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Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment (IDBE)

Buildings and the spaces and places between them represent a critical piece of any global low carbon future. It is therefore crucial that the built environment sector shifts towards more sustainable development.

This requires a new approach and a new way of thinking. Built environment professionals must break out of their individual silos and work better together to tackle sustainability issues and make decisions that work for everyone.

It is only through collective, collaborative and truly interdisciplinary design that we will get to where we need to be.

Applications for the MSt IDBE starting in 2020 have now closed. Late applications for the PG Certificate may still be considered. For more information please email

 Download IDBE brochure

Why study interdisciplinary design?

The practice of working in the built environment can be very different to how built environment professionals are traditionally educated. Most have never studied alongside other disciplines or been trained in how to successfully work together.

The Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment (IDBE) provides the critical next step of education that all built environment practitioners can benefit from. Our Master’s and Postgraduate Certificate are designed to help students develop their abilities to collaborate in and lead interdisciplinary teams.

IDBE was formed from a powerful partnership between the University of Cambridge’s world-leading Architecture and Engineering departments and delivered by the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL).

The IDBE is unique in many ways. It supports professionals from around the world who are involved in the commissioning, design, construction and management of projects in the built environment, to take an interdisciplinary approach to sustainable project design.

This means learning how to work more effectively with specialists from different backgrounds, integrate skills, collaborate between disciplines and build a broader strategic contextual understanding of places and projects.


We can only work in an interdisciplinary way when we take the time to really understand what is driving the client, the architect, the engineer, the quantity surveyor, the contractor, and anyone else who is involved in the project.

Dr Kayla Friedman, Course Director, IDBE


Who is the IDBE for?

IDBE attracts students from around the world and across the built environment sector including architects, engineers, surveyors, project managers, planners, urban designers, developers, facilities managers, specialist consultants and contractors.

Now in its 25th year, IDBE has been instrumental in progressing the careers of our graduates; helping them to advance professionally and personally by expanding their knowledge of built environment issues, gaining confidence in facilitating teams and communicating across disciplines, and growing their professional network.

Whether a personal commitment or employer-sponsored, we know that investing in your professional education is a big decision. While excellent value for a University of Cambridge and industry accredited qualification, a range of options for bursaries or scholarship are available. 


“I learnt from the hugely diverse experiences of fellow students and staff and found a new appreciation for the full breadth of skills, opportunities and perspectives within the built environment. I began to understand what drives and motivates different people and the skills that could bring them together to create a strong team and enjoyable efficient and respectful working environment.”

Helene Gosden, Senior Design Manager, Arup


How is the IDBE delivered?

The IDBE is delivered part-time as a 9-month Postgraduate Certificate, or two-year Master of Studies (MSt). Both courses are delivered through a blend of online modules and residential workshops in Cambridge.

Students benefit from a highly interactive learning approach which is designed to provide opportunities for collaboration, reflection and debate within a safe environment.

Visit the IDBE website to discover how previous IDBE graduates have used the course to accelerate their career.


Core modules that form the basis of the learning

Sustainability icon

Sustainability and resilience

Examining the principles and practices of sustainable development and understanding the environmental, social and economic impacts.

Leadership icon

Leadership and interdisciplinary practice

Developing the skills and competencies required to help lead and achieve effective collaboration within interdisciplinary teams.


Innovation and technology

Exploring how new ideas, tools, devices and methods can help improve performance and make built environments that are more responsive to user needs.


Design thinking

Understanding the many definitions and uses of design and how to integrate skills from different disciplines to improve project design.


Research skills

Learning core academic research skills including methodology, research design and qualitative and quantitative methods to help transform professional knowledge into rigorous academic learning


 The IDBE courses

IDBE masters

IDBE Postgraduate Certificate

  • 9 months, part-time
  • Two week-long residential workshops in Cambridge
  • Online modules delivered via a virtual learning environment
  • Two individual assignments
  • A group research assignment

Course fee: £6,240 in total

IDBE Postgraduate Certificate

IDBE Master’s

  • Two years, part-time
  • Six, week-long residential workshops in Cambridge
  • Online modules delivered via a virtual learning environment
  • Two individual assignments
  • A group research assignment
  • An individual research dissertation

Course fee: £10,725 per year (£21,450 total) Bursaries and Scholarship available.



 Download IDBE brochure


Professional institutions that accredit the IDBE

institutions that accredit the IDBE

CISL is monitoring the COVID-19 situation and responding according to UK Government and WHO advice. At the present time, we are delivering our programmes on schedule through dynamic and engaging online platforms. We expect to return to our normal modes of programme delivery as soon as circumstances allow.

Blog: First-class graduate education in a Covid-19 world

IDBE courses help built environment professionals meet the demands of their sector and work collaboratively to deliver sustainable projects.

Residential workshop dates for IDBE Master’s (2019 intake)

Workshop 1: 8-14 September 2019
Workshop 2: 8-14 December 2019
Workshop 3: 15-21 March 2020
Workshop 4: 13-19 December 2020
Workshop 5: 28 March – 01 April 2021
Workshop 6: 27 June – 03 July 2021

Residential workshop dates for IDBE Postgraduate Certificate (2019 intake)

Workshop 1: 8-14 September 2019
Workshop 2: 8-14 December 2019

Residential workshop dates for IDBE Master’s (2020 intake)

Workshop 1: 06 - 12 September 2020
Workshop 2: 13 - 19 December 2020
Workshop 3: 28 March - 03 April 2021
Workshop 4: TBC
Workshop 5: TBC
Workshop 6: TBC

Residential workshops dates for IDBE Postgraduate Certificate (2020 intake)

Workshop 1: 06 - 12 September 2020
Workshop 2: 13 - 19 December 2020

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“IDBE gave me a greater appreciation, and understanding, of different built-environment agendas that allowed me to be far more influential in the boardroom and in more complex interdisciplinary project situations”

Jason Pomeroy, Architect, academic and broadcaster IDBE Cohort 10

One third of my cohort came from overseas and had a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, from urban planning to contracting, so there was a wealth of global perspectives to learn from. The friendships I made were invaluable and we still keep in contact.

Tony Ip, Architect, IDBE Cohort 15

“IDBE is an incredible powerful and transformative course. Learning from professionals from a variety of backgrounds was invaluable. In addition, combining real-life experiences, meaningful projects and a networking environment provided me with an edge in a highly competitive industry.”

Seun Adekunbi, Infrastructure Management Consultant, IDBE Cohort 17


Becky Stanley

Becky Stanley, Senior Project Manager