Zero Carbon Architecture and Retrofit Design - MA

Full Time, Part Time
September 2016
£5,500 for UK/EU Full Time 2016 entry (view all fees)

Climate change is creating challenges in construction and design. Our unique Zero Carbon Architecture and Retrofit Design MA is designed to respond to these challenges.

With world renowned staff expertise and links to Birmingham City Council and to organisations like Carillion, LimeTec Group, Greencore Construction, Zero Carbon Hub and others, we are creating a new type of professional. Our graduates can fulfil legislation requirements, but will also be champions of change in the protection of our planet.

Last chance to apply

The 2016/17 academic year will see the final intake of new students for this course, so get in quick if you want to apply.

What's covered in the course?

A new and increasingly important area, zero carbon architecture and retrofit design is changing the way buildings are being designed, planned and developed.

In the UK alone, carbon emissions from buildings account for over 40 per cent of the total, making this sector of primary importance in dealing with climate change.

The course responds to the challenges presented and is an extension to a career of an architect, while engaging with other related disciplines. It provides in-depth, research focused learning with professional skills.

You’ll examine case studies and be supported in the development of your own designs.

You’ll have access to the groundbreaking Birmingham Zero Carbon House, which our globally-renowned course director Professor Lubo Jankovic has been closely involved with. The house is a carbon neutral building based on a 170-year-old redbrick Victorian house and won a Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Architecture Award in 2010 and attracted media attention worldwide. Professor Jankovic has also founded the University’s Zero Carbon Lab, a research group which collaborates nationally and internationally with companies such as Carillion, Birmingham City Council and Greencore Construction.

The course gives you the chance to be part of Co.LAB, a collaborative architecture and design initiative within the School that gives you the chance to work on live projects.

You’ll be based in our multi-million pound City Centre Campus Parkside Building and have access to outstanding facilities including building simulation technology, thermal cameras and 3D laser scanning technology. A weather station on the roof of the building will give you detailed information about Birmingham weather that you will be able to use in dynamic simulation studies.

Why Choose Us?

  • There are several sustainability Masters courses in the UK, but this is the only MA course on Zero Carbon Architecture and Retrofit Design in the UK.
  • You’ll be led by Professor Lubo Jankovic, who has gained international reputation in the field. He published a major book on ‘Designing Zero Carbon Buildings’ in 2012 and his innovative research shapes your studies. Read his blog Zero Carbon Lab.
  • You’ll have access to the ground-breaking Birmingham Zero Carbon House, a 170-year old Victorian residence that has achieved zero carbon performance through retrofit design. Professor Jankovic is closely involved with the property and has been involved in experimental research.
  • Many candidates have degrees from other UK and overseas schools of architecture, resulting in a dynamic body of high-calibre students.
  • Visiting tutors come from local practice and you’ll also benefit from the insight of eminent architects, visiting professors and world-renowned consultants.
  • Birmingham School of Architecture and Design is highly respected and has a rich history of providing education and opportunities. It celebrated its centenary in 2009.
Visit our open day

Postgraduate Open Day

Our next Postgraduate Open Day will be on Wednesday 23 November, between 2pm and 7pm. Come along to find out more about our courses and see our facilities.

Register now

This course is open to International students

Birmingham School of Architecture and Design

Discover Birmingham School of Architecture and Design

Visit our School site for more student work and extra information.

Visit the School website

Lubo Jankovic on Zero Carbon Design

Entry Requirements

UK students

We would normally expect you to hold at least an undergraduate degree or higher in Architecture.

Suitability of applicants from other related subject areas will be determined on an individual basis.

In certain circumstances some candidates may only qualify for the PGCert components of the programme.

All applications will be subject to a portfolio review.

UK or EU students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MA Sep 2016 FT 1 year £5,500
PT 2 years £2,750 per year

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form instead.

International Students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
MA Sep 2016 FT 1 year £12,000

If you're unable to use the online form for any reason, you can complete our PDF application form instead.

The University reserves the right to increase fees broadly in line with increases in inflation, or to reflect changes in government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament.

Additional costs

Our courses include activities such as performance, exhibitions, field trips and production of works or artefacts which may require you to purchase specific equipment, instruments, books, materials, hire of venues and accommodation, or other items. Many of these activities are essential and compulsory parts of your learning experience.

