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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership

Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment (IDBE)

Applications for the 2022 part-time Master’s and Postgraduate Certificate are now open.

The University of Cambridge’s Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment (IDBE) Master’s and Postgraduate Certificate provide a bridge across fragmented working practices to help accelerate careers.

Offering flexible, part-time courses structured around built environment practitioners, the programme helps ambitious professionals meet the increasing demands of their market and sector and invigorate their personal development.

The course explores the importance of building knowledge and leadership skills to drive real change and deliver sustainable architecture and building projects through multiple professions and disciplines working together.

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Build your skillset, build your network, build our future. 

Why apply

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 requires collaborative working practices across all disciplines. From project planning and financing to design and construction and management. 

The part-time Master’s and Postgraduate Certificate are truly interdisciplinary, attracting students from around the globe and from the many professions 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. 

The programme 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), with over 25 years' heritage.

Students include architects, engineers, surveyors, project managers, planners, urban designers, asset managers, developers, facilities managers, specialist consultants and contractors.

“Studying the IDBE has been the professional highlight of my life so far.”

Gary Cass, Regional Operations Manager for Aedis Regulatory Services Ltd


"IDBE equipped me with the advocacy, innovation and interdisciplinary skills needed to be a leader for the built environment."

Phebe Mann, WISE/UKRC Woman of Outstanding Achievement, Top 50 Women in Engineering Award 2018


Part-time and cost-effective

Led by Course Director Dr Kayla Friedman, an architect herself, we understand the demanding work schedules you face. Providing Sustainability Leadership for the Built Environment (IDBE) as a part-time course, with in-residence modules as well as online learning, you achieve the best of both worlds without sacrificing existing commitments.

Whether personally financed 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, we offer a range of funding options to help participants overcome financial barriers.

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Unrivalled credibility

The Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) is a globally influential institute based at the University of Cambridge, with HRH The Prince of Wales as Royal Founding Patron. With more than 30 years’ experience of developing interdisciplinary leadership for a sustainable economy across multinationals, governments and individuals around the world, CISL’s delivery of these part-time courses provides unrivalled sustainability credibility.

“We value the broadening of thinking that the course demands."

Deb Thomas, Former Director, Arup


“There is an absolute need to have a global perspective for anyone working on design within the built environment and that is what Cambridge gave me."

Tony Ip, Architect and Urban Designer


Key themes

The Master’s and Postgraduate Certificate explore how successful, sustainable architecture and built environment projects rely on the coordinated effort and experience of multiple disciplines and professions. The built environment is facing challenging carbon reduction targets, affecting every area of the design and construction process, across public and private works. As a result, there is phenomenal appetite for sustainability and environmental skills across every built environment role. Increasingly companies are aligning their business models and procurement processes with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

With a wide range of services and disciplines contributing to the built environment sector, inefficiencies of a fragmented workplace are a key drag on construction projects. While collaboration is frequent, inter-disciplinary awareness and related management skills are seldom part of standard architecture, engineering and related qualifications. High impact leadership and seamless project management are needed. The rise of smart cities and technological transformation demand a broader, more connected ‘design-thinking’ professional.

These key themes, crucial for successful built environment projects of all types, form the basis of the programme's core modules:

  1. Leadership, professionalism and interdisciplinary practice
  2. Sustainability and resilience
  3. Innovation and technology
  4. Design thinking
  5. Research skills


Professional institutions that accredit the programme

institutions that accredit the IDBE


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* UN Environment and International Energy Agency (2017): Towards a zero-emission, efficient, and resilient buildings and construction sector. Global Status Report 2017.

CISL is monitoring the Covid-19 situation and responding accordingly to UK Government and University advice. Find out more.

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

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Postgraduate Certificate 

  • Two, week-long residential workshops in Cambridge
  • Online modules delivered via a virtual learning environment
  • Two individual assignments
  • A group research assignment 
  • Total course length: 10 months 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 
  • Total course length: 2 years part-time