Online Sustainable Design Degrees: Program Overviews

Learn about online certificate and degree programs with sustainable design courses. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

Essential Information

Sustainable design is an environmentally conscious branch of architectural design that is concerned with the comfort and health of building occupants as well as a building's relationship to its natural and human environments.

Online opportunities in sustainable design are available at the graduate level through both certificate and master's degree programs. Both of these programs require that the applicant holds a bachelor's degree, and they are commonly designed for professionals already working in the field. Certificate programs may be completed entirely online, though they may require on-campus attendance for project submission, or they may even include mandatory internships that must be completed in a physical location. Master's degree programs are typically hybrid programs, requiring both on-campus and online components, including class work, lecture attendance and mentoring sessions. Online students may need software that includes an AutoCAD program.

Certificate in Sustainable Design

Online certificate programs in sustainable design are widely available and offered by several schools. These programs incorporate a curriculum that emphasizes the design and construction of buildings that conserve resources and interact with public spaces in an environmentally sound way. Most schools design these programs for students who already have an undergraduate degree in architecture and for professional architects looking to broaden their outlook on design and planning.

Program Information and Requirements

Typically, online sustainable design certificate programs can be completed within one year, and most schools allow students to complete coursework at their own pace. Although many of these certificate programs can be completed entirely online, some programs also require students to complete an internship at a professional architectural firm and submit final reports to their instructors.

In order to access and work on online course materials, students need to be running an updated browser and operating system. They also need a reliable broadband Internet connection. Some programs require that students use software like Adobe Reader and Adobe Acrobat, in addition to media programs like Windows Media Player or RealPlayer. Some schools may also require students to have an updated copy of architectural design software like AutoCAD.

Course Topics

Design For Community

Students in this course study how design must adapt to accommodate environmental changes in local and global communities. Students critique public spaces from the view of environmentally conscious architects as well as concerned citizens.

Innovation and Sustainability

This class investigates different avenues for architectural innovation that can lead to naturally healthy and effectively sustainable designs. As part of the course, students submit creative plans to alter pre-existing structures or construct entirely new buildings that are environmentally sound and promote sustainability.

Sustainability and Business

Students learn how to pitch and sell sustainable designs to prospective clients during this course. The curriculum covers the complex relationships between architects and clients, between companies and consumers, and between buildings and the environment.


Master's Degree in Sustainable Design

Online master's degree programs in architectural studies with a sustainable design concentration train students to work on structures that are both technically and environmentally sound. These programs cover areas such as building construction, environmental and historical preservation, urban planning and interior design. Schools offering this online master's degree program require applicants to have a bachelor's degree in architecture.

Program Information and Requirements

Most online master's degree programs with a concentration in sustainable design are hybrid programs in which some courses need to be completed on campus and in real time classrooms. For example, most schools require students to complete a practical studio course, during which they work with other students to complete a range of projects in sustainable design. Some schools require students to attend guest lectures and engage in mentoring sessions with professional architects working in the field. Typically, an online master's degree in architecture program with a concentration in sustainable design takes a student 2-3 years to complete.

The online courses included in these programs require students to be running a current operating system and have access to word processing and spreadsheet programs in addition to software that may be required for design courses, such as AutoCAD. Some schools may also require students to access and submit course materials using a free e-learning platform they can easily download from the Web, like Blackboard.

Course Topics

Sustainable Architecture Studio

This course gives students an overview of sustainable design in a modern architecture studio. Topics typically include using measuring tools, implementing alternate energy sources and applying methods of resource conservation.

Preservation Issues

Students taking this course research and discuss technical, design and legal issues associated with historic structures and districts. This class also discusses environmental preservation and natural concerns that affect architectural design and engineering.

Greening Existing Buildings

In this course, students learn how to make existing buildings more environmentally sound and safer for inhabitants. Topics of discussion and research include using alternate water and energy sources, as well as building infrastructure issues.


Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), architects with a knowledge of 'green' or sustainable design should be in high demand over the next several years as cities and private companies increasingly seek out structures that utilize resources efficiently and inexpensively. As of May 2015, the BLS reports, the average salary of an architect, not including those with specialties in landscape and naval work, was $82,850.

Students wishing to study sustainable design can pursue online certificate or master's programs to study preservation issues, greening existing buildings and sustainability in business. Some of these programs may be in a hybrid format, with in-person internships, mentoring or other training.


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