The link below gives you an estimate of the possible costs associated with key activities on specific courses. Please bear in mind that these are only estimates of costs based on past student experience and feedback. The actual costs could vary considerably (either greater or lower than these estimates) depending on your choices as you progress through the course.

All our students are provided with 100 free pages of printing each year to a maximum total value of £15.

Find additional costs for your course

Your personal statement

Your personal statement is a highly important part of your application. It gives you a crucial opportunity to say why you’re applying and why the institution should accept you.

Here are the key areas you’ll need to address:

Course choice

Why does this course appeal? What areas are of particular interest?

Career plans

If you have a specific career in mind, say how your chosen course will help you pursue this goal.

Work experience

Mention any work that is relevant to your subject, highlighting the skills and experience gained.

School or college experience

Highlight skills gained at school/college, eg summer schools or mentoring activities.

Non-accredited skills or achievement

eg Duke of Edinburgh Award, Young Enterprise scheme.

You should also mention your future plans – if you’re planning to take a year out, don't forget to give your reasons. Talk about any subjects you’re studying that don’t have a formal assessment and any sponsorships or placements you’ve applied for. And don't be scared to add in details about your social, sports or leisure interests.

Get more information on writing personal statements.

This course is available part-time

Got any questions?

Search our Frequently Asked Questions for a range of information about our courses and studying here.

Financial Support

We offer further information on possible postgraduate financial support. This includes the type of loans, grants and scholarships available both from the government and from Birmingham City University.

Did you know that you will soon be able to apply for a postgraduate loan of up to £10,000 for some courses and options?

Postgraduate loans

PG Certificate (Sept - Dec)

Zero Carbon Introduction

This looks at the fundamental principles of zero carbon design and gives you a broad introduction to this increasingly important area.

Building Simulation

Using the latest technology, you’ll take part in hands-on computer lab learning of building simulation principles.

Case Studies

You’ll examine residential and non-residential case studies of zero carbon buildings worldwide.

Sustainable Economics

This module examines life cycle costing of zero carbon projects plus new economic models needed to achieve the sustainability paradigm. It looks historically at cases of alternative currency and considers potential ways to finance retrofit projects.

PG Diploma (Jan - May)

Zero Carbon Design

You’ll work according to a set brief, designing a new zero carbon residential or small commercial building. The work involves a combination of architectural design and building simulation, applying the principles you have learnt. The outcome is a completed innovative architectural design and a documented process, explaining the technical, economic and social aspects of the design, and giving evidence of technical, economic and social viability.

Zero Carbon Retrofit

You’ll find an existing residential or non-residential building, survey it, and design a retrofit solution. The work involves a combination of architectural design and building simulation, applying the principles you have learnt. The outcome is a completed innovative architectural retrofit design and a documented process, explaining the technical, economic and social aspects of the design, and giving evidence of technical, economic and social viability.

Masters Degree (May - Sept)

Co. Lab

This module is an interface between the course, architectural practices, and other Masters courses offered by the School. Students bring their own work from their practice or collaborate with another practice or a course on a zero carbon project, or teach what they have learnt about zero carbon design to students from other courses in the School.


You’ll produce a 10,000 to 12,000 words in-depth analysis of a zero carbon topic, supported by diagrams, charts, photographs, and annotations, well referenced and giving critical analysis of the chosen topic.

Zero Carbon Speculation

You’ll reflect on the programme to date and brainstorming on how to achieve the sustainability paradigm through design, creating an outline solution for a particular zero carbon design problem.

Part time

The part-time course is structured as follows:

Year one
75 credits
September - December = 30 Credits
  • Zero Carbon Introduction
  • Building Simulation
  • Coursework submission 1
  • Coursework submission 2
January - May = 30 Credits
  • Zero Carbon Design
  • Coursework submission
May - September = 15 Credits
  • Co.lab
  • Coursework submission
Year two
105 credits
September - December = 30 Credits
  • Case Studies
  • Sustainable Economics
January - May - PgDip = 30 credits
  • Coursework Submission
  • Zero Carbon Retrofit
May - September - MA = 45 Credits
  • Coursework Submission
  • Dissertation
  • Zero Carbon Speculation

Course Structure

The course is assessed on 100 per cent coursework, with no practical or written exams. We feel this best mirrors the way you’d work in the real world and so better prepares you for a career in the design industry.

