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Environmental Design of Buildings (MSc)

  • Duration: 1 year
  • Mode: Full time distance learning

Course options See other modes of study
Start date

Open day

Find out more about studying here as a postgraduate at our next Open Day.

Why study this course

Gain knowledge and expertise to specialise in the design of comfortable and healthy environments in and around buildings, regardless of climate, and with due regard to sustainable issues.


A leading school of architecture

Study in one of the top schools of architecture in the UK.


Accredited by the CIBSE

Accredited by the Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) and meets the academic requirements for CEng professional registration.


A range of study options

Available as a full-time, part-time and distance learning course.


Established course

Established course, providing a practical grounding in the subject of environmental design to built environment professionals since 1993.


Research expertise

Based on internationally acclaimed research expertise within the Welsh School of Architecture; we have long-standing experience in designing, monitoring and consulting on sustainable buildings such as the carbon positive SOLCER House.


Affiliate Membership

Learning Affiliate membership gained from the Energy Institute for the Welsh School of Architecture.

Energy Institute

The construction, operation and end of life treatment of buildings is often resource intensive. They require energy, electricity and water, while generating landfill waste, CO2 emissions and other pollution. With increasing awareness of dwindling global resources and the importance of sustainability issues, there is a growing demand for professionals capable of addressing and resolving environmental problems in the built environment. 

Our MSc Environmental Design of Buildings aims to develop knowledge and evidence based expertise in the design of comfortable and healthy environments in and around buildings, responding to climate, and with due regard to sustainability issues. 

The distance learning options are offered in either full time (one year), part-time (two year) or part time (three year) options, which are particularly suitable for professionals working in the field).   The distance learning route has a long tradition in the school, having been established in 2002.


Kate Paxton, MSc Environmental Design of Buildings
The distance learning programme with the Welsh School of Architecture is well-tailored to suit the needs of those learning away from Cardiff. I particularly like the fact that all lectures are recorded, including questions and discussions with the local students. This means that I don't miss out on course content, but allows me to cover all of the material in my own time, at my own pace. The staff are very supportive and offer support through online tutorials and Skype calls. I have also been able to engage with other distance learners and also local students through group work, using Skype and also through the online tutorials.
Kate Paxton, MSc Environmental Building Design (Distance Learning) MSc Environmental Design of Buildings

Where you'll study

Welsh School of Architecture

We aim to make the world a better place through contextually sensitive, sustainable and beautiful architecture.

  • icon-chatGet in touch
  • Telephone+44 (0)29 2087 4430
  • MarkerKing Edward VII Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3NB

Admissions criteria

In order to be considered for an offer for this programme you will need to meet all of the entry requirements. Your application will not be progressed if the information and evidence listed is not provided.

With your online application you will need to provide:

  1. A copy of your degree certificate and transcripts which show you have achieved a 2:1 honours degree in a relevant subject area such as architecture, building services engineering, building technology, or environmental studies, or an equivalent international degree. If your degree certificate or result is pending, please upload any interim transcripts or provisional certificates.
  2. A copy of your IELTS certificate with an overall score of 6.5 with 5.5 in all subskills, or evidence of an accepted equivalent. Please include the date of your expected test if this qualification is pending. If you have alternative acceptable evidence, such as an undergraduate degree studied in the UK, please supply this in place of an IELTS.
  3. A personal statement which includes your reasons for studying this programme and any experience with issues related to the design of sustainable, comfortable, and healthy environments within your previous studies or professional career.

If you do not have a degree in a relevant area, your application may be considered on the basis of your professional experience. Please provide additional evidence to support your application such as signed and dated employer references.

Application Deadline

We allocate places on a first-come, first-served basis, so we recommend you apply as early as possible. Applications normally close at the end of August but may close sooner if all places are filled.

Selection process

We will review your application and if you meet all of the entry requirements, we will make you an offer.

Find out more about English language requirements.

Applicants who require a Student visa to study in the UK must present an acceptable English language qualification in order to meet UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) requirements.

Criminal convictions

You are not required to complete a DBS (Disclosure Barring Service) check or provide a Certificate of Good Conduct to study this course.

If you are currently subject to any licence condition or monitoring restriction that could affect your ability to successfully complete your studies, you will be required to disclose your criminal record. Conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • access to computers or devices that can store images
  • use of internet and communication tools/devices
  • curfews
  • freedom of movement
  • contact with people related to Cardiff University.

