Sustainable Environmental Design MSc/MArch Andrea Rossi and Pierluigi Turco, MArch Dissertation Projects 2015 - Migrant Centre and Primary School in Lampedusa, Italy 35°30-N 13°36E

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



16 months (four terms)

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 the role architecture can play. 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.

The SED research agenda Refurbishing the City continues this year with London-based projects in Terms 1 and 2 in collaboration with local architectural and engineering practices. Dissertation project briefs will encompass many other cities and climates over Terms 3 and 4. Recent MSc and MArch projects will be presented at the International PLEA Conference, Architecture in (R)evolution, in September 2015. A book on sustainable housing design is currently being produced, drawing upon the programme’s London case studies with a Research Award from the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Design Research Studio:
London Building Case Studies, Term 1

London will serve as the laboratory for field studies of recent buildings and urban spaces, engaging student teams in projects that combine on-site observations and environmental measurements with the use of advanced computational tools for investigating the relationship between building, climate and occupants and the difference between design expectations and real-life environmental performance.

Design Research Studio:
Refurbishing the City I, Term 2

The insights gained from the Term 1 case studies provide starting points for design briefs that will be developed into team projects applying 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 II, Terms 3 and 4

In Term 3 individual agendas for dissertation research combine into thematic groupings that initiate shared research before separating into MSc and MArch projects for the final stage in Term 4.

Lecture Courses & Workshops

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, energy consumption and climate change will be investigated at different scales, ranging from the regional to that of the urban block, and illustrated with case studies of new and refurbished schemes in different countries and urban contexts.

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.

Environmental Simulation & Performance
Assessment Tools, Terms 1 and 2

The course introduces the data acquisition equipment and computational tools used on all SED project work. It runs in parallel to Term 1 field studies in weekly all-day sessions that combine formal presentations with hands-on workshops. Starting with field measurements, the course continues with the calibration of software and an introduction to advanced computational tools for modelling and simulation of solar, thermal, airflow and daylight processes in and around buildings. The scale of the tools encompasses a wide range - from individual building elements and room, to city and region. Expertise in the use of the tools for analytic and generative purposes is built over the first two terms of the academic year through daily practice on project work and design research.

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 natural light, airflow and thermal processes; 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, Terms 2 and 3
Each year a number of practising architects, engineers and researchers are invited to present their approach and practices relating to sustainable environmental design. There will be a study trip to Europe to visit built projects relevant to the programme’s interests.

Research Seminar, Terms 1-4
In Phase I the seminar provides a regular forum for discussing research methods and topics of interest that can be developed into agendas for dissertation research. In Phase II the seminar provides support for the development and review of MSc and MArch dissertation projects.

Unit Staff

Simos Yannas has led environmental design research and teaching at the AA since the late 1970s. He has collaborated on many international projects, and his writings have been published in a dozen languages. His most recent publications are on adaptive architecturing, on learning from vernacular architecture and on refurbishing the city. In 2001 he was a recipient of the International PLEA Achievement Award.

Paula Cadima studied at the Technical University of Lisbon and has been in architectural practice and environmental research for more than 25 years. She worked for the European Commission in Brussels for five years managing world-class research projects on energy efficiency, renewable energy sources and emerging fields. She chaired the Environment & Sustainable Architecture working group of the Architects' Council of Europe in 2009 and is the current president of PLEA.

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 the 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. 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 2015-16
Foundation Course Booklet

Graduate Prospectus

Travel Insurance Booking Form


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