You’ll study a flexible framework of modules which allow spontaneous opportunities such as design competitions or research projects. The course begins with an introduction to zero carbon design. You’ll look at building simulation using the latest technology and work on real case studies to add context to your studies. There will also be an analysis of sustainable economics.

As your studies progress, you’ll take an in-depth look at zero carbon design and retrofit and reflect on what you’ve learned by problem solving. You’ll undertake live projects through Co.LAB before working on your dissertation, deepening your understanding and research skills.

Further Study

We offer a wide range of postgraduate courses, all of which involve innovative research and provide vocationally valuable experience. 

Many of our students go on study for a PhD, furthering their research interests, like Purvesh Bharadwaj, whose topic is Application of passive principles to zero carbon retrofit.

Student stories Purvesh Bharadwaj

Purvesh Bharadwaj progressed onto MA Zero Carbon and Retrofit Design after successfully completing his Architecture (RIBA Part I Exemption) - BA (Hons) course at Birmingham City University. Having developed an interest in the field at an early stage of his career, Purvesh is now pursuing his PhD in Zero Carbon Architecture and Retrofit Design.

I am enjoying the freedom of exploring the immense possibilities for design projects and developing solutions for an alternative economic system.

Enhancing employability skills

Our graduates have a unique set of skills for zero carbon design and retrofit of buildings that makes them highly employable.

You will not only be able to fulfil the new legislation requirements, but you will also be a champion of change from carbon-intensive to carbon-neutral architecture. You will have the design skills and innovation to deal with the challenges facing the construction industry in the future.

The course equips you with a multidisciplinary set of skills that combines architectural design with building simulation, analysis of thermal comfort, and economic analysis.

These skills are hard to find in one employee in an architectural practice, so you’ll have a considerable competitive advantage.

The technology and equipment you use will also help you secure a job, having shown you’re skilled in packages used in industry. You’ll have worked with the Integrated Environmental Solutions Virtual Environment, simulating building performance and developing your technical and design skills.

You’ll also develop a range of transferable skills, such as how to communicate ideas and solve problems, as well as developing planning skills. And thanks to the unique nature of the course, you’ll learn how to work effectively and efficiently either on your own or as part of a team.

Your skills will be in demand - architecture, building and planning courses are one of the top 12 degree subjects for getting a job according to a recent article in the Telegraph.


Although we don’t offer a formal placement year as part of this course, our students are offered a range of opportunities thanks to the industry links we help develop on their behalf.

The School has links with more than 100 architectural practices and businesses; you’ll have the chance to work closely with industry on live projects and make vital connections.

Charlotte Taylor

Charlotte Taylor
BA Architecture

A love of design, as well as being impressed with the facilities and work displayed at our Open Days, inspired Charlotte Taylor to study Architecture at Birmingham City University. Strengthening her skills with a placement at Glenn Howells Architects, she now plans to stay the course and graduate as a fully-qualified architect.

“I have been interested in architecture from an early age – I remember when I was 11, when I moved house I drew a to-scale floor plan of my bedroom and designed where I wanted everything to go. Alongside that, I’ve always loved art and design just as much as maths and physics, so a combination of all three made Architecture the perfect choice. “I chose Birmingham City University as when I first visited, I felt totally at home and very comfortable. None of the other universities I visited had an atmosphere like the University has, and you could tell the Birmingham School of Architecture and Design was extremely proud of its students. “As part of our Praxis module, we had to take part in a two-week placement, which I think is a great idea, as not many other universities offer this. I worked at Glenn Howells Architects, designing a reception space for a student accommodation building in Selly Oak. I think going on a placement allows you to get a taste of what it’s like to work in practice, as well as helping you determine what sort of practice you want to go into. “For the future, I plan on carrying out the full seven-year course. I am really enjoying my time here and hope to progress onto my Master’s for my Part II.”