Course structure

Our MSc Environmental Design of Buildings is delivered in two stages. Stage one (two thirds) is comprised of taught and project modules totalling 120 credits.  The final third is your dissertation (stage 2). 

As a full-time student, you will take both stages in one year.  

Within Stage 1, you will undertake five taught and three project modules before commencing your dissertation in Stage two. All modules will approach environmental design from a different angle, while focusing on specific themes, such as heating, lighting and sustainability. Throughout the course, we will address good practice in relation to environmental design of buildings in climates around the world. We will explore: 

  • Current issues facing environmental building designers and how the profession may be impacted by climate change.
  • Environmental standards - their prediction, measurement, and legislation.
  • Ways of achieving high standards of environmental performance, including user comfort and health, making appropriate use of building fabric, mechanical services and renewable energy generation and storage.
  • Broader sustainability issues that environmental designers should be aware of in order to practice in a sustainable way.

The taught modules on this course provide a grounding in environmental design and architectural science within the context of sustainable development and environmental performance of buildings. 

The project modules focus on specific themes in building design, such as climatic environment, internal building environment and passive design strategies. In these modules you will have the opportunity to apply taught design ideas to real-world scenarios. 

After completing the modules, you will prepare a dissertation, where you will analyse a subject of environmental design that interests you in more depth. 

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2024/25 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2024.

As a full-time, one-year distance learning student, you will undertake all taught modules and complete your dissertation in one calendar year

The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

Learning and assessment

How will I be taught?

You will be taught primarily through the University’s virtual learning environment, Learning Central. Through this portal, you will have access to all distance learning teaching materials for this course, which include digital screencasts and set reading material which is available digitally.  The teaching materials have been designed in accordance with Cardiff University’s Digital Learning Framework.

Due to the nature of this course, you are responsible for reading any emails sent by module tutors or announcements made through Learning Central on a frequent basis and for familiarising yourself with the module schedule and the Learning Central environment.

For the taught modules, we use audio-visual support, animated demonstrations, and interactive exercises as necessary to aid learning and implementation of subject-specific skills. You will be given access to and are expected to view/ listen to recordings of lectures or demonstrations given as part of these modules. Short tasks are set to give students opportunities for individual study and formative feedback.

For the project modules you will be offered the opportunity to put your newly acquired skills from the programme into practice in order to reinforce your understanding and skills in the subject area and to develop your problem-solving and presentation skills. We will hold tutorials in group settings through a virtual classroom and chat room where your work will be shared and discussed. You should also keep in touch with the module tutor and your fellow distance learning students through an online discussion forum, where your tutor will be able to supervise your progress as a cohort and individually.

Asynchronous learning will be supplemented by synchronous sessions in the form of project tutorials.

How will I be assessed?

Taught and project-based modules are assessed in a variety of different ways depending on the module content and learning outcomes (found in the module descriptions). We use class tests, course work assessments (such as written assessments and portfolio), or a combination of these to assess your progress on the module.

In the dissertation stage, your dissertation is the sole object of assessment. The dissertation is a written report on a piece of research which you have carried out in an agreed subject area under supervision.

How will I be supported?

All of our students are allocated a personal tutor when they enrol on the course. A personal tutor is there to support you during your studies and can advise you on academic and personal matters that may be affecting your studies. You should have regular meetings with your personal tutor to ensure that you are fully supported.

You will have access to the electronic resources from our bespoke Architecture Library and other Cardiff University Libraries.

Additionally, distance students have a dedicated programme leader whose role is specific to distance learners. This programme leader supports and guides students through their studies both academically and pastorally, and instigates the setting up of communities of practice through social media groups or other virtual group making places.

Should it be required, online Counselling and Wellbeing appointments are available.

What skills will I practise and develop?

The Learning Outcomes for this Programme describe what you will be able to do as a result of your study at Cardiff University. They will help you to understand what is expected of you. 

