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Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment (IDBE)

Part-time Master's and Postgraduate Certificate courses from the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

The University of Cambridge Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment (IDBE) part-time programme is unique in many ways. It is truly interdisciplinary, in the background of its staff and students, and in the areas it covers, but also most importantly in its approach to teaching and learning.

From its inception, Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment (IDBE) has successfully encouraged and supported the integration of skills between specialists from different background disciplines to improve project design. This includes the collaboration between disciplines, as well as with clients and the supply side of the industry.

The focus of the Master’s and Postgraduate Certificate courses is on the design phases of a project where critical decisions are made about what to build and the business case for building it; and defining project objectives, aspirations and outcomes.

The principles that inform the course delivery mean that each individual is supported in developing their full potential in a field of interest to themselves. New ideas and concepts and even ways of thinking can be applied to everyday working lives as an ongoing action learning exercise. 

How the programme is structured

Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment (IDBE) is structured around five core modules which form the basis of the learning throughout the programme.

The programme is delivered through a combination of intensive residential course weeks in Cambridge, and online learning modules.

Postgraduate Certificate students attend the first two residential workshop weeks along with the Master’s students. Master’s students attend a total of six workshop weeks during the course of the programme.

The Master’s runs on a two-year cycle and students are brought together with the cohort above and below them to further expand their interdisciplinary network and student experience.

Intensive residential workshop weeks in 2022

In the first residential workshop week, Master’s and Postgraduate Certificate students are introduced to the core modules as well as exploring the diverse project contexts under which design teams are formed. 

In the subsequent five weeks (master’s students) and in the second week for postgraduate certificate students, the modules are explored in greater depth against a ‘spotlight’ element of the built environment. These spotlight explorations allow students to investigate the variety of challenges and responses within the built environment in greater depth, with the overall objective of strengthening their individual skills.  

At present, we expect to deliver our workshops in 2022 as advertised. We are well equipped to deliver dynamic and engaging workshops remotely, should the situation demand. 

Workshop 1 

The first residential week of Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment introduces these five cross-cutting, core learning modules:

  • Sustainability and resilience
  • Innovation and technology
  • Leadership, professionalism and interdisciplinary practice
  • Design thinking
  • Research

Focus areas for workshops 2 to 6

  • Workshop 2/4: Living environments

How people live within the built environment

  • Workshop 3/5: Heritage environments

How existing heritage built environments can be fit for now and the future

  • Workshop 4/2: Working environments

How people work within the built environment 

  • Workshop 5/3: Moving environments

The movement of people and resources within the built environment

  • Workshop 6: Future urban environments

Preparing for an urban future in both the developed and developing world



The Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment (IDBE) programme does not have written exams on the factual content of the lectures. Each student identifies specific areas of interest within the built environment that are used to produce the written assignments. Therefore, it is entirely up to you which areas you choose to study in more detail, store to use later in your careers, or just enjoy for the purpose of expanding your general knowledge. Along the way you will develop core skills in critical thinking and reflection, helping you to understand the multiple disciplines and complex structure of the construction industry and related professions.

CISL is monitoring the Covid-19 situation and responding accordingly to UK Government and University advice. At present, we expect to deliver our Postgraduate programmes starting in 2022 as advertised. We are well equipped to deliver dynamic and engaging workshops remotely, should the situation demand. Find out more.


Becky Stanley, Senior Project Manager