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Sustainable Design Certificate

Sustainable Design Certificate

Our built environment consumes the majority of the energy and resources we use as a society; it is imperative that we design and implement design practices that improve rather than degrade the natural systems upon which we rely. The Sustainable Design Certificate provides knowledge and expertise in sustainable design and construction of the built environment that can lead to career advancement in a wide range of fields. Designers, construction personnel, property managers, building department officials, facilities professionals, engineers and many other professional roles can benefit from a rigorous curriculum in sustainable best practices.


The Sustainable Design Certificate is fully online and open to students studying from anywhere in the world. An undergraduate degree is recommended, but not required for enrollment in this certificate program. Courses in this program are taught at the graduate-level.

With this certificate, you can learn to design and implement design practices that improve rather than degrade the natural systems and resources upon which society relies.

Requirements and Courses

The Sustainable Design Certificate program requires the completion of six courses for a total of 9 credits. You’ll take the same courses as students in the Master of Design Studies in Sustainable Design.

Courses are offered in the fall, spring, and summer semesters. See what Continuing Education Courses are coming up soon.

Courses | 9 Credits:

This course traces the history of the sustainable design movement then introduces its primary tenets using the LEED Rating System as the organizing structure. Readings in the course are drawn largely from Environmental Building News. Online discussions are designed to acquaint the students with the language, philosophy, and principles of sustainable design. This course examines the underlying principles of sustainability and design. The class focuses on environmental sustainability and thought processes that can help professionals design a more sustainable world. Major aspects of environmental building that will be addressed include energy efficiency, building materials, indoor environmental quality and land use. Ways of evaluating the sustainability of the built environment are discussed including the LEED™ rating system.

In recent years, numerous theories about sustainable development and urban living have emerged. New urbanism, landscape urbanism, ecological urbanism, sustainable urbanism, are just a few to mention. Each of these planning and design theories introduces new ideas and principles; some of them even issue manifestos. How different actually are these urbanisms? Does one preclude the other? How do these theories contribute to sustainable development? This course reviews the most current among these movements, their basic tenets and positions. Students will apply observations derived from the comparison of urbanist theories to sample urban and suburban sites, and draw conclusions about sustainable development. Course discussions and assignments are aimed at establishing sound and well-informed professional approaches.

As the art and science of sensitively adapting historic buildings for continued and new uses, preservation is inherently a sustainable practice. Learn how old buildings were built with features that conserve energy and create a comfortable environment. Develop a framework for evaluating energy-saving options for historic buildings and the special considerations they require. Build your knowledge of current best practices in the field regarding windows, insulation, renewables and more. This course will help you design energy improvements that meet historic preservation guidelines whether you're trying to comply with regulatory requirements in a local design review process or federally funded project, or just want to promote the long term sustainability of historic buildings. Discussion topics will include environmental quality, materials selection, and energy rating systems like LEED.

It didn't all start with LEED. Efforts to reconcile the demands of the contemporary built environment with the demands of the natural world and finite resources have been going on around the world for at least the last fifty years -in some places they have been going on for millenia. For at least the last thirty years, significant green advances in building products, systems, planning and design, and design theory have been going on in Europe, Asia, South America, and Australia-New Zealand as well as in North America. This course will examine the most innovative and exciting green design approaches, projects, policies and programs from around the world. While not all of these are transferable across cultural and geographic boundaries, this course is offered in the belief that as we face the increasingly urgent need to build sustainably, we can all learn from each other. The key lies in global and local solutions.

The interaction of buildings and sunlight is rich and complex. This course will examine the many possibilities provided by the sun to power, light and heat our buildings. These possibilities are affected by geographic location, climate, building site, and building form, orientation, fenestration and thermal mass-all of which will be considered. Passive and active solar thermal systems, solar domestic hot water systems and photovoltaics will be studied along with design strategies to prevent unwanted solar gain in climates and seasons when that is a problem. The relative cost and benefits of different solar strategies will also be addressed.

As fuel prices and global energy security fluctuate, strategies for designing zero energy homes need to be investigated. A Zero Energy Home is currently a goal and ever present in the media, but not yet accomplished at the level of our technical potential. We will explore the various definitions of Zero Energy and understand the implications of the term within several contexts: bioregional, local, and site constrained. The various energy loads being counted towards the absolute of Zero will be explained, as well as the design opportunities to reduce them. The occupant's behavior and habits in the home are critical to the successful energy outcome, and feedback opportunities and data from case studies will be presented and examined. Metrics of consumption, peak load, and annual use will be presented and compared. The principles of orientation, thermal envelope, renewable energy systems that produce (positive), as well as mechanical, electrical and ventilation systems that consume (negative) will be explained and investigated for both case studies and theoretical projects for exploration.

