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Sustainable Mega-Buildings (MSc/PgDip)

1 year (full-time) / 2 years (part-time) / n/a (distance / e-Learning)

This course is accredited by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH).

The principles of designing in the context of climatic variations have been well advanced for the design of low-rise and medium-rise buildings; these, however, have yet to be developed in the case of the high-rise and mega-buildings. The current environmental agenda and interest in sustainability raises the significance of mega-buildings. In line with the targets set by environmental and energy agendas, the phenomenal increase in the number of large-scale buildings worldwide during the last few decades has generated increasing awareness of the importance, uniqueness and impact of this built form on urban life and environmental sustainability. Until recently, large buildings have been viewed as mega-scale energy consumers with little regard for sustainable design and performance. However, this is changing with a new generation of large-scale buildings that have been designed with energy conservation and sustainability as their principal criteria.

This interdisciplinary programme focuses on principles of sustainable planning and design of mega-buildings. It aims to prepare students for professional autonomy and excellence in the design and planning of large-scale buildings by training students for adopting the role of planners and designers of sustainable mega-buildings. Taught modules, project work and dissertations are aimed at equipping students with cognitive, experiential, analytic and synthetic skills, thus enabling them to engage in interdisciplinary design and practice of sustainable mega-buildings.

Solar radiation analysis of 30 St Mary’s Axe, London, by a current student
Solar radiation analysis of 30 St Mary’s Axe, London, by a current student.

Course Aims

model city and super-building

This interdisciplinary programme aims to prepare students for professional autonomy and excellence in mega-building design and planning. The programme aims to train students for adopting the role of planners and designers of sustainable mega-buildings, and adapting to shifting demands on this role as sustainable policies are increasingly supported by the public and by governments worldwide. Taught modules, project work and dissertations are aimed at equipping students with cognitive, experiential, analytic and synthetic skills, thus enabling them to engage in interdisciplinary design and practice of sustainable mega-buildings.

Special Features

Course Description

The course content is designed to assist students appreciate the interdependence and interrelationship of social, technological, and environmental issues and to be able to relate this to the particular economic, political and legal contexts of planning and designing mega-buildings. The course content introduces and reviews state of the art design methods of sustainable mega-buildings relating to architects, engineers and practitioners in the built environment. The course encourages students to articulate their sustainability perspective in design, so that they may become active and experienced at promoting the benefits of sustainable mega-buildings which are taking a significantly wider scale than in previous decades.

Course Structure

The Programme is offered in full-time (one year) and part-time (two years) modes of study.

There are two stages to the programme: 

Core Modules

The below list of core modules total 60 credits.

  • Climate, Comfort and Energy
  • Architectural Science Research
  • Earth and Society
  • Investigations in the built environment
  • Low Carbon Footprint

Core knowledge and understanding is acquired through lectures, tutorials, coursework, laboratory sessions, design projects and guided study. More advanced knowledge and understanding is acquired by independent study, computer-aided learning and both individual and group projects.

The following teaching methods are employed in this programme.  Each module employs a different combination of these methods as considered appropriate to the subject matter and the method of assessment. 

  • Lectures: The module programme is primarily communicated through lectures. The subject matter will be explained verbally, assisted by visual aids and with interaction with the students, and where applicable, demonstrations.
  • Case Studies: Included in the lecture presentations will be discussion of real-life examples to show how the theory studied in the module has been implemented in practice in the field.
  • Literature search: From a set of reading lists, students will select a topic, conduct an enquiry into it through literature search, and compile an annotated bibliography; they will write abstracts of a small selection of these, and present a perspective on their topic for discussion at an exchange workshop.
  • Set texts: Specific texts will be used as a main reference source to ensure that students are familiar with the material covered in them.
  • Assignments: Short research tasks will be set for students to study a limited topic individually. These will also give the students the opportunity to develop their writing and presentation skills.
  • Seminars: During the course of the project, seminars will be held to help the student draw out learning from the collaborative experience, and to assist them in identifying opportunities for interdisciplinary thinking. 
  • Workshops: There are practical exercises to give students practice in implementing some subject-specific skills, as well as providing an opportunity for them to exercise their more generic problem-solving and presentation skills.

