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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 part-time Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment Master’s course from CISL might be perfect for you. See details of the Indicative themes covered below.

The IDBE Master’s examines sustainable architecture, sustainable infrastructure and sustainable development through some of the following themes:

Interdisciplinary criteria

This module focuses on the principles and practices surrounding collaborative working, which is the essential pattern in construction where diverse consultants, contractors, manufacturers and suppliers act jointly to develop and deliver integrated design solutions that are functional in use, within budget, and delivered on time.

Sustainability: our common future

We need sustainable architecture to meet the challenge of climate change. This module looks at the principles and practices associated with sustainable development. It makes students aware of key scientific facts surrounding climate change and the impacts of human activity on global warming, loss of biodiversity, rising sea levels, increasing wind speeds, more intense storms, and flood risk. It introduces students to the key mitigation measures as well as to the importance of adaptation; various assumptions and data about wind speeds, rainfall and summer and winter extremes of temperature need to be re-thought for new and existing buildings to be robustly design, specified and constructed.

Urban design and sustainable communities

This module of the Master's introduces students to built environment projects at the neighbourhood and city scale. It introduces the purpose and operation of town planning systems both in the UK and abroad, including issues of land use and the impacts of developing brownfield and greenfield sites. The principles of sustainable architecture, development and infrastructure as they apply at the neighbourhood scale are introduced, ranging from issues of urban and suburban density and how these impact on infrastructure including the potential for public transport, as well as the social effects. Other topics covered include: planning for the future, policy and regulation, masterplanning and visioning.

Find out more about CISL’s work in sustainable development by reading our recent publications about resilient cities. 

Design for use: the client, the user and the design team

This module of the course focuses on sustainable architecture and how to ensure we design buildings that are fit for purpose, and that are manageable in operation. The module includes techniques for identifying and prioritising clients' needs, methods for delivering value to clients and end users, and tools for valuing and demonstrating the benefits of sustainable architecture. Techniques covered will include whole life costing methods, together with concepts of whole life value, and design approaches that include consideration of flexibility and adaptability, and the relationship between the two. Calculation methods for comparing the initial capital cost of a facility, the lifetime facility management cost and the business value added over the lifetime are introduced together with their implications for brief taking, design and facility management. Factors which contribute to occupants' health, well-being and productivity are covered, including designing buildings to support 'adaptive opportunities' for occupants to customise their workplace. Quantitative approaches to assessment of the benefits of good design are introduced, together with methods to assess lifetime operating costs.

Innovation in process and product: new technologies and materials

This module looks at the principles and practices surrounding technological innovation including how to encourage innovation, manage it effectively, assess risk, and the potential benefits of interdisciplinary collaboration to support innovation.

Understanding ourselves and working with others: teamwork and leadership

This online module introduces students to a range of soft skills that are essential in the modern workplace to ensure clients and colleagues are persuaded by evidence and strength of argument, through understanding of one's own and others' personality types, and developing skills in effective negotiation, presentation and communication. Different styles of leadership are summarised, together with the assumptions about people that underlie them, and techniques for effective leadership are presented. The main forms of organisational structures found in consultancy and contracting are also examined.

Retrofit, conservation and heritage

This module focuses on the principles and practices surrounding the recognition, assessment and conservation of buildings of historic significance, either for their individual importance or their contribution to a local sense of place. Students will learn how to recognise buildings constructed at particular historical periods from their materials and form. Students will be introduced to the hierarchy of approaches for dealing with historical buildings to include conservation principles, the different between conservation and restoration, adaptation and conversion of existing buildings, and retrofitting to see how best to develop and maintain sustainable architecture. Examples will be presented of the various approaches.

Interested in building your capacity in sustainable architecture and other areas? Submit your application for the Master’s in Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment.

CISL is monitoring the Covid-19 situation and responding accordingly to UK Government and University advice. At present, we expect to deliver our Graduate programmes starting in 2021 as advertised. We are well equipped to deliver dynamic and engaging workshops remotely, should the situation demand. Find out more.

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Programme overview

Residential workshop dates for Master’s (2021 intake)

Workshop 1: 12-18 September 2021

Workshop 2: 12-18 December 2021

Workshop 3: 27 March-02 April 2022

Workshop 4: December 2022 (Actual dates tbc)

Workshop 5: March/April 2023 (Actual dates tbc)

Workshop 6: July 2023 (Actual dates tbc)

Residential workshops dates for Postgraduate Certificate (2021 intake)

Workshop 1: 12-18 September 2021

Workshop 2: 12-18 December 2021


Becky Stanley, Senior Project Manager