Architecture and planning beyond sustainability, MSc

120 credits (2 years)

Human activities, not the least manifested in the built environment, are responsible for a large amount of the stress our societies put on the environment and there is a global challenge in meeting the need for sustainability while adapting to a local reality and situation. This master's programme focuses on methods and design approaches for understanding and analysing different local contexts in order to propose adequate solutions in designing for a sustainable future. Sign up for information

Architecture and planning beyond s​ustainability​ master's programme at Chalmers​

Sustainable development is a set of political visions that entails huge challenges for social and technical innovation all over the world. It has consequences for all professions, not least for architecture and urban design, since it is here the full complexity of societal development has to be addressed and managed through design for sustainable development. Sustainable development today is to be integrated into all master’s programmes at Chalmers as a major demand. However, the current master's degree of the programme differs from most other master's programmes by staying at the forefront of sustainable development within the respective major subject (here Architecture, Urban design and Planning). Therefore, this master's programme's clear sustainability agenda and profile is clarified by the programme’s name "beyond sustainability", which is an internationally viable concept for the development of knowledge, methods, and perspectives that follow as the next step in traditional sustainable development.

The pedagogical approach is to support you in developing your design skills through a series of design studios, dealing with complex design tasks in very different situations and contexts e.g., neighborhoods and municipalities in Sweden, informal settlements in developing countries, and technical and social challenges of sustainable building and transformation.

This approach challenges and develops your ability to analyse and situate local situations in relation to broader contexts. Design studios contain experience-based learning, fieldwork, tailored lectures, literature studies, seminars, workshops, design project work, and exhibitions. A common thread through the studios is the use of a systems approach to design although both problems and potential solutions will vary significantly.

Chalmers school of architecture 

Chalmers school of architecture is noted for: 
- Its humanistic view of architecture 
- Design projects based on real tasks and problems in society 
- Contacts with users in briefings and designing 
- Open interaction between teachers and students 
- An inspiring atmosphere, free of prestige Emphasis also lies in: 
- Integration of research in education 
- Respect for existing built structures as cultural, social, and economic resources 
- Co-operation with other disciplines 

The Chalmers School of architecture fosters a humanistic view of architecture and emphasises an explorative orientation and research by design approach in order to unfold the professional profile, skill, and scope of the architectural design professions. The ambition is to promote convincing joint future visions for the development of the built environment. We also emphasise the integration of research in education, the respect for existing built structures as cultural, social, and economic resources, and interdisciplinary cooperation.


Students completing the master’s programme are awarded the degree of Master of Science, 120 ECTS credits, with architecture as the main field of study. The master’s programme corresponds to the final two years of the five-year study programme at Chalmers which leads to a professional degree in architecture. The professional degree, Master of Architecture/Arkitektexamen, 300 ECTS credits, can only be awarded to students completing a full five-year study programme in architecture at Chalmers.​

Topics covered

The subjects of applied architecture development and design project are fundamental areas in the Architecture and planning beyond sustainability master’s programme. The courses included in the program plan handle topics such as construction, suburbs-design, and sustainable development.

Master's programme structure

The master's programme runs for a duration of two years, leading to a Master of Science (MSc) degree. During each year, students can earn 60 credits (ECTS) and complete the programme by accumulating a total of 120 credits. Credits are earned by completing courses where each course is usually between 15 and 22,5 credits. Some courses can also be worth 7.5 credits. Each semester consists of a combination of courses and design studios.
- A course is mostly based on lectures, literature, and seminars, but may also contain shorter assignments. 
- A design studio focuses on the development of a design project. It is normally case study-based.
The programme offers a selection of courses and design studios, distributed over the fall and spring semesters. These courses and studios should be seen as options, from which the individual professional profile is shaped during two years.

Compulsory course​s year 1

During the first year the programme starts with one compulsory course, worth 7,5 credits.  
  • Sustainable development and the design professions

Compulsory courses year 2

In the second year you must complete a master's thesis in order to graduate. The thesis may be worth 30 credits or 60 credits depending on your choice.
  • ​Master’s thesis 

Compulsory elective courses

To get a MSc. diploma degree you must at least take one compulsory elective course. You will also need to take one studio within Master’s programme during year 1 and for a MSc diploma degree you will need minimum 2 design studios within the master’s programme during year 1 and 2.
  • Design systems
  • Crash course: Beyond sustainability
  • Managing design projects
  • Building design lab​

Desig​n studios

Planning and design for sustainable development in a local context
The thematic of the studio is planning and design for sustainable development in a small or medium-sized municipality in Sweden.

Design and planning for social inclusion
Gives knowledge about the significance of the social dimension of sustainable development, focusing on urban development in suburban areas built in the 1960s and 70s in Sweden. Public participation of citizens and processes of co-creation are central aspects.

Reality studio
A real-life project in Sub-Saharan Africa, for students of different disciplines. Reality studio is simultaneously made of student projects and real projects where the students act as consultants and researchers to improve the quality of daily life. (This studio may not be offered every year). 
NB - There is an extra cost of about 25000 SEK for travel and subsistence for this studio. The cost is not included in the tuition fee.​

Architectural heritage and transformation
Aims at introducing you to the field of architectural and urban conservation and transformation in a historic and contemporary context and to test new knowledge in a critical and reflective way.

