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Sustainable Building Conservation (MSc/PgDip/PgCert)

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

Beyond offering an RIBA approved and IHBC accredited masters degree, the Welsh School of Architecture’s MSc in Sustainable Building Conservation focuses new career paths by enabling students to develop expertise with regard to energy conservation and the sustainable use of materials in the context of historic buildings. Taught elements take place across six two-day sessions (Friday-Saturday) per year offering a two year part time option to students who may be employed or in full time practice. Full time students attend twelve of these sessions and complete the course in one year. The course is held at the Welsh School of Architecture’s MSc Sustainable Building Conservation Base at 2 North Road, Cardiff.

MSc SBS students visiting the Roman Forum

Course Aims

The course aims to be unique amongst schools in Britain in two ways. Firstly, the teaching offers a design-based iterative element, thereby testing the formulation of informed decisions. Secondly, It places emphasis on the role of sustainability within the historic context at both technical and strategic levels. By using the Welsh School of Architecture’s established expertise as a research locus for sustainable design, it addresses these concerns which have been identified internationally by ICOMOS as the critical future direction of conservation education.

The course seeks to attract a broad range of students with varied levels of experience in professional practice who share an interest in the conservation of architecture, urbanism and the environment. Candidates may be graduates with a degree in architecture and/or RIBA part 2 exemption embarking on their professional careers or have been professionals in practice for some time seeking to refine or augment their career paths.

It is open to Architects, but also to related professions and backgrounds such as Surveyors, Project Managers, Curators, Archaeologists, Planners, Conservation Officers, Engineers, Building managers, Developers and other related Built Environment professionals.

Who is the Programme for?

This programme is designed for graduates who want to pursue a career in this area and whose first degree was in a related area such as Engineering, Planning, Architecture, Archaeology, Surveying or Construction. It is also open to people who may have equivalent experience in the construction industry or in heritage management.

Current students come from backgrounds in Architecture, Planning, Surveying, Construction, Archaeology and Fine Art Conservation. Many are employed in Local Authorities or Private Practice, some run their own businesses as conservation contractors, project managers or architects. We also have students who are recent graduates. The diversity of skills and experience amongst the students is key to the vitality of discussion, reflecting the complex nature of practice in this area.

Special Features

The course is both RIBA approved and IHBC accredited. Completion of the RIBA approved course for RIBA and ARB registered Architects entitles them to apply to become 'Conservation Registrants' immediately. Completion of the IHBC accredited course enables suitably qualified candidates to achieve full IHBC accreditation in 2 as opposed to 5 years. As an RIBA approved course, it reduces the number of years in practice required to be entitled to apply for registration as 'Specialist Conservation Architect' to 4 years (from 5) and 2 years (from 3) for 'Conservation Architect'. Completion of the IHBC accredited course enables suitably qualified candidates to achieve full IHBC accreditation in 2 as opposed to 5 years.

As a part of fourth module, students are taken to Rome for a two day intensive visit during which we meet with tutors from the 2nd level International Masters in Architectural Restoration and Cultural Heritage at Roma TRE University. Travel to Rome, entrance fees and accommodation are covered in the course fee.

Laser Scan of Cardiff’s Historic Coal Exchange by MSc SBC students

Course Description

In summary, the course aims to:

Course Structure

The programme is offered on both a full time and a part time basis. The taught modules are all delivered over six friday and saturday sessions per year thereby attracting part time candidates who are employed in full time practice. Part time students will complete modules 1,2,and 3 (i.e. 60 credits) in the first year and modules 4 and 5 in the second year. They will be given until the following December to submit their dissertation module.

Module 1: The Conservator’s Role

The module sets out to establish and question an understanding of the role of the built heritage sector at a global and a local level. It introduces both economic and ethical dilemmas that present constant challenges to the theory and practice of building conservation. As an introductory module, it frames the broadest theoretical influences that lie behind current legislation and thinking and anticipates that these may be used to colour judgments made later in the course when addressing case studies. It follows an induction covering research, writing and technical drawing skills.

Module 2: Tools of interpretation

The module addresses methods for both desk-based research and on site surveys into and of historic buildings. It then further encourages the development of interpretive skills using both methods to form assertions about the nature, durability and date of historic buildings. The presentation of specific and general phenomena by example is used to assist in the identification of patterns and exemplars as well as anomalies. Techniques of surveying will be explained and tested. The CADW and HE levels of survey will be explained. Common causes of damage and decay will be identified in order to assert real life exemplars of technical dilemmas.

Module 3: Energy Use in Historic Buildings

The module will be introduced and framed by invited conservation experts whose lectures will establish reference points for the technical aspects of sustainable design in a historic context. Students will be made aware of tools with which to evaluate the application of sustainable technologies with respect to historic buildings.

Module 4: Case Studies and Regional Work

This module uses iterative teaching methods. It sets out to explore the formation of judgements regarding building conservation in practice through the use of case study or regional case study material. The precise subject matter of each area may vary according to circumstance. In focusing on a body of local examples it seeks to establish links to live projects and practitioners in Wales but it also allows the option of pursuing a student’s own chosen case study in any location.

Module 5: Design Tools: Methods of Repair

A core set of tools understood through an approach to materials will be applied to the repair and conservation of a sequence of building typologies which will rotate annually providing variety to people taking the module as part of an RIBA, IHBC or RICS CPD programme. Approaches to the repair of building types will be taken to address different building elements and methods of construction viewed under varying constraints. The teaching method will be iterative and studio based to encourage discourse and experimentation.

