Sustainable Building - Performance and Design - September 2014

MSc/ PGDip/ PGCert

This course is run by the School of Architecture

This unique multi-disciplinary course is taught by architects, engineers and physicists involved in practice and research. It focuses on the theory and practice of developing low carbon and sustainable buildings.

Why choose this course?

The course is run by the School of Architecture, which is recognised as one of the country's leading schools of architecture and is consistently ranked by The Architect's Journals one of the five best schools in the UK. 

Distinctive aspects of the course include:

  • A complete module in post-occupancy evaluation, based on our groundbreaking research in this area, is available.
  • Our international standing as research leaders in thermal comfort is directly reflected in our teaching of building design.
  • We offer a sustainable design module focusing on a bioregional approach.
  • Our low carbon building technology modules uniquely combine strategic decision making with practical application.

This course in detail

The course is organised on a modular credit system, 60 credits for postgraduate certificate, 120 credits for the postgraduate diploma (9 months full-time, 20 months part-time) and 180 credits for the master's degree (12 months full-time, 24 months part-time). Modules combine a ratio of taught to self-led study. For example, a module of 20 credits approximates to 200 hours of student effort, up to 36 hours of which will normally be devoted to lectures, seminars, individual tutorials or other staff contact. The remainder of the time is devoted to student-led study and assessment.

Please note: as courses are reviewed regularly, the module list you choose from may vary from that shown below.

The core modules for the MSc and PGDip are:

Building Physics  (20 credits) provides an introduction to the basic physics required to help develop low-carbon buildings which are both energy-efficient and comfortable.

The Sustainable Built Environment (20 credits) introduces the philosophy, theories and key concepts underpinning the principles of sustainable development and sustainability in relation to the built environment within the natural world. Sustainable design is of critical importance in tackling climate change creatively and providing dynamic environments for all lifeforms.

Post-occupancy Building Evaluation (20 credits) focuses on the complex task of assessing the actual performance of existing buildings in respect of energy use, environmental impact and occupant satisfaction, known as post-occupancy evaluation (POE).

Advanced Low Carbon Building Technologies (20 credits) introduces the principles of building design and construction that minimise the carbon impact of a building including: building form and configuration and building envelop and construction to reduce energy requirements; highly-efficient heating, cooling and ventilation systems and energy-efficient appliances to minimise energy use; renewable energy (zero carbon) systems; and subtle human control systems that empower occupants to become part of the building energy operation systems.

The module emphasises the influence of the climatic context of the building, and considers techniques to achieve low carbon buildings in different climates experienced around the world.

Modelling and Passive Strategies (20 credits) provides a theoretical and practical introduction to systematic building modelling as it is related to design with climate and location.

Sustainable Design in Context (20 credits) provides the opportunity to apply in practice the design principles gained in previous modules. It focusses on the challenge of reconciling regional identity and tradition with contemporary needs in building design and performance, relating to technological change and social transformation arising from globalisation, climate change and other factors.

The compulsory modules for the MSc are:

Research Methods and Design (10 credits) aims to advance your knowledge and understanding of research methods available to those wishing to improve buildings in terms of their sustainable design and performance. It presents a variety of qualitative and quantitative research methods and provides a forum for debate about research as well as giving the opportunity to gain practical research skills.

MSc Dissertation (50 credits) The synoptic research or design dissertation gives the opportunity for application and expansion of the material presented in the programme through independent research.

Teaching and learning

The teaching and learning methods reflect the wide variety of topics and techniques associated with sustainability, low-carbon and resource efficient design. Staff-led lectures provide the framework, background and knowledge base, and you are encouraged to probe deeper into the topics by further reading and review. Analysis, synthesis and application of material introduced in the lectures are achieved through professional and staff-led workshops, group and one-to-one tutorials, student-led seminars, case studies, and practical work that anticipates the design project.

The course attracts students from a diverse range of ages, backgrounds, gender and nationalities. This offers opportunities for interdisciplinary, globally aware teaching and learning. Students are exposed to a variety of cultural perspectives and issues through the use of international case studies and draw on their diverse strengths through peer learning and group work.

An annual field trip is an opportunity to directly experience some of the very best of sustainable design projects in another culture. Previous field trips have been to Germany, Scotland and Denmark

The range of subjects draws on the research strengths of the teaching staff and enables research to inform the teaching modules. You are encouraged where possible to take part in staff research projects. We attract some of the best students in the field, drawn by the integrating basis of the programme and its solid theoretical foundation on expertise within the University.

