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Master Sustainable Building: Performance and Design

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  • Entry requirements
    The course is open to candidates from a wide range of backgrounds who have a relevant first degree. The majority of students have a background in architecture, with the remainder coming from other disciplines, including engineering, physics, surveying, building and mathematics. Applications will also be considered from potential candidates who wish to seek accreditation for their prior experiential learning or earlier qualifications, particularly those who have worked on projects in related fields. Applicants whose first language is not English must demonstrate that their level of English is appropriate to study at postgraduate level. This course requires IELTS level 6 (preferably 6.5) in the academic test, with a minimum score of 6 in reading and writing. For TOEFL the required score is 550-575 (paper-based) or 213-232 (computer-based), with a score of 4.5 in the Test of Written English (TWE).
  • Academic Title
    MSc / PGDip / PGCert Sustainable Building: Performance and Design
  • Course description
     MSc / PGDip / PGCert

    Over half the energy used by the developed world is consumed by buildings. As global concern increases about the impact of energy use, so does the importance of sustainable and energy-efficient building.

    This unique multi-disciplinary course is taught by architects, engineers, physicists and builders. It deals with energy, environmental and climatic design principles and issues. It equips you with a wide range of tools, methodologies, information and attitudes that will enable you to design energy-efficient buildings and evaluate the environmental impacts of everyday design decisions.

    The MSc in Energy Efficient and Sustainable Building at Oxford Brookes is aimed at building designers, managers and users, providing a broad perception of the significance, and means, of minimising energy use in buildings, and the tools with which to do so.

    You will acquire a wide range of skills necessary to assess and optimise the energy and environmental performance of buildings. You will also learn methods for evaluating occupant requirements for buildings, and gain experience in energy auditing of buildings and computer simulation of building performance. Through your dissertation you will gain experience in completing an in-depth research project.
    Course content

    All modules are compulsory.

    Building Physics, Energy Use and Sustainability (20 credits) This module addresses the heat transfer processes in buildings in a quantitative way. The necessary basic physics required to calculate the principal energy gains and losses is presented. Simple models to estimate daily, monthly and annual building energy performance for heating and cooling dominated climates are developed. The socio-economic role and the importance of energy to human development are analysed. Conventional and renewable energy sources and their supply, uses and environmental impacts are evaluated. Criteria for technology selection are developed. Assessment of future growth in energy demand, availability and the finite nature of energy resources is made in the context of the potential for sustainable development.

    Sustainable Buildings and Planning Issues and Indicators (20 credits) This module covers the key issues related to the sustainable development of the natural world and the built environment. It incorporates a wide range of issues pertaining to the development of the built environment, including issues of planning, building design and development.

    Climatic Design (half module, 10 credits) The performance and comfort of most buildings is determined by the interaction between the design of the building shell, the services in the building, and the people and how they manage the building. All three of these indicators are influenced by the climatic context of the building and the way it influences or develops the local microclimate. In this module we look at traditional building responses to particular climate types and explore the effectiveness of traditional vernacular design as a climate modifier. Traditional design can serve as a good starting point for low-energy servicing of buildings as most societies, perhaps until the late 20th century, developed design strategies to achieve comfort independently, or with minimal use, of energy. Coursework in this module is an assessment of a familiar domestic building in the student's home area, performance modelling to develop an understanding of the climatic response in buildings, and a short test.

    Reducing Energy Use in Building Servicing (half module, 10 credits). Energy use of buildings is substantially influenced by the way in which they are serviced (other influences are the general building design and the way people use the building). The module deals with the energy implications of the servicing of buildings. It introduces the range of services required in building and discusses sustainable ways to achieve comfort in buildings. Coursework in this module includes material preparation for seminars (compulsory but not assessed) and a class test.

    Post-Occupancy Building Evaluation (20 credits) This module focuses on the complex issue of assessing existing and, in some cases, conceptual buildings on their energy use, environmental impact and occupant satisfaction. Post-occupancy building evaluations are useful for a variety of reasons: they provide performance benchmarks on which buildings can be rated and compared; they provide targets and incentives for building managers in terms of energy efficiency, environmental performance and occupant satisfaction; they can improve a company's 'green' profile and enhance rental potential and public opinion.

    Sustainable Design in Context (20 credits) Through multicultural and interdisciplinary team-based learning, this module addresses the variety of cultural, social, technical and environmental factors that bear on the practice of architecture in context. The module deals with the concept of reconciling regional identity and tradition with contemporary needs in building design and performance, relating to the impact of technological change and social transformation arising from globalisation, climate change and other factors. The study of the design of dwellings and public buildings such as schools, health care facilities or religious buildings that accommodate current requirements and respond to contextual, climatological and cultural factors is undertaken in an experiential and interactive mode. Emphasis is placed on the role of professionals as facilitators of the aspirations of communities constructing their built environment for a sustainable future.

    Materials for Sustainable Energy Efficient Buildings I and II (two half modules) Much of the process of building involves the understanding of how building materials look, perform, last and interact with, and impact on, the environment and the people who use and view the building. This module on the subject of materials provides an essential springboard for the design, specification, maintenance and demolition of buildings. The course explores a range of issues that relate to materials and sustainability that include embodied energy, performance, waste and health. A specialised in-depth assessment of glazing materials, shading and solar protection devices is presented and forms one half of the module. Tools for the design of complete glazing systems, calculation of thermal performance, energy rating and labelling are employed. Selection criteria in heating and cooling dominated climates are analysed. Solar thermal and photovoltaic design methods are also developed.

    Dissertation and Research Methods (60 credits) This final piece of work in the master's aims to develop decision-making skills related to research design and allows learning from other modules to be brought together in a single context. This provides an opportunity for you to explore, assimilate and synthesise learning from across the individual modules within your learning portfolio. Evidence of this exploration involves a 15,000-word dissertation in which the student will demonstrate how the whole course learning has been brought into play in a piece of action research. The dissertation will give evidence of the consideration of research methodologies, ethics, logical arguments, validity, reliability and confidence in the conclusions.
    Teaching, learning and assessment

    The course is structured on a module-credit basis. The MSc and diploma course consists of six compulsory taught modules, and three modules are needed for the PGCert. To complete the MSc a research project is undertaken. Teaching and learning methods reflect the wide variety of issues, methods, tools and techniques associated with energy efficiency in buildings. These include lectures, directed reading, workshops, seminars, design projects, building audits and simulation studies. The course also includes site visits and a field trip which provide students with the opportunity to directly experience the application of some of the most important issues of sustainability and energy efficiency.

    A wide range of staff are involved in teaching various components of the course, drawn from the School of the Built Environment (Department of Architecture) and the School of Technology. Visiting speakers from business and industry, research bodies and environmental consultancies also contribute to the course.

    Each module is assessed individually, by methods which may include essays, position papers, seminar papers, formal written examinations, in-class tests, project work and verbal presentations, workshops, simulations and practical exercises. Most assessment is based on coursework.

    Clear and accessible presentation and communication is required throughout the course. Students are assessed on the quality of their written work and on their verbal presentations.

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