Sustainable Environmental Design MSc/MArch Swati Bhargava (MArch Dissertation), Workspace Design for Hot-Dry Regions of India, inspired by the courtyards and jaali of the traditional architecture of Jaipur, SED, 2018


Directors: Simos Yannas, Paula Cadima
Staff: JGustavo Brunelli, Mariam Kapsali, Byron Mardas, Jorge Rodríguez Álvarez
Programme Consultants: Nick Baker, Klaus Bode, Herman Calleja

Sustainable Environmental Design (SED) engages with real-life problems that affect buildings and cities across the world. Design research for the SED MSc and MArch 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 occupant activities. Key objectives are to improve environmental quality in cities, achieve independence from non-renewable energy sources, and develop an environmentally sustainable architecture 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 involving MSc and March students in experimental and computational studies applying the knowledge and tools introduced in weekly lectures and workshops. In Phase II, MSc and MArch students engage in design research individually and follow research agendas that reflect each student's home climates, urban contexts and specific environmental interests. Dissertation projects may address home, work, learning and mixed use environments – new or existing – and thus encompass a wide range of built densities and urban morphologies. MSc candidates explore the architectural potential and applicability of their chosen topic in its geographic and climatic context. MArch dissertations culminate in a specific design application for a given site and design brief. In the last ten years SED students have engaged in over 500 projects spread around some 60 countries and 150 cities from 0° to 60° North and South of the Equator, and from 125° West to 140° East of Greenwich.


We will launch a new round of field studies in collaboration with London-based architectural and engineering practices. In Term 1 these will involve on-site observations, measurements and interviews in selected London buildings followed by computer modelling and use of advanced computational tools to explore current and future environmental performance scenarios. The outcomes of Term 1 building studies provide the starting points for design research on mixed-use building programmes in Term 2. In Terms 3 and 4, individual research for the MSc and MArch dissertation projects will encompass a diverse range of geographic locations, climatic regions, urban morphologies and building typologies.


Term 1

Providing local architectural solutions to global issues requires an understanding of what makes a good environment for occupants and how this may vary across climates, building types and individual preferences. How does architecture contribute to making good environments and can it 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 seeking a symbiotic relationship with the city.

Term 1

This course reviews theories of urban sustainability introducing instruments and tools that can be applied to its assessment. The role of urban morphology on the microclimates encountered in cities and on energy consumption and climate change is illustrated with case studies from different urban contexts encompassing scales ranging from the regional to that of the urban block.

Terms 1 & 2

This hands-on course runs in day-long weekly sessions that follow the tasks of the Term 1 team projects, introducing the analytical procedures and computational tools that drive the SED research agenda. The course will begin with fieldwork techniques based on indoor and outdoor observations and environmental measurements. This is followed by computer modelling of selected processes and spaces, testing of models against measurements and performing simulations to assess the effects of solar, thermal, airflow and daylighting processes against targets and benchmarks. A range of computational tools will be introduced and applied to diagnostic tasks as well as generative processes. Their application will initially be explored on the team projects providing the essential expertise required for undertaking the MSc and MArch dissertation research in Terms 3 and 4.

Terms 1 & 2

This course deals with key areas of environmental design research as these relate to architecture and urban design. Topics include urban climatology and the theories of occupant comfort and wellbeing; the physics and architecture 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.

Term 2

Each year several practising architects, engineers and researchers are invited to present projects that illustrate their philosophy, practice and experience with sustainable environmental design. Individual presentations are accompanied by roundtable sessions exploring the relationship between practice and research. The course includes building visits and study trips in the UK and abroad.

Terms 1–4

This seminar is a regular forum for critical reading and literature review providing support for researching and writing the two individual research papers that act as the foundations for dissertation projects. Students are encouraged to produce work worthy of presentation in international events. This year the PLEA 2018 Conference to be held in Hong Kong in December has accepted 14 papers for presentation produced jointly by SED students and teaching staff.


Paula Cadima has worked for the European Commission in Brussels managing world-class research projects on energy efficiency, renewable energy sources and emerging fields. She has chaired the sustainable architecture working group of the Architect's Council of Europe and is the former president of PLEA.

Simos Yannas is a founding member of the PLEA international network for sustainable architecture and urban design and director of the AA School's PhD Programme.

Jorge Rodríguez Álvarez has undertaken research on the planning of cities for the post-carbon age and is co-founder of SAAI, an international environmental design consultancy.

Nick Baker is a physicist specialising in building science and environmental design with special interest in thermal comfort and daylighting.

Klaus Bode is a co-founder of Urban Systems Design. He was previously a director of BDSP Partnership, an environmental engineering practice whose projects have included the Welsh Assembly Building, Bocconi University and the LSE.

Gustavo Brunelli led the environmental design team for the London Velodrome and is currently in charge of the advanced building optimisation team at Hurley Palmer Flatt.

Herman Calleja is an environmental analyst with Chapman BDSP specialising in the use of parametric environmental design tools. Mariam Kapsali is a design architect with Architype. She was previously a research architect with the Oxford Institute of Sustainable Development.

Byron Mardas is an environmental designer with Foster + Partners specialising in daylighting optimisation, outdoor thermal comfort and parametric modelling.

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