On successful completion of the Programme you will be able to:

Knowledge & Understanding:

  • Appraise the role of built environment professionals in supporting holistic sustainability at a range of development scales.
  • Examine the key climatic and behavioural parameters which influence occupant comfort, air quality and the energy/carbon performance of the built environment
  • Summarise how buildings use energy and emit carbon and explain how this can be minimised while maintaining human comfort in the built environment

Intellectual Skills:       

  • Synthesise complex data to facilitate decision making
  • Design, evaluate and develop creative solutions to complex problems in the context of the built environment

Professional Practical Skills: 

  • Investigate complex real-world problems in relation to the built environment and holistic sustainability
  • Critique existing information and justify decisions made while creating a design solution

Transferable/Key Skills:         

  • Create and defend complex ideas, principles and theories
  • Select and justify appropriate methods for solving problems
This University offers an exceptional distance learning opportunity for those who cannot make it to Cardiff. I got to know my other distance learning colleagues who come from different countries and backgrounds. The weekly online tutorials brought us colleagues and tutors closer together. One thing that I liked most in the final year project was that we exchanged our climates with that of our buddies for the project. I found that really fascinating. I really love the subject and in my opinion it was portrayed quite vividly.
Anne Casha, MSc Environmental Design of Buildings (Distance Learning)

Tuition fees for 2024 entry

Your tuition fees and how you pay them will depend on your fee status. Your fee status could be home, island or overseas.

Learn how we decide your fee status

Fees for home status

Year Tuition fee Deposit
Year one £11,450 None

Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland

If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss national, your tuition fees for 2024/25 be in line with the overseas fees for international students, unless you qualify for home fee status. UKCISA have provided information about Brexit and tuition fees.

Fees for island status

Learn more about the postgraduate fees for students from the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

Fees for overseas status

Year Tuition fee Deposit
Year one £28,200 £2,500

More information about tuition fees and deposits, including for part-time and continuing students.

Financial support

Financial support may be available to individuals who meet certain criteria. For more information visit our funding section. Please note that these sources of financial support are limited and therefore not everyone who meets the criteria are guaranteed to receive the support.

Additional costs

Fees cover all tuition fees, essential course costs, registration and exams. The School covers the cost of everything that is an essential part of the programme. This will be clearly detailed in programme information.  Any optional visits/field trips will incur additional cost – this will be clearly communicated to students in advance.

Will I need any specific equipment to study this course/programme?

You will need access to a computer/laptop with word processing software and good access to the internet, and which is capable of running Design Builder software.   Appropriate software should be available via the intranet and will be signposted when required.

A USB or hard drive to store your work, general stationary and some basic drawing equipment would also be useful

Where appropriate, we provide students with student licenses or access to the specialist simulation software we use on the course, however we can currently only guarantee that these work on computers with a Windows operating system.

During the course, you will have access to the specialist Architecture Library, and other University libraries.

You may also wish to purchase some of the key texts for the course. Although the texts required for study are available in the School’s library, there are benefits to owning your personal copy of key works so that you may access them whenever they wish.

Living costs

We’re based in one of the UK’s most affordable cities. Find out more about living costs in Cardiff.


Postgraduate loans

If you are starting your master’s degree in September 2024 or later, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan to support your study at Cardiff University.

Career prospects

Students on this course frequently go back into their original profession with the advantage of having a new specialism in environmental and sustainable design. Following their completion of the course, some of our students with sufficient prior career experience have gained leading roles in their respective professions.

The programme has helped a large number of professionals to pursue a career in a broad range of sectors such as (but not limited to):

  • Practice of architecture or engineering, with specialism in environmental design
  • Consultancy (building environmental analysis and building performance evaluation)
  • Academia (teaching and/or research)
  • Policy (in the UK and abroad)

Please note that this course is not suitable for those wishing to study Landscape Architecture.


During the course, we go on a range of study trips. Guided visits will be organised to buildings that demonstrate the application of ideas taught in the course.  In the past, these have included visits to the carbon-positive SOLCER House (Wales) and buildings using innovative approaches to energy efficiency in Spainand Zurich.

Distance learners are invited on and welcome to attend study trips, although it is not compulsory.  Distance learners who have attended in the past have found the experience beneficial.

Navarra field trip
Students on a recent sustainable architecture study trip to Navarra, Spain..

Next steps


Open Day visits

Register for information about our 2023 dates.

Make an enquiry

Contact us for more information about this course.


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Related searches: Architecture, Civil engineering, Environmental science, Sustainability

HESA Data: Copyright Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited 2021. The Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited cannot accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived by third parties from its data. Data is from the latest Graduate Outcomes Survey 2019/20, published by HESA in June 2022.