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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment (IDBE)


Applications for the 2022 Master's and Postgraduate Certificate are now open. 

Developing a sustainable and resilient built environment fit for the future will require industry, finance and policy leaders with advanced knowledge and skills in leading interdisciplinary teams through collaboration, innovation and sustainability.

The decisions we make today will be shaped by a global context that includes climate change, new technology, resource scarcity and changing social needs, among other mega trends. Our built environment has the potential to address these issues and deliver the future we want through its lasting effect on buildings, infrastructure and the environment.

The University of Cambridge Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment programmes explore the importance of building knowledge and leadership skills to drive real change through multiple professions and disciplines working together.

Are you ready for the challenge? 


Brochure download


Why study Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment (IDBE)?

Buildings and construction are responsible for nearly 40 per cent of CO2 emissions, according to the UN Environment Programme 2019 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction. With global building stock set to double in area by 2060, the built environment sector needs a transformative shift towards more sustainable development if it is to deliver the net zero emissions ambition.

This can only be achieved through collaborative working practices across all disciplines. From project planning and financing to design, construction and management.

The challenge? The built environment is complex, with projects involving multiple stakeholders and stages of work. Built environment professionals are used to working in disciplinary silos – tackling challenges and delivering solutions that are unique to their area of specialism.

Delivering exceptional future-fit built environment projects requires the deep-skill discipline of many individuals sharing a collective vision and purpose.


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


What makes our Built Environment programmes unique?

The programmes are truly interdisciplinary, attracting students from around the globe and from across the many diverse disciplines that contribute to our built environment. We teach global best practice through project-based learning, with a focus on collaboration and leadership throughout the course. 

You will:

  • Gain a deeper understanding of the global challenges and opportunities of the built environment
  • Study alongside multiple disciplines and professions and learn how to collaborate to deliver first-class projects, with sustainability at the core
  • Learn about different systems and approaches from around the world – explored through real life case studies
  • Develop your critical thinking and research techniques to improve analysis, evaluation, problem solving and decision-making skills
  • Explore alternative approaches and new ideas within a safe environment
  • Break out of your individual silo to broaden your perspectives and sphere of influence
  • Develop leadership skills to help you collaborate effectively and empower you to advocate for yourself, your team and your projects
  • Build the knowledge and confidence to influence change and further your career
  • Join the CISL alumni Network and connect with leaders and practitioners from business, government and civil society around the world


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


Who are the Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment programmes for?

Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment (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).

Our programmes attract qualified and experienced professionals who wish to take their leadership skills to the next level. Our part-time study model allows them to study for a Master’s qualification alongside their work. Past participants have come from across the built environment sector, including: 

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Architects, engineers, planners, urban designers, specialist consultants

Explore new and innovative approaches to design and the impacts of early-phase decision making on the physicality of a project and its sustainability. Discuss topics such as energy, efficiencies, conservation and heritage. Gain new perspectives through real life case studies, interactive workshops and fellow students. 

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Project managers, contractors, supply chain managers, suppliers

Develop skills and knowledge to work more effectively within interdisciplinary teams to deliver best-practice projects. Share insights, test ideas and collaborate, debate and reflect on different ‘design-thinking’ approaches and methods within an open and honest learning environment. 

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Finance, property and real estate

Real estate managers, asset managers, finance professionals, developers, surveyors

Gain a deeper understanding of the complexities and challenges of built environment projects, to help inform property investment decisions and deliver sustainable and profitable outcomes.

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Facilities management

Estate management, HSE, building services, operations

Explore the importance of teamwork, collaboration and shared vision from procurement to delivery. Develop skills to influence decisions and offer solutions that improve the output of managed projects and their positive impact on people and places.


Course modules

Our Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment (IDBE) programmes offer flexible, part-time learning and are available as a ten-month Postgraduate Certificate or two-year Master’s (MSt). Courses are delivered through a blend of online modules via a virtual learning environment, and interactive workshops in Cambridge.

Module 1: Leadership, professionalism and interdisciplinary practice

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

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Module 2: Sustainability and resilience

Examine the principles and practices of sustainable development and understand the environmental, social and economic impacts.


Module 3: Innovation and technology

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


Module 4: Design thinking

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


Module 5: 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.


 Flexible part-time learning

IDBE masters

Postgraduate Certificate

  • 10 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 starts September 2021

Course fee: £6,848 in total

IDBE Postgraduate Certificate


  • 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
  • Scholarships and bursaries available
  • Course starts September 2021

Course fee: £11,295 per year (£22,590 total)


We need leadership and interdisciplinary teamwork to implement change and create a future-fit built environment. Are you ready for the challenge?

Brochure download


Professional institutions that accredit the programme


institutions that accredit the IDBE

CISL is monitoring the Covid-19 situation and responding accordingly to UK Government and University advice. At present, we expect to deliver our Postgraduate programmes starting in 2022 as advertised. We are well equipped to deliver dynamic and engaging workshops remotely, should the situation demand. Find out more.

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

Meet the Directors

Join a webinar session hosted by the Directors of our part-time Postgraduate courses as they give you an overview of our programmes and admissions process for 2022 applications and can answer your questions.


“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.”

Helene Gosden, Senior Design Manager, Arup

“Studying the Master's has been the professional highlight of my life so far.”

Gary Cass, Regional Operations Manager for Aedis Regulatory Services Ltd

“The Master's 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


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

“The Master's 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

Course Enquiries

Becky Stanley, Senior Project Manager