Built for the future

Sustainability is here to stay.

More and more businesses in the built environment are adopting sustainability policies and practices. They’re aligning their business models and processes with the UN Sustainable Development Goals in mind, and there’s a real hunger for sustainability talent.

This presents an opportunity to be at the forefront of long-term change and innovation in this shifting field.

Change doesn’t happen just by keeping up with current affairs. Senior leaders and sustainability experts need to be future-thinking and challenge what has gone before or been set in strategy. You may know what your organisation has been doing – but do you know if it’s the right thing to do?

UCEM’s MSc Innovation in Sustainable Built Environments will upskill your critical thinking and enable you to create long-term strategies so that your actions, input, and understanding of sustainability stay valuable, both now and in the future.

Reasons why degree is for you

Why study this degree?

Gives you sustainability skills that are in-demand

Allows you to be the professional voice of sustainability

Equips you with a future-proof set of transferable skills

Enables you to adopt a long-term vision for creating sustainable strategies.

About the programme

What can you expect?

The MSc Innovation in Sustainable Built Environments was designed as a response to the complex challenges faced by the built environment, an industry known for its fragmentation and slow adaptation. That’s why collaboration and interdisciplinary partnerships are emphasised in this programme, demonstrating that collective efforts across organisations are the only way to address sustainability challenges effectively.

While net-zero and carbon emissions are a significant concern, the MSc extends its focus to encompass all facets of sustainability. This is in alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This holistic approach emphasises the integration of the socio and the technical elements, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of sustainable built environment.

Through live peer discussions and lectures, you will develop the expertise needed to drive change through challenge, literacy, and leadership. You’ll dive deep into the current sustainability discourse and go beyond the superficialities surrounding the topic, enabling you to ask the right questions at the right time.

Equipped with critical skills and influential language, you will build your capability to lead your organisation and navigate complex sustainability challenges, combating mainstream perceptions and transforming theory into action.

Who is this programme for?

Built for you

Built environment professionals who are looking to affect change in their organisation

Career professionals operating in roles such as manager, associate, head of, regional director, department director level working on projects and portfolios as architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, building surveyors, project managers or planners and those involved in estate, asset, and facilities management, such as clerk of works, estates, or facilities managers.

Applicants are likely to have a degree in a built environment discipline, e.g. construction, real estate, engineering, architecture, or planning. They may have chartered membership in a built environment professional body and some years of experience.

Sustainability or assurance specialists looking to practise in the built environment sector

Candidates who have a degree in a related subject such as business, economics, geography, psychology, or environmental science. They may hold chartered status in an associated field, and/or have practical experiences as:

  • Quality or health and safety officer
  • Sustainability coordinator
  • ESG coordinator
  • Analyst or graduate analyst

They could be professionals who are transferring cross-sector to take up roles in construction or real estate and want to improve their sector understanding and needs, with a special interest in sustainability.

This course will allow you to push the boundaries, think afresh, be the champion and changemaker. Sustainability is not defined; it’s an evolving process, be part of shaping that process.”

Dr Graeme Larsen
Associate Dean (Sustainability)

Benefits for students

Enhance your future career

In a rapidly evolving landscape that is demanding expertise in sustainable built environments, the skills and knowledge you will gain from the MSc will create opportunities in a variety of roles. Here are some of the ways the programme could cater to your professional growth:

For professionals in decision-making roles:

As regulations, legislation, and planning requirements continue to evolve, professionals are increasingly tasked with ensuring compliance while driving progress. The MSc addresses these needs by helping you to:

  • Understand the complexities of reporting progress on diverse metrics
  • Articulate a clear project vision and maintain effective project delivery
  • Optimise portfolio performance through effective team management and leadership
  • Understand the impact of sustainability mandates on decision-making
  • Develop strong business cases to convince stakeholders to embrace the change needed

The ongoing skills shortage poses challenges for employers. This programme will help you stand out to recruiters and build your reputation as a valuable asset for your organisation.

For real estate advisors, surveyors, and planners

If you are in this category, staying ahead of regulatory shifts and client demands is paramount. This MSc will allow you to:

  • Understand your client’s needs for reporting progress and implementing sustainability initiatives
  • Provide strategic advice in a sustainable context
  • Advocate for sustainable business practices and create compelling business cases
  • Bridge the skills gap by broadening sustainability literacy across the entire organisation, not just within specialist teams

The MSc helps to foster future leaders through strategic growth initiatives, allowing you to fill critical leadership gaps and thrive in a competitive job market.

