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Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment

A part-time Master's course from the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Studying at Cambridge


What is unique about the IDBE?

The Master’s in Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment (IDBE) 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, 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 course 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. Spreading the course over two years allows the assimilation of new ideas, concepts and even ways of thinking, while applying this within everyday working lives as an ongoing action learning exercise. 

IDBE is delivered through a combination of six week-long residential workshops in Cambridge, and online learning modules.

Residential weeks

The six residential weeks are structured around key themes which are annually reviewed to keep up to date with emerging trends, opportunities, and challenges within the built environment. Some of the issues recently covered have included technical innovations such as building information modelling (BIM) and low carbon energy and materials, political and regulatory changes, and the more intangible issues which form part of our daily lives as professionals working in the complex socio-technical system of the built environment. 

Workshop one

The first residential week of IDBE introduces these cross-cutting learning modules:

  • Sustainability and resilience
  • Innovation and technology
  • Design thinking
  • Leadership and teamworking
  • Research

The spotlight focus areas for subsequent workshops are:

  • Workshop two: Living environments (how people live within the built environment)
  • Workshop three: Historic environments (how existing historic built environments can be fit for now and the future)
  • Workshop four: Working environments (how people work within the built environment)
  • Workshop five: Moving environments (the movement of people and resources within the built environment)
  • Workshop six: Future urban environments (the urbanisation of the built environment)


The course does not have written exams on the factual content of the lectures. Each student identifies specific areas of interest which 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.

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Residential workshop dates for Cohort 24 (2018 intake)

Workshop 1: 09-15 September 2018
Workshop 2: 09-15 December 2018
Workshop 3: 24-30 March 2019
Workshop 4: 08-14 December 2019
Workshop 5: 15-21 March 2020
Workshop 6: 21-27 June 2020


Residential workshop dates for Cohort 23 (2017 intake)

Workshop 1: 10–16 September 2017
Workshop 2: 3–9 December 2017
Workshop 3: 18–24 March 2018  
Workshop 4: 9–15 December 2018
Workshop 5: 24–30 March 2019
Workshop 6: 16–22 June 2019


Becky Stanley, IDBE Course Administrator