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    Sustainable Architecture Studies

    School of Architecture, Faculty of Social Sciences

    Develop a technical approach underpinned by social responsibility, carbon literacy and climate justice in environmental design. You'll study in a studio and have the opportunity to work on real-life projects with local and regional groups.
    Sustainable architecture studies students discuss project with board

    Course description

    Our MSc Sustainable Architecture Studies has been giving students and practitioners the knowledge, skills and confidence to make a real difference in the world for over 30 years. We have a community of students, staff and alumni with the aim to inspire and educate each other, to enable us all to make informed choices in our work and in our lives.

    This course will encourage you to develop a critical stance in your work and thinking. It is designed to enable you to pursue a well balanced, innovative, technical, research based approach to environmental design, so you will be able to develop informed strategies and solutions.

    Aligned with the school’s ethos of social responsibility, as a Sheffield student, you will be involved in ‘live projects’. This is where you will engage with real clients and real issues affecting the challenges of climate change and the built environment today. Using the knowledge gained from the taught modules you will strengthen your understanding and your ability to disseminate information in a real life situation.

    By the end of the course, you’ll possess the knowledge and skills to produce complex design proposals that adopt a holistic approach to design and address the social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainable architecture.

    We’re one of the UK's top architecture schools. Our international research projects shape policy and address public and professional needs.

    During your research thesis you will have the opportunity to learn with the supervision of top researchers in their specialist areas. With a shared desire to learn and develop their skills our students come from all over the world to study at Sheffield and we welcome students from a number of built environment related disciplines.

    Applying for this course

    We use a staged admissions process to assess applications for this course. You'll still apply for this course in the usual way, using our Postgraduate Online Application Form.


    A selection of modules is available each year - some examples are below. There may be changes before you start your course. From May of the year of entry, formal programme regulations will be available in our Programme Regulations Finder.

    Core modules:

    Building Environmental Simulation and Analysis

    The course unit aims to provide a general understanding of, and practical experience in computer modelling software systems. This involves the following: Thorough understanding of basic concepts of computer simulation, develop the ability to apply these concepts in real life situations. Understanding the use of computer simulation and the need to use the appropriate software to answer a specific enquiry. Understanding the relationships between the required outcome of a simulation exercise and the input details necessary to produce a valid answer.

    15 credits
    Renewable Energy

    This is a core module for MSc Sustainable Architecture Studies (MSc SAS) and optional for students from: M.Arch (RIBA Part 2) MA Architectural Design (MAAD), MA Urban Design (MAUD), MSc Architectural Engineering Design (MSc AED).

    This is a technology focused module that aims at developing students' problem solving and interdisciplinary skills. Along with the understanding of principles of renewable energy and working knowledge of related system design and sizing calculations, students will be able to develop in-depth understanding of the strategies that can be employed to evaluate the viability of on-site and / or off-site renewable technologies for integration into buildings, to supply residual energy needs. Students will be able to apply these skills in Studio and dissertation modules and beyond, giving them an opportunity to address the challenge of decarbonisation of cities.

    15 credits
    Sustainable Design Project 1

    This unit is the first in a sequence of two which are studio-based. It sets the foundations for ARC6842 Sustainable Design Project 2. The unit seeks to foster an awareness of the relationship between global environmental change and the construction and inhabitation of buildings. The unit introduces students to a range of approaches in sustainable architectural design, and encourages students to develop a critical stance in relation to theories of sustainable architecture.

    15 credits
    Sustainable Design Project 2

    This unit is the second in a sequence of two which are studio-based. It builds upon the foundations laid by ARC6841 Sustainable Design Project 1. The unit provides practical workshops in methods for evaluating the thermal performance, provision of daylighting, ventilation and embodied energy of a design project. The unit also guides students through the complexity of adopting a holistic approach to design which addresses the social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainable architecture.

    30 credits
    Principles of Building Physics for Sustainable Design

    Through lectures and workshops this module provides students with a conceptual and practical knowledge and understanding of a range of techniques in building physics that can be applied in sustainable design. The key principles that will be addressed are: the physics of heat and thermal comfort, the physics of light, the physics of sound. Additionally resource use shall be addressed in relation to energy, water and materials. The aim is to provide a toolkit of techniques and to encourage students to evaluate and / or integrate principles of building physics in sustainable design projects.

    15 credits
    Sustainable Design Thesis Project

    This module is only for MSc Sustainable Architecture Studies students and is a core module. It allows students to develop their own in-depth project based on an individual research theme and the synthesized knowledge and skills gained from all previous units required for this programme. The thesis module is a 10,000 word written research-based dissertation in an A4 thesis document.

    60 credits
    Materials for Low Impact Buildings

    This module engages through lectures and seminars with a range of materials for low impact buildings which may include load-bearing and frame construction using straw bales, rammed earth, adobe, cob, compressed earth blocks, hemp-lime blocks, earth renders and plasters, timber techniques. The aim is to give students in depth theoretical knowledge about the environmental performance, practical applications and historical use of materials for low impact buildings through lectures and seminars.

    15 credits

    Optional modules may include:

    Behaviour in the Built Environment

    The urban/built environment influences the behaviour of people; equally, people’s behaviour can shape the environment. Understanding the interaction between people and their environment promotes the design of spaces and buildings that meet the needs of the people who occupy them. This module will discuss principles of behavioural and environmental psychology in the context of the design and management of indoor and outdoor spaces, including the application and interpretation of behavioural research methods. A key objective is for students to be better equipped to deliver a sustainable environment that meets user requirements.