For professional design and construction teams

In the multidisciplinary world of design and construction, sustainability is a priority for most of your stakeholders. This programme will enable you to:

  • Understand evolving regulations and guide clients towards achieving sustainability targets
  • Lead in delivering client visions
  • Collaborate across various disciplines, addressing complex challenges and advancing innovation in the process
  • Build sustainable literacy across your entire team to drive unified progress

Immediate job impact

The MSc Innovation in Sustainable Built Environments doesn’t just aim to enhance your future prospects. It also can offer immediate and substantial benefits to your current role. Here are some ways the MSc can provide tangible results and professional growth:

Elevated confidence and stakeholder engagement

This programme will provide the confidence you need to converse with stakeholders, fostering dynamic discussions that drive decisions. As you deepen your sustainability literacy, you can become a powerful advocate for innovative approaches, shaping the direction of projects.

Effective communication

Sustainability concepts can be complex. This programme will allow you to become adept at translating these intricate principles into accessible language for stakeholders across the sector. This proficiency will allow you to bridge the gap between technical intricacies and practical implications.

Interdisciplinary insights

By collaborating with professionals from diverse backgrounds within the built environment, you will gain a wider perspective on sustainability applications. This exposure will open your eyes to innovative strategies that extend beyond your field, promoting a holistic understanding of sustainability that you can apply immediately to your job role.

Programme structure

Module delivery structure

This is a part-time programme, offered at three qualification levels, as a full MSc (2 years), PG Diploma (18 months) and a PG Certificate (1 year). Get in touch with our enquiries team if you would like more information on these levels of study.

The programme will be delivered online through live peer engagement sessions, guided study and activities, plus independent learning and reading.

The MSc Innovation in Sustainable Built Environments route is 180 credits:

You will study all modules including the final project or research dissertation

The PG Diploma Innovation in Sustainable Built Environments route is 120 credits:

You will study Realities of Sustainability, Paradigms of Sustainability, Sustainable Infrastructure, Sustainable Materials, Processes and Technologies plus two electives from the Year 2 pathways

The PG Certificate Sustainable Building and Property Studies route is 60 credits:

You will study Realities of Sustainability, Sustainable Materials, Processes and Technologies, Sustainable Infrastructure

Modules you will study

Year 1

Below are the modules for year 1 (depending on the qualification you choose) along with an overview of the topics you will study.

Paradigms of Sustainability (20 credits)

In this module, you will develop a critical understanding of the paradigms of sustainability. You will question assumptions about predominant themes in the industry and explore various drivers of sustainability.

By examining their impact on the creation of a sustainable built environment, you will gain a deep understanding of cultural, social, economical, and financial sustainability, as well as climate change. Through this exploration, you will recognise how these factors influence the triple bottom line: profit, people, and the planet.

This knowledge will equip you with the necessary skills to become a leader in driving change for a sustainable built environment.

Paradigms of Sustainability Module Descriptor >

Realities of Sustainability (20 credits)

There’s a wealth of conflicting information surrounding sustainability. This module will enhance your ability to identify and evaluate information and data sources related to sustainability in the built environment.

You will learn how to critically analyse and synthesise information from diverse sources, enabling you to distinguish facts from fiction.

This module includes the appraisal of live case studies, allowing you to enhance your academic literacy and create work that will be peer-reviewed and disseminated. Through this process, you will demonstrate your knowledge and awareness of the leading-edge themes in the creation of a more sustainable built environment.

Realities of Sustainability Module Descriptor >

Sustainable Materials, Processes and Technologies (20 credits)

The aim of this module is to introduce you to the current discourse on sustainable materials, processes, and technologies (MPT) and their role in building a more sustainable built environment.

Taking a socio-technical approach, you will gain knowledge of the stakeholders and agendas that shape the adoption of sustainable MPTs. You will examine the digital agenda and consider the impact of the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) on the built environment.

By identifying current and emerging concepts, you will understand their significance in achieving a sustainable built environment.

Sustainable Materials, Processes and Technologies Module Descriptor >

Research Skills and Current Affairs (10 credits)

This module gives you the opportunity to enhance your research skills and navigate the ever-evolving discourse surrounding sustainability. It will enable you to investigate sustainability from both academic and practical perspectives, preparing you to undertake either a research dissertation or a work-based project.

You will develop knowledge and understanding of social research skills and apply critical thinking to hypothetical and existing perspectives, trends, dynamics, and principles. This will enable you to comprehend the social factors and influences of sustainability in the built environment.

Research Skills and Current Affairs Module Descriptor >

Sustainable Infrastructure (20 credits)

Understanding the components and systems of a country, region, or community’s social infrastructure is a key part of learning about the built environment. This module will provide a critical understanding of how different constituents, such as transport, water waste, and digital infrastructure, can drive and accelerate change toward achieving a sustainable infrastructure.

By adopting a holistic and open system view, you will evaluate the built environment’s relationship with power sources like gas, electricity, and solar, identifying challenges in incorporating sustainability into the agenda.