Field trips

We make  one major field trip each year. In the past we have travelled to Scotland, Sweden, Austria and Germany where there is a  wealth of sustainable buildings. Field trips give students the opportunity to experience sustainable buildings first hand and talk to building owners and operators of low energy buildings. It helps understand some of the practical difficulties and rewards of achieving very sustainable buildings. Field trips are not included in the cost of the fees and generally cost less than £500.

Key facts


School of Architecture

Course length

Full-time: MSc: 12 months, PGDip: 9 months
Part-time: MSc: 24 months, PGDip: 18 months

Teaching location

Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane

Start date

September 2014

UKPass code


Fees / Funding

Tuition fees

Home / EU full-time on-campus fee: £8,180

Home / EU part-time on-campus fee: £4,170

Home / EU cost per module: £890

International full-time on-campus fee: £12,100

International part-time on-campus fee: £6,170

Where part-time fees are quoted this is for the first year only. Fees will increase by approximately 4% each year.

Questions about fees?
Contact Student Finance on:
+44 (0)1865 483088

Funding and scholarships

How to apply / Entry requirements

Entry requirements

Candidates are required to fulfil one of the following:

  • Hold an approved undergraduate honours degree (or equivalent) at first or upper second class in a relevant discipline ie architecture, engineering or physics and other subjects related to the built and natural environments.
  • Possess an appropriate professional background and experience in architecture, building or building servicing design.

Applications are also considered from potential candidates who wish to seek accreditation for their prior experiential learning or earlier qualifications, particularly those who have worked on projects in related fields.

A number of our applicants use the programme as a means of facilitating a career change or progression.

Applicants are encouraged to submit a digital portfolio of their design or other work related to the built environment and GRE General Test results if available.

Please also see the university's general entry requirements.

English language requirements

Please see the university's standard English language requirements

English requirements for visas

If you need a student visa to enter the UK you will need to meet the UK Border Agency's minimum language requirements as well as the university's requirements.Find out more about English language requirements.

International applications

Preparation courses for International and EU students

We offer a range of courses to help you to meet the entry requirements for this course and also familiarise you with university life. You may also be able to apply for one student visa to cover both courses.

  • Take our Pre-Master's course to help you to meet both the English language and academic entry requirements for your master's course.
  • If you need to improve your English language, we have pre-sessional English language courses available to help you to meet the English language requirements of your chosen master’s.

If you are studying outside the UK, for more details about your specific country entry requirements, translated information, local contacts and programmes within your country, please have a look at our country pages.

How to apply

You apply for this course through UKPASS.

To apply for individual modules, as part of Continuing Professional Development, please contact Dr Paola Sassi on

Conditions of acceptance

When you accept our offer, you agree to the conditions of acceptance. You should therefore read those conditions before accepting the offer.

Careers and professional development


Graduates will possess an advanced understanding of the key sustainability issues related to buildings enabling them to strategically influence feasibility and design processes within the built environment. They will be familiar with a range of models, tools and methods with which to quantify, predict, evaluate and manage building performance, and will be able to use them and switch to other tools based on an understanding from first principles.

Drawing on a working knowledge of how to minimise energy, carbon emissions and resource consumption in buildings through the various stages of their life cycles, they will be able to take account of changing, incomplete and uncertain information related to the environment. They will also have well developed skills in auditing, analysis, reporting and presentation and a thorough understanding of the interdisciplinary subject area.

Students from this course have gone on to work in a wide range of occupations from architectural and engineering practices and research consultancies to development work, furniture design, owning and operating electricity utilities, and even carbon trading.

Free language courses for students - the Open Module

Free language courses are available to full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students on many of our courses, and can be taken as a credit on some courses.

Please note that the free language courses are not available if you are:

  • studying at a Brookes partner college
  • studying on any of our teacher education courses or postgraduate education courses.


How Brookes supports postgraduate students

Supporting your learning

From academic advisers and support co-ordinators to specialist subject librarians and other learning support staff, we want to ensure that you get the best out of your studies.

Personal support services

We want your time at Brookes to be as enjoyable and successful as possible. That's why we provide all the facilities you need to be relaxed, happy and healthy throughout your studies.


Research highlights

The results of the UK-wide Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) in 2008 show that the School of the Built Environment is a major player in international research in the fields of Architecture and the Built Environment and Town and Country Planning. They also show that the school, which includes the Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development (OISD) as its primary research vehicle, is ranked fifth in the country in terms of Research Power.