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Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment (IDBE)

Applications for the 2020 IDBE Postgraduate Certificate and Master’s close 1 June 2020.

The University of Cambridge’s Interdisciplinary Design 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; IDBE helps ambitious professionals meet the increasing demands of their market and sector and invigorate their personal development.

The courses explore the importance of multiple disciplines and professions taking a collaborative, ‘design-thinking’ approach in order to successfully deliver sustainable built environment projects.

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

Why apply

Despite signs of a slowing economy in 2019, the global construction sector remains strong. According to the respected International Construction Market survey, by 2020 there could be 24 booming construction markets, compared with 18 today. The need for experienced professionals to future-proof their skills and hardwire resilience into their career ambitions is clear.

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), with 25 years' heritage.

The part-time Master’s and Postgraduate Certificate attract 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.

“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 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 options for scholarship, payment plans and deferring fee elements 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 the IDBE courses provides unrivalled sustainability credibility.

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

Deb Thomas, 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 of IDBE

IDBE courses explore how successful, sustainable 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 IDBE’s core modules:

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


Professional institutions that accredit the IDBE

institutions that accredit the IDBE


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Key components of the two built environment programmes

IDBE 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, 9 months part-time

IDBE Master’s 

  • 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