Sustainable Infrastructure Module Descriptor >

Year 2 Pathway Routes

The module options in the second year are delivered as pathways allowing for different industry roles and your individual career needs. Below are the modules, along with an overview of the topics you will study.

Option A) Leadership and Management

Operationalising Sustainability (20 credits)

In this module, you will explore sustainable practices implemented by built environment organisations. You will critically evaluate and develop an understanding of the leadership and management skills required to be sustainable in the sector.

The module covers how to sustain a competitive advantage through future innovation and trends, building a sustainable workforce by addressing diversity, inclusion, race, bullying, and sexism, and examining the economic and financial models that shape the built environment.

You will also explore alternative models with international sustainability implications.

Institutional Quality for Sustainability (20 credits)

This module delves into the standards for sustainability, including BREEAM, LEED, UNSDG, ESD guidance, and ISO14001. It explores how these standards can be implemented and equips you with the skills to identify key organisational logics needed to address and maintain quality issues that impact sustainability.

By critically understanding the institutional quality agenda, you will be able to assess what, how, and by whom these standards should be measured.

Option B) Technical

Sustainable Buildings and Cities (20 credits)

You will be introduced to the concept of technical sustainability of our existing buildings, towns and cities as well as the ways they are influenced by both national and global agendas.

This module will highlight how the focus of sustainability is currently on new-builds and examine the range of approaches to address the sustainability challenges that come with our existing buildings. These include retrofitting, analysis and adaption modelling, building flexibility, maintenance and BMS.

Attention is also given to long-term sustainability challenges of our existing buildings and how to tackle this in an intentional and inclusive manner.

Operationalising Sustainability (20 credits)

In this module, you will explore sustainable practices implemented by built environment organisations. You will critically evaluate and develop an understanding of the leadership and management skills required to be sustainable in the sector.

The module covers how to sustain a competitive advantage through future innovation and trends, building a sustainable workforce by addressing diversity, inclusion, race, bullying, and sexism, and examining the economic and financial models that shape the built environment.

You will also explore alternative models with international sustainability implications.

Option C) Quality

Institutional Quality for Sustainability (20 credits)

Key organisational logics around quality which impact sustainability.

Standards, such as BREEAM and LEED.

Regulations including UNSDG, ESD guidance, ISO14001. The ethics and applying them.

Sustainable Buildings and Cities (20 credits)

The technical sustainability of our existing buildings, towns and cities.

How to address such challenges such as retrofitting, analysis and adaption modelling, building flexibility, maintenance and BMS.

The scale and long-term challenges and how to tackle this in a staged and inclusive manner.

Year 2 (continued)

Final project proposal (10 credits)

In this module, you will integrate all your acquired knowledge, focusing particularly on the Research Skills and Current Affairs module, to develop a short final project proposal.

The objective is to develop a well-crafted research question that draws upon relevant literature and demonstrates thoughtful consideration. The formal proposal will explain your chosen research topic, provide justification for undertaking the research, outline your planned investigation process, and showcase your methodological approach.

The proposal will indicate your choice between a Research Dissertation or a Work-based Project to be undertaken in semester 4.

Research Dissertation (40 credits)

The main objective of this module is to write and develop a robust academic dissertation. You will draw upon various scholarly bodies of knowledge, theories, frameworks, and research publications related to a topic of your choosing.

Building upon the Final Project Proposal, you will refine research questions, hypotheses, propositions, and objectives. You will develop a research design with a theoretical foundation and make informed methodological choices, including primary and/or secondary data collection and analysis.

Work-based Project (40 credits)

This module provides an alternative route to a Research Dissertation for your final project. The work-based project encompasses research on a hypothetical/ existing problem in your organisation.

You will demonstrate how to navigate the ever-evolving discourse of sustainability and the competing agendas of an organisation’s stakeholders and practitioners.

Emphasising grey literature, UNSDG publications, pressure groups, and sustainable heritage publications, this project will enable you to identify challenges and develop potential solutions or frameworks.

The outcome of this module may have an immediate uptake and impact on your professional practice.

If you require further information about programme content, please view the programme specifications below which set out aims, intended learning outcomes and assessment methods. Please note that modules are subject to change.

Teaching and learning

How will you learn?

The MSc Innovation in Sustainable Built Environments takes online learning to the next level. Through a blend of digital and online lecture-based learning and assessment methods, you will explore and challenge your own understanding of sustainability in the built environment by:

  • Engaging in live virtual lectures
  • Actively participating in online peer-to-peer discussions
  • Demonstrating your expertise through research-driven assessments
  • Nurturing your ability to confidently challenge preconceived notions
  • Embracing independent learning through UCEM's online learning platform

For each 20 credit module, you will have 33 scheduled learning hours (over 12 weeks of teaching is 2.75 hours per week) and 167 independent study hours (over an 18 week semester is 9.28 hours per week).

How will you be assessed?