Specialist Modules

The below list of specialist modules total 60 credits.

  • Sustainable Mega-Buildings Overview
  • Sustainable Service Systems for Mega-Buildings
  • Sustainable Mega-Buildings Design

Specialist knowledge and understanding is taught via modules are taught via a variety of methods, including project work, group and one-to-one tutorials, student presentations and study visits.

  • Project work: In modules assessed by project work, set design tasks spanning most of a module are planned, which will offer the students the opportunity to put into practice the ideas they are studying and to further research areas that are of particular relevance to their specific background. This will reinforce their understanding and skills in the subject area and will also provide an opportunity for students to exercise their more generic problem-solving and presentation skills.
  • Group and one-to-one tutorials: Tutorials are planned to guide and assist students in their project work.
  • Student presentations: Students will undertake an oral presentation of their project work at different stages of their work progress. This method offers the opportunity to increase, improve and provide alternate methods of learning where students could utilise and apply their training in critical thinking and on how to give constructive feedback.
  • Study visits:  The aim of guided visits is to demonstrate how principles taught in the programme are applied in revolutionary large-scale eco-buildings in the UK or Europe (or elsewhere), for students to meet key players, and for them to be able to relate this real-life experience to their learning.

Knowledge and understanding can be gained from all of these teaching methods: lectures, case studies, literature search, set texts, tutorials, seminars, and workshops. The methods in which students take an active part are designed to increase their discipline-specific skills: assignments and project work. Generic skills are involved in all methods involving interaction with others: presentation, assignments, project work, seminars, workshops, and study visits. 


The research project module is worth 60 credits.

A research project that provides students a valuable opportunity to consolidate their capacity for independent study, learn techniques to conduct research, and develop knowledge within the subject area of sustainable mega-buildings.

  • Online material. Students will be expected to follow the introductory course in research methods that is available to them online, called the Postgraduate Research Primer. This supplements the learning in the Approaches to Holistic Sustainability and Research Methodologies module. 
  • Personal research. The student will plan and undertake systematic enquiry into a problem associated with the subject matter of the scheme of study; the problem will be selected in negotiation with the module leaders and supervisory staff.
  • Supervision. A supervisor will be assigned to the student to provide guidance in conducting the research; the supervisor will act as a guide for the process, however, the student will be expected to show independent initiative in acquiring skills and knowledge.
  • Dissertation. The plan, method, and interpretation of the research are to be reported in a written dissertation of a maximum of 20,000 words.


Assessment Criteria

The School produces separate criteria for assessments in project work and taught modules. These criteria are an essential point of reference in setting learning outcomes against which students will be assessed in project work and taught modules. The School’s Criteria for Assessment also provide outline marking schemes which indicate in terms of broad percentage bands, the typical performance expected of a student at that particular level beyond the threshold. Whilst the nature of assessment in architecture is often difficult to objectify, these criteria provide a useful benchmark to ensure fairness of marking and consistency among assessors. The marking schemes can also be used to provide feedback to students on why they may have achieved a particular grade.

Assessing lecture-based module class tests and examinations

Lecture-based modules are assessed by either class test and/or coursework, or by a combination of the two. The form of assessment for each module is stated in the module description. Assessors mark according to the ‘Criteria for Assessment’, to help ensure consistency and fairness in marking. Scripts of all class tests contributing to aggregate assessment for the degree are available for inspection by external examiners at the end of each session. Where more than the requisite number of examination questions is answered the highest marks will be selected to go towards the overall mark.


