Sustainable Environmental Design MSc/MArch Oindrila Ghosh, MArch Dissertation, Affordable Housing for the Informal City in Kolkata, India

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


12 months (three terms, plus thesis work)


16 months (four terms)

Sustainable Environmental Design (SED) engages with real-life problems that affect buildings and cities across the world. Design research for the programme is driven by evidence-based performance criteria following a process of adaptive architecturing, which proceeds from inside to outside, attuning built form and its constituents to natural rhythms and inhabitant activities. Key objectives of all SED projects are: to improve environmental quality in cities, achieve independence from non-renewable energy sources and to develop an environmentally sustainable architecture that is capable of adapting to changing climates and urban environments.

The taught programme is structured in two consecutive phases. Phase I is organised around team projects combining MSc and MArch students to engage in experimental and analytical testing of the theoretical knowledge and computational tools introduced in weekly lectures and seminars. In Phase II, MSc and MArch design research develops independently following individual research agendas that r building typologies. MSc candidates complete the 12-month course with a design research project that documents the architectural potential and applicability of their chosen topic in its geographic and climatic context. The MAr design application for a given site and design brief.

SED's research agenda, Refurbishing the City, will continue this year with London-based design research involving collaboration with architectural and engineering practices in Terms 1 and 2. During Terms 3 and 4, MSc and MArch dissertation projects will be sited in many other cities and climatic regions. Recent dissertation projects have addressed warm climates, passive environmental features, outdoor living and inhabitant-centred adaptive strategies encompassing home, work, learning and mixed-use environments. A number of recent publications by programme staff also explore these concepts.

Design Research Studio:
Refurbishing the City 1: London Building Studies, Term 1

London serves as laboratory for making case studies of recent buildings and outdoor spaces. Students will combine on-site observations and environmental measurements with advanced computational tools to investigate building performance and the relationship between building, climate and occupants.

Design Research Studio:
Refurbishing the City 2: Design Research, Term 2

The insights gained from the Term 1 case studies provide starting points for design briefs that will be developed into team projects. Students will apply the conceptual and computational tools of adaptive architecturing to respond to climate change, lifestyle trends and technical developments that shape the future of the city.

Design Research Studios:
Refurbishing the City 3: MSc/MArch Dissertation Research, Terms 3 & 4

In Term 3 individual research agendas will be combined into thematic groupings, initiating shared research before being separated into the individual MSc and MArch projects submitted in Term 4. Research for the dissertation project gives students the opportunity to explore design options and performance results acrational conditions in order to address a range of issues and scales.

Lecture Courses & Workshops

Sustainable City, Term 1
The course reviews theories of urban sustainability by looking at environmental performance within cities and the instruments and tools applied to its assessment. Case studies of new and refurbished schemes in different countries and urban contexts will be used to illustrate the effects of urban morphology on microclimate, energy consumption and climate change, which will be investigated at different scales ranging from the region to the urban block.

Adaptive Architecturing, Term 1
Providing local solutions to global issues requires an understanding of what makes a good environment for inhabitants. How can architecture contribute and thus reclaim its historical role as a tool of sustainable environmental design? This course introduces a generative framework for an adaptive, culturally sensitive occupant-centred architecture with a symbiotic relationship to the city.

Environmental Simulation & Performance
Assessment Tools, Terms 1 and 2

Running as weekly day-long sessions that follow the Terms 1 and 2 team projects, this hands-on course introduces the tools that drive the research including indoor and outdoor surveys and the measurement and processing of environmental data used to calibrate computer models that simulate solar, thermal airflow and daylighting processes in and around buildings. A range of computational tools will be introduced over the year. Their application will be explored initially through team projects and then in greater detail during work on the dissertation in Terms 3 and 4.

Environmental Design Primer, Terms 1 and 2
This course introduces key topics of environmental design research and practice as these relate to architecture and building science. Topics include urban climatology and the theories and practice of environmental comfort; the physics of naturocesses; the ecology and environmental performance of materials; renewable energy technologies in the urban environment; and the science and art of measurement and performance assessment.

Lessons from Practice, Term 2
Each year a number of architects, engineers and researchers are invited to present recent projects illustrating their practice and experience in sustainable environmental design. The course also includes one or more study trips to buildings of interest in the UK and abroad. This year's PLEA conference will be held in Edinburgh in early July 2017, providing the opportunity for current SED students and graduates to attend and present work.

Research Seminar, Terms 1-4
In Phase I the seminar provides a regular forum for discussing research methods, report writing and topics that can be developed into the two individual research papers that provide the foundation for dissertation projects. In Phase II the seminar complements weekly individual tutorials, offering additional research and writing support.

Unit Staff

Simos Yannas has led environmental design research at the AA School since the late 1970s. He participated in research projects in many countries, and his work has been published in over a dozen languages. His most recent writings address adaptive architecturing, learning from vernacular architecture and refurbishing the city. He is a founding member of the PLEA international network on sustainable architecture and urban design.

Paula Cadima has been in architectural practice and environmental research for more than 25 years. She worked for the European Commission in Brussels managing world-class research projects on energy enewable energy sour She chaired the environment and sustainable architecture working group of the Architect's Council of Europe in 2009 and is the current president of PLEA.

Jorge Rodríguez-Álvarez studied architecture in A Coruña, followed by an MA in building conservation and urban regeneration, before joining the SED MSc, which he completed with distinction in 2008. His PhD thesis deals with planning cities for the post-carbon age, and he co-founded SAAI, an environmental design consultancy with ongoing projects internationally.

Klaus Bode studied building engineering at the University of Bath. He was project engineer on Foster + Partners’ Commerzbank in Frankfurt and on Rogers and Piano’s Potsdamer Platz projects in Berlin. He co-founded BDSP Partnership and collaborated with the Rogers Partners on the Welsh Assembly Building in Cardiff, with Grafton Architects on the Bocconi University in Milan and with the sculptor Antony Gormley on his Blind Light exhibition among other projects.

Gustavo Brunelli graduated from the Federal University of São Paulo and completed the MA in Environment & Energy Studies at the AA in 2004. He has worked with ChapmanBDSP on projects in the UK and abroad, including leading the environmental team on the Velodrome for the London 2012 Olympic Games, and is currently associate director with hurleypalmerflatt engineering consultants.

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

Mariam Kapsali graduated from 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 works as a researcher on performance evaluation studies of domestic and non-domestic buildings and is a member of the Oxford Institute of Sustainable Development.

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, which he completed in 2013. He is an environmental designer with Foster + Partners in London specialising in daylighting optimisation, outdoor comfort and parametric modelling.

Programme site


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

T: 020 7887 4067 / 4007

Links & Downloads


Prospectus 2016-17
Foundation Course Booklet

Graduate Prospectus


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