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Sustainable Design (M.S.)

Program Director: Rob Fleming, LEED AP BD&C, NOMA



Building on the University’s mission to provide professional skills combined with a broad general education, the sustainable design program seeks to prepare students for the built environment industry by teaching specific skill sets necessary to conceptualize, measure and construct a sustainable environment. This is balanced by broader, theoretical avenues of study that emphasize systems thinking, which place the technical knowledge gained in the program into context. The program culminates with a two-semester thesis project that is meant to provide a component of depth in a specific built-environment discipline or a particular subset of sustainability.

The M.S. in Sustainable Design is a post baccalaureate master’s degree program that serves students from a wide array of disciplines ranging from architecture to engineering to design to construction. The faculty members of the program are drawn from diverse disciplines to underscore the transdisciplinary nature of the program. The emphasis of the program is on the sustainable built environment with students exploring different avenues of study including design, entrepreneurship and policy development. This approach is supported by a curriculum that comprises three Introductory courses, followed by collaborative studios and culminating in the thesis project. Electives are used to provide opportunities to explore related topics involving sustainability, or for a short study abroad experience. The total credit requirement for the degree is 34 credits and features multiple pathways for completion including full-time and part-time online study.

Program Learning Goals

Graduates of the M.S. in Sustainable Design will:

  • Apply the core skill sets necessary to accomplish an effective sustainable design project as a response to environmental, social and economic forces.
  • Provide leadership, team building and organizational skills for diverse groups through the integrated process.
  • Work effectively within groups of varied disciplines.
  • Synthesize theories of sustainability into comprehensive research and design projects.
  • Develop diversity initiatives that are integral to the sustainability problem-solving process as a reflection of an emerging global marketplace.
  • Apply ethical values to the integrated design process and to the selection of systems and materials for a built project.
  • Bring innovation to their fields and anticipate future directions in their professions by adapting to social, environmental and economic changes.

Curriculum Design

The Curriculum of the MSSD Program features three teaching/learning strategies:

Lectures build an overall knowledge base about sustainability while providing detailed information on green materials, construction systems, life-cycle analysis and green-building documentation metrics such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. 

Studios will synthesize the sustainability knowledge-base and informed intuition into larger, more complex projects that draw upon collaboration and innovation as key approaches to problem-solving and design conceptualization. Studio-based learning incorporates one-on-one communication with faculty, group projects, and collaboration with other students from diverse disciplines.

Thesis Projects are the culminating educational experience that allows each student to conduct a specialized research or design project.

Foundation Course Requirements and Advanced Standing

Foundation courses are available to those students who are interested in developing basic knowledge and skills for the built environment professions prior to entering into the MS in Sustainable Design Program. Contact the MSSD Program Director for more information.

Degree Options

The MSSD Program offers students three ways to complete their degree: a 2-Year Full-Time Program, a 2-Year Online Program, and a Hybrid/Flex Program. There is also a Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Practices.

2-Year Full-Time Program

(34 credits)
This full-time program allows students to spend the time needed to delve deeply into the more detailed aspects of sustainable design, engineering and architecture. Students in this track will be encouraged to plug into ongoing research projects as well as other grant-funded projects at the University. This track is most suitable to those students who are accepted as graduate research assistants or for international students seeking educational opportunities in this country.

Fall Semester

  • SDN-601    Principles & Methods for Sustainable Design..... 3 credits
  • SDN-602    Adaptive Design..... 3 credits
  • SDN-603    Sustainable Systems..... 3 credits

Spring Semester

  • SDN-XXX    Elective..... 3 credits
  • SDN-621    Ecological Design Studio..... 4 credits
  • SDN-623    Exploring Landscape..... 2 credits

Fall Semester

  • SDN-900    Thesis in Sustainable Design I..... 3 credits
  • SDN-622    Sustainable Design Studio..... 4 credits
  • SDN 604    Green Materials and Life Cycle Assessment..... 3 credits

Spring Semester

  • SDN-901    Thesis in Sustainable Design II..... 6 credits


M.S. in Sustainable Design – 2-Year Online Program

(34 Graduate Credits)
This program is ideal for students who can’t move to Philadelphia but still want to complete the degree. All courses are offered completely online.

Fall Semester

  • SDNX-601    Principles and Methods for Sustainable Design..... 3 credits
  • SDNX-602    Adaptive Design..... 3 credits

Spring Semester

  • SDNX-603    Sustainable Systems..... 3 credits
  • SDNX-604    Green Materials..... 3 credits

Summer Semester

  • SDNX-XXX    Elective..... 3 credits

Fall Semester

  • SDNX-621    Ecological Design Studio..... 4 credits
  • SDNX-623    Exploring Landscape..... 2 credits

Spring Semester

  • SDNX-622    Sustainable Design Studio..... 4 credits
  • SDNX-900    Thesis in Sustainable Design I..... 3 credits

Summer Semester

  • SDN-901    Thesis in Sustainable Design II..... 6 credits

M.S. in Sustainable Design – Hybrid/Flex Program

(34 Credits)
This program is designed to accommodate those who do not wish to pursue the traditional two-year day program or the 100% online program. Those who wish to accelerate their degree, or attend part time, or start online and finish on campus would select this option. Interested students will be directed to meet with the MSSD Program Director to design a course sequence that will meet the student’s unique needs. Students will receive a written detailed course of study that details a clear progression of courses leading towards graduation in the time frame agreed upon by the student and Program Director.