Spatial morphology design studio
Operates through the understanding of how urban form and the physical structure of cities provide a framework and create conditions for various urban processes (social, economic, and environmental).

Sustainable architectural design
Introduces the concept of “sustainable building”, both as to principles and as chosen elements in concrete design assignments. Integrates the environmental issues of the sustainable building into an architectural project, combining functional and aesthetic qualities with low environmental impact. Cultivates a deeper understanding of selected issues of sustainable building and how to develop these issues into a thoroughly elaborated design proposal.

Sustainable building competition
The aim is to practice design for sustainable building, to introduce findings from design for energy and environmental efficiency, to promote cooperation between architects and engineers, and to implement this knowledge in a competition.

Master's thesis
The fourth and last semester is assigned for the Master’s thesis. The aim is to display knowledge and capability for independent work, and related to the students' undergraduate profile, within the field of architecture and planning beyond sustainability.

Elective courses

You will also be able to select courses outside of your programme plan. These are called elective courses. You can choose from a wide range of elective courses, including the following: ​
  • Master's thesis preparation courses
  • 7 different courses in History, Theory, and Method:
    • ​History, theory and method 1: Building climatology for sustainable design
    • History, theory and method 2: Design research / practice-based research
    • History, theory and method 3: Emergent media and representation
    • History, theory and method 4: Light and color theory
    • History, theory and method 5: Urban planning and design theory
    • History, theory and method 6: Norm-critical design
    • History, theory and method 7: Reality studio preparation​

Research facilities

Studio spaces - all students have personal desks and storage spaces in studio spaces with 24/7 access. Studio spaces are equipped with workstations, printers, and large-scale plotters, as well as Wi-Fi.

Chalmers Architecture Library - has an extensive collection of printed volumes, journals, and magazines within the fields of architecture, urban design, and planning, and a special focus on design for sustainable development.

CAD-lab - houses workstations with software for CAD-drawing, 3D-modelling, desktop publishing, video editing, and GIS.

A-workshop - is a fully equipped architecture workshop with wood, plastics, and metalworking equipment. It also contains a number of computer-controlled (CNC) machines for model building and rapid prototyping, including Laser cutter, 3D-printers, CNC Mill, and CNC Foam cutter.

Robot lab - is a research facility that investigates robotic technology in architectural design. Equipment includes three robotic arms.

Centre for healthcare architecture - conducts research and graduate studies and encourages education and training within the field of physical environments for care.

Centre for housing - is a national platform for the transfer of knowledge, debate, development, and research in the field of residential housing.

Mistra urban futures - is a centre for sustainable urban development with the ambition to become a world leader in the field in the near future.

The spatial morphology group - is engaged in urban research within the fields of urban morphology, space syntax and design theory.

Programme plan, syllabus, course description and learning outcomes


The education leads to a wide range of career opportunities within architecture, urban design, and planning for sustainable development as a response to increasing awareness and commitment among both public and private actors.
The global challenges of resource constraints and climate change open for new and extensive fields of professional practices. Globally rapid urbanisation, poverty reduction, and fair distribution of resources are key issues as manifested in the UN Agenda 2013 and Sustainable Development Goals.
In Sweden, the existing building stock, not least from the 1960s and 1970s, has to be reconstructed in ways that can address socioeconomic segregation problems as well as deficient environmental performance in an integrated manner. Taken together these challenges request a new generation of skilled design professionals that are able to work in cross-disciplinary expert teams and in close contact with local stakeholders.

Research within Architecture and planning beyond sustainability

Within the field of architecture and planning beyond sustainability, research projects at the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering (ACE) that collaborate today with this master’s programme focus on, for example, compact cities and sustainable densification; urban foodscapes, urban biodiversity, and ecosystem services; critical spatial perspectives and urban-rural transitions; co-design, co-creation, democracy, and participation in architecture, urban design and planning; Sustainable Development Goals in the context of the Global South; regenerative architecture and place-making, sustainable transformation of the built environment and environmental architectural design; energy-efficient building retrofitting, environmental GIS for building stock and urban structures; and strategies for integrated sustainable renovation. 

Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering​

Connections with industry and society

The education at Architecture and planning beyond sustainability leads to a wide range of career opportunities within architecture, urban design, and planning for sustainable development as a response to increasing awareness and commitment among both public and private actors. 

The global challenges of resource constraints and climate change open for new and extensive fields of professional practices. Globally rapid urbanisation, poverty reduction, and fair distribution of resources are key issues as manifested in the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

In Sweden, the existing building stock, not least from the 1960s and 1970s, has to be reconstructed in ways that can address socioeconomic segregation problems as well as deficient environmental performance in an integrated manner. Taken together these challenges request a new generation of skilled design professionals that are able to work in cross-disciplinary expert teams and in close contact with local stakeholders. 

