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 p​ut 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.Apply now

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

Sustainable development is a set of a 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.

Solutions that support sustainable development

The aim of the programme is to provide skills and methods valid in challenging situations of change in which architectural and urban design approaches are required. Students will be trained to find solutions that support sustainable development in a large variety of 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 in which real situations are handled in close contact with 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. This is done through the development and implementation of aesthetic, affordable, socially and 4 culturally appropriate, energy and material efficient, healthy and user-friendly, always innovative design solutions.

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 co-operation.

Educational methods

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., neighbourhoods 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.

Professional qualification

There are some qualifications that lead to a specific profession, for example, architecture and engineering. In many cases, you must have completed a specific programme (five years at Chalmers) in order to be licensed to work in your profession. These qualifications are called professional qualifications. The professional degree Master of Architecture/Arkitektexamen, 300 credits, is awarded to students completing the five-year programme at Chalmers. In exceptional cases, a student with a Bachelor degree from another university may be eligible for a professional degree after a thorough assessment of his/her academic merits. Recognition of a Bachelor degree and different courses from another educational provider which corresponds to our bachelor programme can be used as part of a Chalmers degree.

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 programme 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 is may not be offered every year).

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 provides a framework and creates conditions for various urban processes (social, economic, and environmental).

Sustainable architectural design
Introduces the concept of “sustainable building”, both as principles and as chosen elements in concrete design assignments. Integrates the environmental issues of 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 encourage 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 connections

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 built environment and environmental architectural design; energy efficient building retrofitting, environmental GIS for building stock and urban structures; and strategies for integrated sustainable renovation. 

Connections with industry and society

The education at Architecture and planning beyond sustainability leads to a wide range of career opportunities within 3 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 an 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​ ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​


​Student interview

I am learning about all aspects of sustainability”
Emma Norden, USA, Architecture and Planning Beyond Sustainability

Why did you choose this programme?
–I have a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Minnesota. Coming from the US, we are not so forward-thinking when it comes to sustainable design. And I wanted a master’s that focused on sustainability. In our studios, we get to meet face to face with stakeholders and work on projects together. We also have workshops where we talk about zero emissions and do energy calculations. 

What have you been working on?
– In the first semester, we worked on an eco-cabin that was supposed to encourage people to do urban farming in an area of Gothenburg. We designed a cabin made of sustainable materials and figured out how to construct it.  We calculated the cost of it, the weight of it and even designed the interior. The projects change every year, but the ideas are real. The stakeholders want to make these projects into reality and might use some of the ideas that we come up with.

What do you like the most about your programme?
–It’s taught me a lot about sustainability, not in just the environmental sense but also the social aspects of sustainability and that’s something I never considered before coming here. Each course has its own theme and helps you develop strengths and skills that will be useful in the future. The course in social inclusion really helped me understand inclusive collaboration with the client, not designing for them but with them.

What do you want to do in the future?
– I want to stay and work here in Sweden for a year after my graduation. After that, I would like to work with community design, maybe for a non-profit organization. I am not that interested in making money; I want to feel like I’m helping people.

​Student Blogs

Page manager Published: Sat 23 Oct 2021.