Sustainable Environmental Design MSc/MArch Yiping Zhu, Extending Spaces and Fading Borders SED MArch Dissertation 2014 - design proposals for a daylit and naturally ventilated primary school building that performs better environmentally by extending into protected outdoor and transitional spaces most of the year, Xiamen, China, 24.48oN 118.09oE

Simos Yannas, Paula Cadima, Jorge Rodriguez Álvarez, Klaus Bode, Gustavo Brunelli, Herman Calleja, Mariam Kapsali, Byron Mardas

Sustainable Environmental Design engages with real-life problems affecting buildings and cities throughout the world. Providing alternatives to the global architecture and brute force engineering that are still the norm in most large cities requires new knowledge on what makes a sustainable environment and on how architecture can contribute to this. Design research for the SED masters programme is driven by strict performance criteria following a process of adaptive architecturing that proceeds from inside to outside, attuning the built form and its constituents to natural rhythms and inhabitant activities. Key objectives of all SED projects are to improve environmental conditions and quality of life in cities, achieve independence from non-renewable energy sources and develop an environmentally sustainable architecture able to adapt and respond to changing urban environments.

The taught programme is structured in two consecutive phases. Phase I is organised around two team projects combining MSc and MArch students. In Phase II, MSc and MArch projects are developed separately, following individual research agendas. MSc students complete the 12-month course with a dissertation project that documents the architectural potential and design applicability of their chosen topic in its geographic and climatic context. The MArch extends over a 16-month period that culminates in a detailed design application for a specific design brief and site.

Phase I Design Research: Refurbishing the City
Terms 1 and 2
The year starts with London as a laboratory providing case studies of recent built projects that engage student teams in fieldwork combining on-site observations and environmental measurements with advanced computational simulation studies. The findings from these case studies will become starting points for Term 2 design briefs that will explore innovative design strategies addressing lifestyle trends, technical developments and climate change.

Phase II Design Research: Dissertations
MArch students who started the course in October 2013 will return in October 2014 to complete the final stage of their individual design projects. Eighteen MArch students are currently in Phase II developing projects with sites in 11 different countries for a wide range of building types, design briefs, climatic conditions and urban contexts. These are due for completion in February 2015. A new set of Phase II dissertation projects will then be launched by the MSc and MArch students who will join the programme at the beginning of this academic year.

Courses & Workshops

Adaptive Architecturing
Term 1
The course shows how knowledge and understanding of environmental processes can provide a new generative framework for architecture. Occupant- centred and strongly contextual in its relationship with climate and site this is an adaptive architecture that is innovative yet has affinity with the vernacular and a symbiotic relationship with the city.

Sustainable City
Term 1
This course reviews theories of urban sustainability, introducing notions of environmental performance for cities and the instruments and tools applied to its assessment. The effects of urban morphology on microclimate and energy consumption will be investigated at different scales, ranging from the regional to that of the urban block, and illustrated with case studies of new and refurbishment schemes in different countries and urban contexts.

Instrumentation & Computation Tools
Terms 1 & 2
This is a technical course introducing the scientific instruments and computational tools applied on SED project work. These deal with data acquisition and processing and with the modelling and simulation of solar, thermal, airflow and daylight processes for design research at different levels that encompass the individual occupant as well as the city.

Modelling & Simulation Workshop
Terms 1 & 2
This is a weekly workshop that provides hands-on training in the use of the scientific instruments and computational tools introduced by the Tools course. The workshop parallels the sequence of the fieldwork and analytical requirements of the Term 1 and 2 projects providing student teams with the tools and support they need at each stage.

Environmental Design Primer
Terms 1 & 2
This course introduces key topics of environmental design research and practice as these relate to architecture and urban design. Topics include theories of environmental comfort; the science of measurement and performance assessment; the physics of natural lighting and ventilation; the ecology and environmental performance of materials; and technologies for renewable energy applications in the urban environment.

Lessons from Practice
Terms 2 & 3
Each year a number of practising architects, engineers and researchers are invited to present their approach to and practice of sustainable environmental design showing examples of recent projects.

Phase I Research Seminar
Terms 1 & 2
This seminar deals with literature research, academic writing and the choice of topics for the two research papers that students are required to submit individually at the end of Terms 1 and 2.

Phase II Research Seminar
Terms 3 & 4
In Phase II the seminar provides support for the early stages of MSc and MArch dissertation research.

Unit Staff

Simos Yannas has initiated and led postgraduate environ- mental design research and teaching at the AA since the late 1970s. He is currently also the director of the AA School's PhD Programme and runs regular courses for AA Technical Studies. He lectures frequently outside the AA School and his writings have been published in a dozen languages. He was awarded the PLEA (Passive and Low Energy Architecture) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001.

Paula Cadima hhas been in architectural practice and environmental research for more than 25 years and has taught at the AA Graduate School and at the Technical University of Lisbon. She worked for the European Commission in Brussels for five years where she was involved in the management of world-class research projects on energy efficiency, renewable energy sources and emerging fields. She chaired the Environment & Sustainable Architecture working group of the Architect's Council of Europe in 2009 and is the president of PLEA since 2011.

Jorge Rodríguez-Álvarez studied at the architectural school of A Coruña followed by a masters in building conservation and urban regeneration before undertaking the MSc SED, completed in 2008. He co-founded SAAI, a laboratory of environmental design and specialised consultancy with ongoing projects worldwide. He completed his PhD at the UDC, Spain, with a research stay at UCL-Bartlett, where he developed a GIS tool to assess the energy performance of buildings in large urban areas.

Klaus Bode studied building engineering at the University of Bath and was project engineer on Foster + Partners Commerzbank in Frankfurt and on Rogers' and Piano's Potsdamer Platz projects in Berlin. He co-founded the environmental engineering practice BDSP Partnership and has participated in the programme since 2002.

Gustavo Brunelli graduated from the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of São Paulo and from the MA in Environment & Energy Studies at the AA, which he completed with distinction. He has worked as an environmental consultant with ChapmanBDSP on projects in the UK and abroad, including leading the environmental team on the Velodrome for the London 2012 Olympic Games. He has taught in the programme since 2006.

Herman Calleja practised as an architect in Malta and Spain before joining the MArch in Sustainable Environmental Design at the AA, graduating with distinction in 2012. He has since worked as an environmental analyst collaborating with various architects including Grafton Architects, Hopkins and Zaha Hadid Architects on daylighting, thermal modelling and radiation mapping studies. He is interested in the use of parametric tools in the design research process of environmental design. He joined the programme as a tutor in 2013.

Mariam Kapsali graduated with distinction from the Faculty of Architecture of the National Technical University of Athens and won a scholarship to the MSc in SED at the AA which she completed with distinction in 2012. She is a member of the Oxford Institute of Sustainable Develop- ment and a researcher at Oxford Brookes University working on UK government funded projects dealing with building performance evaluation studies of domestic and non-domestic buildings. She joined the programme as a tutor in 2012.

Byron Mardas studied architecture and urbanism at the National Technical University of Athens and worked as an architect in Athens before taking the MSc in Sustainable Environmental Design at the AA. He works at Foster + Partners and has joined the SED teaching staff in 2013.

Programme site


Graduate Admissions Team AA School of Architecture
36 Bedford Square
London WC1B 3ES

T: 020 7887 4067 / 4007

Links & Downloads


Graduate Prospectus


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