture:  Bright Dreams of Passive Energy Design.  New York:  Routledge. 2019.
  • CAED Resiliency Symposium Proceedings, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Feb. 22-23, 2018. (to be released in January 2019).
  • Vanasupa, Linda, McCormick, K., Stefanco, C., Herter, R., and M. McDonald. "Challenges in Transdisciplinary, Integrated Projects: Reflections on the Case of Faculty Members Failure to Collaborate," Innovations in Higher Education, v.37, 2012.

Selected Activities:

  • National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics.  Undergraduate Research Convocation.  Washington, DC.  2016.
  • AIA/ACSA Intersections Workshop.  Atlanta, GA, May 2015.
  • AIACCC 2030 Workshop, Climate Responsive Design. San Luis Obispo, November 2012.
  • Council for Educators in Landscape Architecture (CELA). An Integrated Studio for Architecture and Landscape Architecture panel. Los Angeles, CA, April 2011.
  • National Science Foundation, Integration of Practice and Technology. Workshop participant at University of Pennsylvania, November 2010.
  • American Institute of Architects (AIA) National Convention. Net-Zero Energy Buildings Design Charrette Workshop instructor, Miami, FL, June 2010
  • Pennsylvania State University, Sustainability Symposium panelist and speaker at the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, October 2009.
  • American Colleges and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) Climate Leadership Summit. Representative for the USGBC Formal Education Committee.  Chicago, IL, August 13-14, 2009
  • USGBC Formal Education Committee Strategic Planning Retreat.  Committee Chair and co-Facilitator. Washington, DC, August 9-10, 2009


Margot McDonald (ARCH) was elected in 2010 to the American Solar Energy Society’s Board of Directors for a two-year term. She has been a member of the society for over twenty years during which time she has served as a technical reviewer for the national conference, chair of the Solar Buildings Division, chair for the passive solar (SOLAR 2004) conference, and guest associate editor for the affiliated scientific peer review publication, the International Solar Energy Society’s Solar Energy Journal.

In summer 2006, she was also appointed chair to the US Green Building Council’s Formal Education Committee addressing the needs of green building education in K-12 and post-secondary (college and university) settings. The committee held a retreat in Washington, DC this August and will hold an Educator’s Forum at GREENBUILD 2006 in Denver later this year.

Also this summer, she was a design juror for the 2006 Leading Edge Student Energy Competition together with architect Hank Koning of Koning Eizenberg, Santa Monica, and Greg Ander, AIA, Southern California Edison. This year’s competition had over 400 entries in two challenge categories that ranged from community college through graduate students focusing on energy efficiency and green building. This year’s theme was "Recreation, the Design of an Environmental Museum and Interpretive Center at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California" (site of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station).

In fall 2006, she was invited to be a reviewer for the national American Institute of Architect’s (AIA) 50-to-50 Initiative that will provide architects with a tool kit for the 50 top ways to achieve a 50% reduction in carbon emissions in building operations by 2010. The tool kit will be showcased at the AIA National Convention in San Antonio, Texas this May when Prof, McDonald will join a panel of experts from other U.S. universities speaking on ecological design education. Prof. McDonald’s work on green building curriculum was recognized in the recently released book, Ecological Design and Building Schools (New Village Press, 2005).


Updated 01.07.19

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