Among the green elements which have come into use over the last twenty years to soften the impacts of buildings on the environment are green roofs. More recently this concept has been extended to vertical surfaces with the use of green walls, both interior and exterior. Both of these elements have potential and both come with caveats -in terms of their value to the environment and their relationship to the buildings on which they are located. A well designed green envelope can make a contribution to a sustainable building; a poorly designed green envelope can seriously damage a building. This course will examine the many choices available for designing, constructing and maintaining green roofs and green walls, the pros and cons of each in any given location from an environmental standpoint, and the critical things to be aware of as you design and construct them.

The existing building stock is here and much of it is responsible for consuming energy, water and other resources at an unsustainable rate from both the environmental and the economic standpoints. Focusing on non-residential buildings, this course will examine the issues, techniques and processes that are involved in turning these buildings into sustainable consumers, whether through relatively simple retrofits or major renovations. Among the topics to be reviewed will be assessing existing performance, instituting building commissioning, improving energy and water efficiency, limiting (re)construction waste, improving indoor environmental quality, supporting sustainable operations and considering renewable energy sources.

That cities have the potential to be the most sustainable form of human development is coming to be widely recognized, as is the fact that most cities have a long way to go to realize that potential. Progress is being made, however, in terms of improvements to infrastructure and the building stock, innovative transportation and development policies and programs, revised codes, and other measures designed to encourage sustainability. This course will examine the most innovative approaches to greening cities around the US and other countries and consider both their successes -and failures- and their applicability to different regions and cultures. Among other things, the important role of conflict resolution as major changes are being made in a city will be considered.

With the development of increasingly sophisticated software, energy modeling has become an integral part of commercial & institutional building design. Making energy performance a manipulable element at the earliest stages of building design is essential to sustainable building design. This course will provide an overview of energy modeling of commercial & institutional buildings, an introduction to the most popular energy modeling packages- including hands-on experience with at least one of them- and a discussion of how to make use of energy modeling results in the design process. The relationship of energy modeling to green building rating systems will also be explored. Students shall have a Windows based PC or a Mac that has Windows virtual environment (e.g. Parallels, VWware Fusion, or Oracle VM Virtual Box) and a copy of Windows 7 or Windows XP installed in order to run the eQUEST energy modeling program.'

The concept of an environmentally conscious building should take into account energy consumption, the quality of indoor air, and most importantly human comfort. Indigenous strategies that adapt to the rigors of the local climate and contemporary bioclimatic architecture are part of this introductory course to sustainable design. Participants will be introduced to the human needs for comfort and shelter as well as psychrometrics and the physics of heat transfer and heat loss calculations. Building form, orientation, and indoor spaces will also be discussed as they relate to sun, wind, and site, as well as bioclimatic design, passive solar design, natural cooling, and daylighting.

This course gives students the tools they need to evaluate a material based on how it impacts the built and natural environment. Since people in western cultures tend to spend most of their time indoors, specific attention will be paid to Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ). Environmentally responsible materials selection will be discussed, including the importance of waste, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), and all aspects of the manufacturing process. Interior design issues that are covered include the importance of natural daylighting, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), and acoustics. Current materials rating systems and specification writing aids will be reviewed. Case studies representing best practices in sustainable design of interiors will be presented for discussion. This course is directly useful to anyone selecting materials for any kind of building project.

This course will examine the techniques and benefits of daylighting in terms of occupants' well being and productivity, potential improvements in energy efficiency, and its effects on building form. For daylighting, the relative advantages and disadvantages of toplighting versus sidelighting and the best approaches to the design of both will be covered. The course will also examine the latest approaches to the design of efficient electric lighting both inside and outside of buildings. The plusses and minuses of different kinds of lamps and fixtures along with issues of efficiency, light quality, longevity and disposal will be considered.