Module 6: Dissertation

A 20,000 word dissertation on a subject of the candidate’s choosing alternatively a critical appraisal of a conservation project which may be project based in content and delivery.

Module calendar 2016-17

PGT Induction at WSA: 19-23rd September 2016

MSc SBC Induction: 29th September 2016

Module 1: The Conservator’s Role
149th – 15th October and 4th – 5th November 2016 (Part time Year 1)

Module 2: Tools of interpretation

25th – 26th November 2016 and 13th – 14th January 2017 (Part time Year 1)

Module 3: Energy Use in Historic Buildings

3rd – 4th February and 17th – 18th February 2017 (Part time Year 1)

Module 4: Case Studies and Regional Work

21st – 22nd October and 11th – 12th November 2016,
27th – 28th January (Rome Trip) and 3rd – 4th March 2017 (Part time Year 2)

Module 5: Design Tools: Methods of Repair

2nd – 3rd December 2016 and 6th – 7th January 2017 (Part time Year 2)

Module 6: Dissertation

Induction: 17th - 18th March 2016 (Part time Year 2)


Each piece of work or report is assessed at an outline stage and at completion stage, with feedback given to guide future submissions. There are no class tests or exams during the programme, however, students are required to submit written and project work on time and also on occasion to be able to present their work orally to the group.

The course briefs are designed to enable students from differing backgrounds to pursue paths relevant to their chosen or existing career progression.

Each 20-credit module is assessed via a combination of written assignments (4,000 words approx. each) and presentations.

Teaching Methods

The taught material is delivered by a range of specially selected guest speakers, all prestigious within their particular field. The speaker’s presentation is followed by lively debate and discussion with the group, taking the opportunity to learn from a range of perspectives. We undertake several relevant site visits during the course of the programme, engaging with practitioners, clients and statutory authorities

Resources and Facilities

The Welsh School of Architecture has a strong reputation in Sustainable design research which forms a strong point of reference in the programme. The school possesses its own laser scanner and students are all introduced to this technology as well as to principles of hygrothermal modelling and energy use modelling. If they are interested they are supported in further study of monitoring techniques

Students at Ewenny Priory, October 2014
Students at Ty Mawr


The course is led by Dr Oriel Prizeman, an RIBA accredited conservation architect. It is co-ordinated with help from Andrew Faulkner, an AABC accredited Conservation Architect and SPAB Lethaby Scholar. Chris Whitman, an architect pursuing a PhD in the sustainable retrofit of timber framed buildings acts as course tutor. The majority of the seminars are delivered by external experts invited according to their specialism.

'By fortune or by chance, Cardiff was my starting point and I am glad for this opportunity.'

Mariangela Parisi, MSc Sustainable Building Conservation, 2014-15

Read Mariangela's full testimonial

'One of the things that I loved about studying the Sustainable Building Conservation course has been the opportunity to visit usually inaccessible places guided by people who know them like the back of their hands. I really appreciate when a University is engaged in the diffusion of the knowledge of local heritage. The numerous field visits have been to me a valuable source of enthusiasm. Every time that you put on the red helmet to visit a conservation yard, believe me, you feel like a renewed Indiana Jones! You feel like if somebody put in your hands a master-key for history.’

To read more about Mariangela's time as a Sustainable Building Conservation student you can read two of her blogs here:

Mariangela Parisi, MSc Sustainable Building Conservation, 2014-15

Skills Acquired

On satisfactory completion of six modules you will:

Career Prospects

Experienced professionals are provided with an opportunity to adjust their career path by gaining specialised expertise in an area of practice that increasingly demands proof of capability. Recent graduates are offered the chance to focus the skills and credentials they can offer to prospective employers or indeed to lay foundations in a specialised area in which they may choose to start up their own businesses.

Entry Requirements

Candidates must satisfy the Cardiff University General Entrance Requirements and in addition, will normally possess an initial degree in the discipline of Architecture, Surveying, Archaeology, Planning, Facilities Management, or related subjects.

At the discretion of the Board of Studies, non-graduates whose relative lack of formal qualifications is compensated for by their relevant work experience may also be admitted to candidature provided the candidate has held, for a minimum period of two years, a position of responsibility relevant to the programme.

Students whose first language is not English are normally expected to take the IELTS (or equivalent) and obtain an average score of at least 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any individual component.

Students are anticipated to come from Architectural, Planning or Surveying backgrounds as well as wider related fields of Facilities Management and Project Management and may have varied qualifications or experience. It is anticipated that many will be mature students and as such eligibility will be assessed on a case by case basis.

Application Deadline: 1st September 2016 (for 2016/17 entry)

Potential students will be interviewed as part of the admissions process.

Admissions decisions are made on a continuous basis throughout the year.

How to Apply

Applications can be made for this course via our Online Application Service.


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

International students may also be interested in the Chevening Scholarship and funding from the Aga Khan Foundation

Visiting ongoing repairs at the Alhambra, Granada Spain, February 2014
MSc SBC students visit the Alhambra led by Dr Federico Wulff, February 2014

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: Dr. Oriel Prizeman  

Telephone: +44 (0)29 208 75967 



School Contact

Name: Carys Meredith  

Telephone: +44 (0)29 2087 9693 



More information


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