Research and education in close cooperation with practice has a long tradition at Chalmers school of architecture and is also distinctive for this master’s programme. This responds to increasing societal demand for experts able to transform the global vision of sustainable development into concrete and local action beyond sustainability. 

The local partners in each design studio represent different spheres of the global society, providing students with an extended network of potential future employers and clients beyond the conventional private professional practices: 

- Swedish public authorities, municipalities and local communities; 

- The Swedish construction industry, landlords and property developers; 

- Local, National and International university partners; 

- UN-HABITAT and their different partners, including UN-Habitat Partner universities; 

- NGO’s and local communities; - NASA, ESA and specific design industries. 

The master's programme is based on experience from the strong research environment at Chalmers University of Technology, at the forefront for research on the Built Environment and Sustainable Urban Futures. Teachers of the programme are key researchers at Mistra Urban Futures and in research collaborations at the Area of Advance Building Futures.

Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering​ ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​


​Sustainable development

The built environment is responsible for a great deal of the stress our societies put on the environment. There is a global challenge in meeting the need for sustainability while adapting to the local reality and situations. This master's programme focuses on methods and design approaches so you can understand and analyse different local contexts to propose adequate solutions in designing for a sustainable future. 
You will train to find solutions that support sustainable development in many different contexts. The perspective is holistic and systemic, comprising system levels and scales from urban structures, buildings and technical support systems to detailed construction elements and products. 

The programme is based on design studios where you will handle real life-situations in close contact with the local stakeholders and actors. The overall point of departure is the everyday life of people and the support of dignified lives and livelihoods in rapidly changing and sometimes extreme environments. 

Therefore, the programme is highly interlinked with the achievement of the UN Sustainable development goals (SDGs)​. The table below provides an overview of the sustainable development goals and the associated targets within the programme. 

Goal 10: Reduced inequalities 
This master's programme is engaged in equality issues relating to the built environment such as socio-spatial gaps and exclusion, social segregation, and marginalisation. In light of these challenges, the programme emphasizes citizen participation and bottom-up perspectives in the development of the built environment. Furthermore, the programme handles norm-critical perspectives, highlighting how architecture and urban planning can be part of creating power relations and contribute to different kinds of discrimination. 
Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities
This goal plays a central role in all the courses and design studios within this master's programme. For example, this master's programme focuses on goal 11.3, to enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and the capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning; goal 11.6, to reduce the environmental impact of cities; and 11.7, to provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces. This includes investigating how urban design and building design can promote citizens' health and wellbeing, as well as increase biodiversity and reduce the impact of climate change. Issues that students are dealing with are for example sustainable materials and re-use, resilient cities, even circular urban-rural development, eco-system services, socio-ecological urbanism, and participatory design processes. 
Goal 12: Responsible consumption and production
The transition to sustainable consumption and production is needed to reduce our negative impact on the climate, the environment and human health. In this master's programme, we focus on for example sustainable materials, circular resource flows and reuse, as well as how architecture and urban design can encourage even more sustainable lifestyles. 
Goal 13: Climate action
In this master's programme, we are focusing on reducing the climate impact of buildings, creating a sustainable transformation of the existing built environment, and how to reduce climate impact in urban and rural development processes. Furthermore, the programme deals with how architecture and urban design can contribute to strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards. 

​Student interview

We work with the participation of the community”
Naïna, Canada, Architecture and planning beyond sustainability

Why did you choose this programme?
– Back in Canada, I completed a bachelor’s in architecture where we had classical teaching. Therefore, for my master's, I wanted to push my knowledge beyond what I already knew and toward a more sustainable approach to doing architecture. I found this master's by chance, but after reading the main content of the programme, I knew that this was where I wanted to continue my studies. In this programme, we are focused on a social and sustainable approach which I believe is where architecture is heading. 

What have you been working on?
– For this semester, I chose a studio called Social inclusion which had an emphasis on the social aspect of architecture. In a suburb area of Gothenburg, we worked with different stakeholders such as research groups, housing companies, and residents. With the participation of the community, we develop an approach to fulfill the lack of third spaces in the neighborhood. A third space refers to a place accessible to anyone to conduct activities such as gathering for a birthday party, or free study place, etc. In the end, we finalized the project by creating a physical toolbox with different materials that would help conduct and create this third space.

What do you like the most about your programme?
– For me, the most interesting thing about the programme is a new kind of approach to architecture. How collaborative design is conducted directly with the community. Often, we design and forget about the end-users, or we design projects that are too far from reality, but with this studio, we had some concrete results. I think that including the users in a design in architecture is something that has a lot of power in the long term, and it should be implemented more and more in our practice. 

What do you want to do in the future?
– To be honest, I’m not sure what I want to do in the future. Architecture is constantly changing, and we need to create that change. I believe sustainable architecture is the future of this profession and I just hope I can make an impact towards that belief. Whether it is with architecture without borders, or working with communities, I hope I will find a way to make a difference in people’s lives. 

​Student Blogs

Page manager Published: Tue 12 Jul 2022.