  • Coursework including essays, case studies, reports, e-portfolios, reflections, problem or short questions or video presentations
  • Computer-based assessments (CBA)
  • Computer marked assessments (CMAs)

The exact combinations of assessments will vary from module to module.

Why choose UCEM?

Built for you

With a legacy of over a century, UCEM stands as the leading provider of supported online education for the built environment. Our commitment to delivering the highest quality learning experiences has resulted in a global community of over 4,000 students from more than 100 countries at any given time. Here’s why UCEM should be your choice:

Tailored learning

Our flexible approach to education is designed to align with your life and career aspirations. Whether you’re trying something new or advancing in your field, our system caters to your unique stage and circumstances.

Fostering sustainability

UCEM champions the role of the built environment as the setting in which life and lives take place, today and for generations to come. Our courses put sustainability, prosperity, and the wellbeing of communities at the heart, and equip students to build better and build with people in mind.

Supported virtual learning

When you choose UCEM, you gain access to our cutting-edge Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). This specialised platform acts as your hub for studies, offering resources, schedules, and engaging learning activities. Weekly study guides and course materials ensure you stay on track, while interactive discussions and webinars further a collaborative learning experience.

Guided by experts

UCEM’s experienced module tutors provide expert guidance, ensuring you gain the skills and knowledge needed to succeed.

Programme design

The programme design has been driven by a team of UCEM’s academics, led by Dr Graeme Larsen and Dr James Ritson, who have expertise in sustainable built environments.

Dr Graeme Larsen

Dr Graeme Larsen is Associate Dean of Sustainability. He joined UCEM in 2021, becoming part of the team to fulfil our vision of becoming the ‘Centre of Excellence for the Built Environment Education’.

Dr James Ritson

Dr James Ritson is an architecturally trained building conservator specialising in sustainability and recording of the historic built environment. Currently he is the programme leader for the MSc Building Surveying programme.

Entry requirements

Please note as part of your application you will be required to provide a personal statement and a reference from your employer or mentor.

Academic requirements

You should have:

A Bachelor’s degree with honours at upper second standard (2:1) or equivalent


A Bachelor’s degree with honours at lower second standard (2:2) or equivalent and be employed in a relevant role


A Bachelor’s degree or equivalent plus three years’ experience in a relevant field


A level 5 qualification as defined by the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications for England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ) plus five years’ relevant experience


A professional qualification plus five years’ relevant experience, two of which should be at senior management level

English language requirements

All UCEM programmes are taught and assessed in English. In addition to the programme entry requirements listed above, all applicants will therefore be required to demonstrate adequate proficiency in the language before being admitted to a programme.

You should have:

  • GCSE Grade 4 (or C) or above in English Language or English Literature or an equivalent qualification
  • Grade 6.0 or above, with at least 6.0 in the reading and writing modules, in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) academic test administered by the British Council
  • 88 or above in the internet option, 230 or above in the computer-based option or 570 or above in the paper-based option of the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) test
  • Grade C or above in English (Language or Literature) at A/S Level
  • A cognate sub-degree (Level 5) qualification taught and assessed in English from the University of Hong Kong or City University of Hong Kong

Applicants with a Bachelor’s degree that has been taught and examined in English can be considered for entry in the absence of the English language qualifications detailed above.


Applicants that have been deemed academically eligible will be invited to an interview with a member of the programme team. The purpose of the interview is to provide an opportunity for the programme team to gauge your suitability and alignment with the programme to ensure the programme is the right fit for you. The interview also provides an opportunity for applicants to meet members of the programme team prior to starting the programme.

Providing evidence

Evidence is required in the form of certificates or statements. You should send photocopies that have been verified by someone in a professional occupation.

Applications are assessed in accordance with the UCEM Code of Practice on Admissions and Recognition of Prior Learning.


Routes and options

Programme fees for September 2024.


£10,600 total cost

This is the total cost for x9 modules (180 credits)

10 credit module = £590

20 credit module = £1,175

40 credit module = £2,370

£7,950 total cost

This is the total cost for x6 modules (120 credits)

20 credit module = £1,325

£3,975 total cost

This is the total cost for x3 modules (60 credits)

20 credit module = £1,325

Financial support

Key information

Scholarship Scheme – MSc Innovation in Sustainable Built Environments

Application deadline: 15 July 2024 – 12:00 BST


University College of Estate Management (UCEM) will fund 50% of the UCEM MSc Innovation in Sustainable Built Environments programme fee for a limited number students who have demonstrated outstanding academic ability and financial need. This scholarship scheme is available to our alumni.

The built environment plays a key role in sustainability and every aspect of the built environment needs sustaining. We need to ask ourselves, what can we do and what can our organisations do to shape future sustainability."

Dr Graeme Larsen
Associate Dean (Sustainability)