It is the building enclosure where many sustainable design intentions find their physical expression. Here, as well, is where the majority of legal claims against designers find their expression. The building enclosure has three major assemblies-foundation, walls, and roof- each with as many as 10 (or more) components. Sustainable design requires integration of these assemblies and their components in a way that manages the major degradation vectors- water, air, heat, radiation, pests, and even occupants. This course will cover the building enclosures for both commercial and residential structures. A major focus of the course will be the relationships among green building, building science, energy efficiency, durability, and risk management. Students will leave the course with a new way of understanding, analyzing, and designing sustainable enclosures. An equal emphasis will be placed on design, specification, construction, and commissioning of building enclosures.

This course will examine how communities across the nation are grappling with such smart growth issues as affordable housing, sprawl, urban revitalization, economic development, transportation investments, and open space protection. These issues are also collectively referred to as sustainable development, growth management or New Urbanism. The course will cover the history of sprawl and current policy debates about land use, urban design, regulation, and public and private investment. The course will feature critiques of specific development projects, tailored to the interests of students.

This course offers an introduction to green building marketing. Students will be introduced to the current market for green buildings. Several methods for making the business case for building green will be examined. The course will introduce marketing concepts for professional service firms, including architects and designers, engineers and contractors. We will study a variety of means of differentiating a firm in this growth market, including networking, partnering, positioning and promotion. The course will examine the concept of branding for individuals and firms. Finally, we will discuss the importance of documentation of sustainability performance to support the marketing of green leadership.

Greening healthcare projects should be a no-brainer -what building type has occupants more deserving of a healthy space? Unfortunately, when people think of healthy spaces, hospitals are often among the last to come to mind. The intense resource requirements, code constraints, programmatic requirements and institutional culture can make green building a more significant challenge than with other typologies. This course explores the theories and practices of sustainable healthcare design, what it means to create a healthy and healing environment, and how to balance the complex demands of hospitals with those of the natural environment. Topics will include energy and water use intensity, toxicities in building materials, daylighting and opportunities for connections to nature, greening a healthcare campus, use of rating systems, and more.

While sustainable design principles encompass human health and wellbeing issues, designers don’t often focus on the full range of impacts that the built environment has on public health. This course examines the intersection of the overlapping fields of green building and public health, with an eye for trends that will guide design practices in coming decades. Participants will explore the direct and indirect relationships that our work has on preventing illness, injury and reductions in quality of life. Key topics include air quality, water quality, food access, transportation networks, lighting design, workplace productivity, material toxicity, resilience, and more. Students will apply core principals of health and wellbeing across a range of scales of design, from product to building to city.

Resilience is the ability of a system to bounce back from disruptions or interruptions. As climate change advances, we will face increased storm intensity, flooding, heat waves, drought, and wildfire, while terrorism or political strife could result in extended power outages and interruptions in heating or transportation fuels. To prepare for these risks, buildings and communities should be designed to be more resilient. This online course will examine both the context for resilience and practical strategies for achieving resilient buildings and communities. Elements include the siting of buildings and infrastructure to protect against flooding, land-use planning to ensure functionality in the event of gasoline shortages, high-performance building designs that will maintain livable conditions during extended power outages or loss of heating fuel, water supply and delivery options for times of drought or power outages, and renewable energy systems that can function during power outages. All of these measures also contribute to sustainability.

This elective option course introduces students to frameworks for considering and measuring the social impacts of design. Learning Goals: 1. Students will gain skills in identifying and assessing urban risk factors around a design project. 2. Students will be introduced to the use of mapping techniques in the documentation and analysis of social resilience. 3. Students will develop knowledge around identifying and engaging stakeholders. 4. Students will study the processes of urban gentrification and its impacts on housing accessibility and equity. 5. Students will learn existing guidelines and standards for social resilience including: JUST labeling, Living Building Challenge Equity Petal, LEED pilot credits , SEED Network etc.

This course provides an overview of renewable energy sources and systems available for the built environment including solar energy, wind power, fuel cells, biomass and geothermal. Students will learn to assess and quantify, at the scale of the district and the site, opportunities and challenges to the use of renewable energy including energy generation potential, economic outcome and environmental impact. Students will also learn how to create a detailed renewable energy profile and action plan.

How to Enroll in a Certificate Program

To enroll in a BAC Certificate Program, submit the following application materials to the Registrar's office and then register for courses during an open registration period:

*An undergraduate degree is recommended for the Sustainable Design Certificate, the Real Estate Development Certificate, and the Historic Preservation Certificate. Courses in these certificate programs are taught at the graduate level.

Certificate students must begin academic coursework in the program within two academic semesters of submitting the application materials. 

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