PennDesign Offers New Master in Environmental Building Design Degree

November 30, 2010

The Department of Architecture has announced it will offer a new one-year degree, a Master in Environmental Building Design (MEBD). The new degree will extend and deepen the offerings of the existing certificate program in Ecological Architecture, which has involved 37 students since its establishment three years ago. The new degree will focus more specifically on building performance and design, and will prepare professionals to lead in this emerging field.

With the renewed urgency of environmental issues—from global climate change to resource shortages and “net-zero” design—architects are faced with demands for new kinds of services that require a new kind of professional. LEED accreditation is only a start, helping designers utilize existing technologies; but a wider range of skills is required to achieve real innovation and to meet the needs of clients in this rapidly changing field. New building design, renovation of existing buildings, and environmental analysis at many scales are critical aspects of comprehensive environmental design. The challenge to architects is to operate at scales greater and smaller than that of the building, requiring the understanding of the chemistry of materials as well as consideration of the impact of whole populations of buildings on their local, regional, and global ecosystems.

The Master in Environmental Building Design is a specialized, post-professional degree developed to train architects in the new skills and knowledge required for environmental design and especially in the design techniques with which those skills must be integrated into the practice of architecture. The one-year course of study includes coursework on building performance simulation, integrated building design, building envelopes and systems, lighting, daylighting, and the theory and practice of environmental design. Coursework is complemented and extended by a Performance Design Workshop and then explored in depth in an intensive Environmental Design Laboratory in the early summer.

The Department of Architecture at Penn has gathered a remarkable team of experts to teach in the new program. The MEBD will operate in close coordination with the Penn-Tsinghua T.C. Chan Center for Building Simulation and Energy Studies, drawing on the expertise of faculty engaged in research at the center and providing case studies and research projects for students in the MEBD. The new program also builds on the certificate program in Ecological Architecture, currently available to students in the Master of Architecture program, though it significantly increases the focus and intensity to advance architects’ skills in this crucial area of design and technology.


The 2014 Power Down Challenge resulted in a combined savings of over 35,000 kWh across campus –enough to power 3.3 homes’ electricity for one year.

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