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Student work showing a scale drawing of a an area of a town from above with buildings, nearby green space, and a trail across the image suggesting the movement of people through the town Image courtesy of the artist


Advanced Sustainable Design - MSc



1 year


MSc Advanced Sustainable Design at Edinburgh College of Art asks how we can transform our built environment by putting sustainable development into practice. We are distinctive in being a design-based programme.  

Our emphasis is not only on gaining knowledge of environmental technology, but also on developing skills in synthesising design solutions specific to place, community and habitat. To move beyond purely technical responses, we consider ideas of community, trade, wellbeing, communication and knowledge networks.  

One of the great challenges designers face is that of making sense of, and ordering, the enormous volume of information about sustainability. As an Advanced Sustainable Design - MSc student, you will acquire the confidence and experience to create and refine strategies to produce settlements and building proposals that embody high standards of design, as well as demonstrating low carbon behaviour.  

Although this Masters degree has architectural design at its heart, we welcome graduates from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds. In the past, these have included engineering, art, construction and landscape design.  

What you will study

Over the course of the year, we will encourage and enable you to work in multi-disciplinary teams. 

In the first semester, you’ll learn about theories and contexts of sustainable development in the built environment, undertaking a series of short projects to understand the possibilities of applying theory to design. 

In the second semester, you’ll complete a main design project focusing on an urban context, looking at the social, economic and environmental drivers of sustainable development and how these translate to architectural and urban design. 

Your design work will be supported by additional classes, and you’ll have the opportunity to work with environmental simulation software to further test your ideas. 

You complete your studies by working on your research dissertation, which is an opportunity for you to undertake a substantial period of study on a research question relating to your personal or professional interests. 

From global to local

Our programme attracts students from across the world, which you’ll see reflected in our courses and teaching. This leads to an exciting exchange of ideas between students from developed and developing economies. 

Our core courses look at different global cities; in our retrofit project, for example, students can choose to work in Edinburgh, Dubai and Singaporean contexts. In your research dissertation, you can choose a topic relevant to your home environment. Past projects have looked at sustainable development in Germany, Greece, Spain, Malaysia, Colombia, Chile and China. 

Students and graduates of the programme have become involved in sustainable programmes and initiatives local to ECA, for example the Leith Interventions programme looking at potential uses for buildings and landscape in the city’s docklands, and the Resilient Borders project designing a sustainable future for Galashiels and the Central Borders. 

Links and resources

Global Design: find out more about the projects we work on in global contexts 

Resilient Borders: a project that situates your work in real communities [external link] 

Predicting Performance and Design Simulation: how you gain skills to predict the environmental behaviour of your design projects 

Our Application guide (PDF): find out more about our programme structure and the contents of our courses, with advice about what you need to make an application

Our Facebook Page: for updated news and information about our programme 


As the call for a more sustainable built environment increases, architects, designers, engineers and planners who can produce solutions are in demand. With this qualification you’ll be best placed to embrace these opportunities and advance your career. 

Even if you follow an unrelated path, the experience and skill development in communication, team work and project management that you’ll gain from the programme will be a valuable addition to your resume. 

Our graduates work in specialist sustainable design consultancies, and design practice across a variety of disciplines. Many of our students choose to continue their academic development through PhD study. 

Why you should choose this programme


This programme is design-oriented, fusing creative solutions with sustainable strategies.


Our staff are all experienced in practice and have track records in the design and procurement of sustainable solutions.


We don’t just look at technical fixes, we focus on the social, environmental and economic aspects of sustainable design.


We look at best practice in Scotland but are international in our outlook, addressing global as well as local issues.


Our programme helps you gain critical skills in a fast growing and evolving design sector.

How to apply & entry requirements

If you'd like to study on a postgraduate programme at Edinburgh College of Art, you must apply through EUCLID, our online application system. You can find out how to do this on the University of Edinburgh website, where you'll also be able to:

  • see detailed entrance requirements for each programme on the Degree Finder
  • get information on what to expect after you apply
  • find out about study modes, start dates and fees
  • find out if, and how, you need to submit a portfolio, showreel or research proposal
  • find out where to go for further advice and guidance.

Get in touch

Edinburgh College of Art Postgraduate Admissions
+44 (0)131 650 4086

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