    15 credits
    Building Information Modelling, Management and Analysis

    This module aims to introduce Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology in practice with a focus on the technical aspects of how building data, both geometric and non-geometric, are created and integrated to support processes of designing, constructing and operating buildings. Fundamental knowledge and contemporary skills of using BIM will be delivered through a series of lectures, seminars, and hands-on workshops. Through executing individual assignments and term projects, students will learn BIM techniques to construct data-enriched virtual models and formulate critical thinking in how BIM can support innovative collaboration during various design, construction and operation phases along the building life cycle.

    15 credits
    Southern Urbanisms: Decolonial Perspectives on 'Global South' Cities

    This module aims to decolonise architectural and urban theory by engaging with Southern perspectives currently relevant in contemporary urbanisation to understand cities both in Global South and North. Built environment professionals need more awareness of the diversity of cultures and values in relation to how cities are being shaped, and thereby generate a 'pluriversal' sensitivity. Given that Northern theories often fail to articulate southern urban contexts due to difference in empirics, this module engages with both canonical and emerging conceptualisations from/on Global South cities, and Southern positions in/on Global North through lectures, seminars and a reflective essay. The module provides the necessary research skills to navigate across multiple disciplinary discourses (urban studies, geography, international development), analyse and draw insights for informing architectural and urban design processes in Global South / Southern contexts.

    15 credits
    Spaces of Feminism

    The module aims to introduce students to the relationship between space and feminist frameworks  to include questions of intersectionality, care, displacement, development, and environment. 

    Starting from a feminist perspective of space developed in the Western context, the module expands to distinct geographies to engage nuanced approaches to the question of otherness - including feminist perspectives on 'other modernities' (socialist, 'Eastern', 'Southern' and so forth). Through lectures and group seminars, the module explores contexts of geographies of the Global East and Global South to discuss their intersecting histories of feminism and space. The focus will be on postsocialist and postcolonial contexts to address wide-ranging themes, debates around embodiment and lived experience as the basis for a conception of space that examines questions of the gendered, political, racialized, and so forth dimensions of spatial experience and their intertwining. Each session is organised around a thematic lecture and followed by group discussion around a number of prerequisite text readings.

    15 credits

    The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

    Open days

    An open day gives you the best opportunity to hear first-hand from our current students and staff about our courses.

    You may also be able to pre-book a department visit as part of a campus tour.Open days and campus tours


    • 1 year full-time
    • 2 years part-time


    Your work in the design studio is supported through lectures, seminars, tutorials and practical computer work.


    You’ll be assessed on course assignments, and a final design thesis or written dissertation.

    Your career

    Our students have gone on to provide specialist expertise in their fields and developed successful careers in sustainable architectural design, sustainable consultancy, research, academia, and beyond.


    School of Architecture

    Come to Sheffield and join some of the best architecture students in the UK - our students have won prizes at the RIBA Student Awards and the Royal Academy Summer Show. They've been shortlisted in the European Architecture Medals and the Inspiring Graduate Awards. Our staff are doing world-class research, helping to make the school a leader in our field across the UK and internationally.

    We believe in architecture that makes a difference. We know that it has the potential to improve the lives of those who inhabit and use it.

    Through our internationally-acclaimed teaching and research, we explore the social, spatial and environmental implications of architecture. As a Sheffield student, you will engage with real issues affecting the built environment.

    We encourage you to explore ideas and collaborate with other students. Through group tutorials and peer review you'll learn how to express your opinions, and value the opinions of others. Sheffield is the perfect place to develop your personality as a designer.

    We provide a balance of theory, design work and professional experience. We have a strong design studio culture. The studio acts as a laboratory for trialling your creative and critical ideas, and for developing fundamental architectural skills. You'll share ideas during group tutorials and review other students' work. This encourages you to express your own opinion and to value the opinions of others, as you begin to develop your personality as a designer.

    Student profiles

    Our built environment contributes a high percentage of carbon emissions and is one of the causes for global warming. I'm hoping to apply what I learn to influence people in the building industry to consider their impact on the environment.

    Chun Yuen
    MSc Sustainable Architecture Studies

    Entry requirements

    Minimum 2:1 undergraduate honours degree in a subject related to design in the built environment, such as architecture, landscape architecture or urban planning.

    You should also provide a portfolio which includes a custom assignment. Here's what to include with your application.

    We will also consider your application if your degree is not design based but you have considerable professional design experience.

    We also consider a wide range of international qualifications:

    Entry requirements for international students

    Overall IELTS score of 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each component, or equivalent.

    Pathway programme for international students

    If you're an international student who does not meet the entry requirements for this course, you have the opportunity to apply for a pre-masters programme in Business, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Sheffield International College. This course is designed to develop your English language and academic skills. Upon successful completion, you can progress to degree level study at the University of Sheffield.

    If you have any questions about entry requirements, please contact the department.


    You can apply now using our Postgraduate Online Application Form. It's a quick and easy process.

    Apply now


    +44 114 222 0349

    Any supervisors and research areas listed are indicative and may change before the start of the course.

    Our student protection plan

    Recognition of professional qualifications: from 1 January 2021, in order to have any UK professional qualifications recognised for work in an EU country across a number of regulated and other professions you need to apply to the host country for recognition. Read information from the UK government and the EU Regulated Professions Database.