Academic feedback plays a crucial role in supporting learning and is a key element of the student learning experience. It is provided to students in a variety of different ways and learning situations. Students will be aware of the range of feedback they receive through the module descriptions and syllabi. Feedback will be provided in one of the following forms according to the nature of the task:

  • Written comments on assessments
  • Oral feedback in lectures, seminars, and tutorials
  • Oral feedback in project crits
  • Electronic feedback recorded on proformas
  • Sample answers, on end of module examinations
  • Whole-class general feedback sheets
  • Peer feedback, either formally as part of an assessment task or informally outside of the classroom
  • Through meetings with personal and/or academic tutors

Teaching, Resources and Facilities

Students’ field trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Students’ visiting the Dubai Opera House construction site during a field trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Learning Support

The nature of the teaching involved in this programme is such that direct staff contact with students both individually and in small groups is necessary for the student’s full development and has been planned within the cost structure and resourcing for the programme.

The provision of support for private study will include the access to and availability of library material, online resources and technical software used in the programme and its supporting databases and help material. A small collection of core reference books is held in the library for Masters’ students. Because students need access to these books for project work over a short period, they may not be removed from the library. Books, journals or other items not held in Cardiff University libraries may be obtained via an interlibrary loan service.

The School has produced a range of online information in support of the Distance Learning option in the MSc Environmental Design of Buildings. The students in Sustainable Mega Buildings will also be given access to this for their own reference and as background to the taught components. In addition, all core module lectures are recorded for Distance Learners and are made available to all students on Learning Central.

In support of part-time students, more and more information and administrative support is made available on the web for access at any time. In this particular programme, much of the teaching material will be available this way as well. The programme also aims to make full use of the University’s INSRV systems and networks by enabling part-time students to utilise the School’s computational resources remotely.

The MSc Student Handbook provides information on all aspects of the resources and facilities, and academic and administrative policies. General facilities available to all students such as the School's Library, Computer Lab, and workshops are introduced during induction. Staff support will be provided on a one-to-one basis.

Equipment, Resources & Facilities

An MSc base is designated as a resource room for the exclusive use of ASM students, to which they have access at all times for their private study. There are 6 computers in the base. A wireless hub is available to allow students to connect their own laptops directly to the University network. Through students’ account numbers, they can connect to the University computer network which gives access to most general software that they might need to use, to an electronic library, numerous databases and other information services, and to the Internet, email and other network services.

On the LAN, the School makes available an increasing amount of teaching material as well as the specialist software needed on the programme. This includes access to shared computational resources owned by the School that utilise the University’s network. There is a laser printer in the base for printing black and white documents, and access to line plotters in the plotter room. If computers are not available in the base, others can be available in the Media Lab, the Library, and at various out-stations around the University. Assistance for the default software comes from the University; and for the School's specialist software from relevant members of staff and the teaching assistant.

Students are expected to cover their own printing costs.

Teaching Staff

Examples of Student's Work

Examples of student's work can be found via the links below:

Skills Acquired

Career Prospects

There is definitely a national and international employment shortage in the field of planning and designing mega-buildings, which perform sustainably. Hence, there is a rising demand for graduates from this type of course. It is expected that Masters graduates in the field of sustainable mega-building will gain employment in large-scale building design and planning companies and practices, environmental design consultancies, research and development centres, or may even set up their own companies / practices. Given the current intense public, government and professional interest in this area, employment opportunities for graduates who specialise in this field are only likely to grow and become even more attractive both in the UK and globally.

Student Profiles

Picture of Tong

'I acquired substantial professional knowledge as well as friends.'

Tong Wang, MSc Sustainable Mega Buildings student 2014-15

Read Tong's full testimonial

"I never regret to choose Sustainable Mega-Buildings as my subject. Through the study and research for a whole year, I acquired substantial professional knowledge as well as friends. We participated in a great deal of lectures given by experienced and famous architects and engineers, and field trips to popular sustainable buildings.

"In the course, we were encouraged to be confident and accomplish tasks highly efficient. Meanwhile, all the aspects of our ability, such as creativity, presentation, cooperation and modelling, were developed due to the excellent tutors. The atmosphere in the course is extremely harmonious, relaxed and suitable for studying and researching. Though a very intense year of study, it will be absolutely an excellent chance to challenge and significantly improve yourself here."

