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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 Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment (IDBE) programmes focus on five core modules

Sustainability and Resilience

Sustainability iconStudents will examine the principles and practices associated with sustainable development.  This includes environmental, social, and economic impacts.  Buildings account for one third of global CO2 emissions, and the built environment has a vital role to play in helping to meet emissions targets.  A more resilient built environment is also required which can better deal with the associated risks of a complex and changing climate and society.

Innovation and Technology

InnovationNew ideas, devices, and methods are constantly being introduced within various elements and aspects of the built environment.  These new materials, technologies, tools, and ways of working are helping to address the sustainability and resilience challenges.  They also help to improve efficiency, and can make built environments that are more reactive and responsive to user needs.

Leadership, Professionalism and Interdisciplinary Practice

Leadership iconThe nature of built environment projects requires collaboration from a number of disciplines.  Students will be exposed to the theories, skills, and competencies behind effective collaboration and teamwork as well as have opportunities to reflect on their personal sphere of influence, agency, and leadership.  This module also asks students to think beyond themselves to their profession, and the role of their profession in helping to shape competent practitioners for the future.

Design thinking

DesignStudents will explore the many definitions and uses for ‘design’.  First, design as a field, sector, or industry.  Design is a core component of the built environment, which as a sector contributes to national economies.  The design process must be managed and led, which when done effectively contributes to the commercial, environmental, and social success of built environment projects.  Second, design is an action or process.  The IDBE focuses on the action of the design team in projects where all members contribute to devising proposals to achieve stated aims or goals.  In this sense, all members of the design team are active designers.  It is therefore important for students to understand design process models as a way to learn more about how design happens.  By doing so, they can improve their capabilities through both taught and experiential learning. Third, design as a concept or proposal. Students will engage with enhancing their skills in developing and presenting design proposals through the studio projects.  The different projects will expose them to various built environment typologies and ask them to use assorted methods to prepare and share proposals using written, visual, and verbal communication. Finally, fourth, design as an outcome.  Students will reflect on the success and failings of built environment projects and consider how they can apply learning from this to designing places and spaces for the future.

Research Skills

ResearchReflective practice and research skills are critical to the student learning development on the programme.  Students are taught about core academic research skills including methodology, research design, and qualitative and quantitative methods.  Lectures are supported with online learning and resources; and, these skills and capabilities are applied through the various course assignments. The Sustainability Leadership in the Built Environment (IDBE) also gives students an opportunity to develop and refine their reflective practice, which helps them to recognise their personal strengths and weaknesses, develop skills in self-directed learning, and more easily quantify the learning from their experiences.  Now more than ever, the foundation skills for lifelong learning are essential in order for built environment professionals to be equipped with the relevant knowledge, principles, and skills to succeed in a constantly evolving context.



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