Tong Wang, MSc Sustainable Mega Buildings student 2014-15

Picture of Sabuhi

'The professors are helpful and supportive.'

Sabuhi Pasha, MSc Sustainable Mega Buildings student 2014-15, from Azerbaijan

Read Sabuhi's full testimonial

"As an MSc student I would like to share my experience of Sustainable Mega-Buildings that I took at the Welsh School of Architecture. First of all, I would like to say all our modules were fascinating especially our specialist modules. I think the standard teaching is really high here.

"So far I really enjoyed all the classes that I have undertaken and I am quite impressed with the quality of professors, their qualifications, backgrounds and what they bring to academic environment based on transferring knowledge to us. They are so helpful and supportive. That is why we learned details of sustainability through the Mega-Buildings.

"We are also provided with lots of opportunities by the school such as study trip, training, contemporary facilities and meeting with famous architects within the course. I am so satisfied by taking this MSc course for my career. It is the best course in architecture that I have ever seen.

Sabuhi Pasha, MSc Sustainable Mega Buildings student 2014-15, from Azerbaijan

Alumni Profile

Picture of Min Yang

'I had had opportunities to visit mega projects in UK and UAE.'

Min Yang, MSc Sustainable Mega Buildings graduate

Read Min's full testimonial

I had a wonderful year with my new tutors and friends in Cardiff. The course I attended is Sustainable Mega-buildings, a new course at Cardiff University. 

During this year, I acquired advanced theoretical knowledge of sustainable mega-buildings from the core module, had face-to-face communications with famous architectural firms in the specialist modules, also had opportunities to visit mega projects in UK and UAE. In this program, I can investigate the topic that has fascinated me with learned theory and simulation software.

Min Yang, MSc Sustainable Mega Buildings graduate (2015), currently working as an Intern at Foster and Partners in London.

Entry Requirements

The course is suitable for graduates or experienced practitioners in disciplines related to the built environment, such as architecture, urban design, building services engineering, building technology or a relevant discipline in engineering or the built environment.

Applicants should normally hold a first or second class Honours degree or have appropriate professional experience. Applicants should hold a degree in a relevant subject area, such as Architectural Engineering, Architecture or related subjects, including Sustainable Design, Urban Planning, Environment and Sustainability, Environmental Design.

Applicants whose first language is not English or Welsh must satisfy the English Language requirements for entry to the University by attainment of a minimum IELTS overall score of 6.5 or equivalent.

Note: International students pursuing part-time programmes of study are not eligible for Tier 4 (General Student) visas and must have alternative leave to remain in the UK if they intend to study at the University in person.

How to Apply

Applications can be made for this course via our Online Application Service. A PDF portfolio of relevant academic and/or professional architectural / environmental / urban design work will be required along with your application.

Decisions will be made on a continuous basis throughout the year on the basis of your written application and the references received.


For further information, please see the Financial Support pages of the School website.

Shading analysis of London and the areas surrounding 30 St Mary Axe by Sabuhi Pasha
Shading analysis of London and the areas surrounding 30 St Mary Axe by a current student

Tuition Fees 2016/17

Fees quoted are for the academic session 2016/17. For programmes lasting more than one year, tuition fees for subsequent years of study are subject to an increase of no more than 4.5% per year.

  UK & EU International
Full-time £7,750 £18,250
Part-time £3,875 £9,125
Deposit n/a Includes a £1,000 deposit. More information about our deposit policy.

Next intake: September each year

School Contact

Name: Ms Christine Heywood  

Telephone: +44 (0)29 2087 9332 

Fax: +44 (0)29 2087 4623 


School Website:

More information

Important legal information

The programme information currently being published in Course Finder is under review and may be subject to change. The final programme information is due to be published on 2 March 2016 and will be the definitive programme outline which the University intends to offer. Applicants are advised to check the definitive programme information after the update, to ensure that the programme meets their needs.