Abdul Azeem

Abdul Azeem
BA Architecture

With a love of art, design and technology, studying BA Architecture was an easy decision for Abdul Azeem. In his second year, he’s enhanced his skills further by undertaking a work placement with Birmingham-based D5 Architects, getting a first-hand glimpse into how an architecture practice works.

“I chose Architecture because of my passion for art and design, as well as a love of technology in buildings. I chose Birmingham City University because of the wide range of services available, such as the workshops and IT spaces. I am local to Birmingham, and I’d definitely recommend students from around the world to come study here, as it’s very educational and welcoming. “I had the opportunity to undertake a work placement, thanks to the help of my tutors. Working at D5 Architects, the placement was amazing – seeing how my colleagues would interact in a professional environment was incredible. While there, I helped my colleagues with projects such as photo shopping certain renders, researching materials or information, and model making. I definitely feel like I have gained a lot from being in the placement, such as presentation quality, time management and confidence.

“My plans for the future are to move on to complete the full RIBA course.”

Tatiana Pachina

Tatiana Pachina
BA (Hons) Architecture

Originally from Russia, Tatiana Pachina wanted to study in the UK due to the recognition a UK-based education receives. Electing to study at Birmingham City University due to its renowned reputation, BA (Hons) Architecture student Tatiana has recently completed a placement with Birmingham-based architectural practice Gensler, gaining vital first-hand experience.

“I decided to study Architecture in the UK for several reasons. Firstly, a UK education is recognised by employers and governments all over the world, and secondly, studying in the UK would give me an opportunity to improve my English, and meet people from different countries and cultures. I came over to study from Russia in 2012, and it took some time to get used to my new surroundings. If you’re an international student considering studying in the UK, my advice would be to talk, make new friends and be active in university life. “The course has enabled me to improve my drawing skills, graphic design, model making and ability to gather some architectural knowledge. In addition, I have gotten much more confident when it comes to presenting my ideas to others. “I recently enjoyed a work placement with Gensler, which has been the best part of my second year. It was a great opportunity to see how architects and designers work together in real life, as well as allowing me to get a feel for working in the architecture industry. With Gensler employing a small staff, it gave me chance to talk to all of them and find out what projects they were working on. “The work placement was a good experience for me – I found out new things about the industry, I have learned some new skills and made some connections with the real world of architecture.”

More about our placement opportunities...


OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.

It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.


The multidisciplinary set of skills that combines architectural design with building simulation, analysis of thermal comfort, and economic analysis represent the strengths that are hard to find in one employee in an architectural practice, thus giving the graduates considerable competitive employability advantage.

International Students

Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.

The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.

Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:

Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC)

International students who have a serious interest in studying with us but who perhaps cannot meet the direct entry requirements, academic or English, or who have been out of education for some time, can enter Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC) and begin their degree studies.


BCUIC is part of the global Navitas Group, an internationally recognised education provider, and the partnership allows students to access the University’s facilities and services and move seamlessly through to achieving a Bachelor’s degree from Birmingham City University.

Learn more about BCUIC

Popular home countries

Our students come from around the world but our zero carbon architecture and retrofit design course is most popular with international students from:

Our Facilities

We are constantly investing in our estate and are currently in the process of spending £260 million on new learning facilities.

Birmingham School of Architecture and Design is based at the state-of-the-art £62 million Parkside Building, a new development on our City Centre Campus within Eastside.

The new building has added an extra dimension to the School. Our campus has extensive studio and workshop provision and cutting-edge equipment reflecting the broad range of study opportunities on offer. The building has been designed to actively promote shared space opportunities, for students to engage with others across the University as part of the learning experience.


In many cases, our main studio and workspace is the city of Birmingham.
We give our students the opportunity to work on many collaborative projects involving the transformation of the city. These include:

  • Working on-site at the £600 million re-development of New Street Station
  • Work on our neighbouring Curzon Building, which forms Phase 2 of the City Centre Campus development
  • Nearby Off-campus Nest Gallery based within Glenn Howells Architects


We have our very own digi.lab, which is used for prototyping and as a learning resource. Here, you can experiment with 3D printing and laser cutting, preparing you to work on our range of larger machines. You will work in a home studio base five days a week, and also enjoy the opportunity to share others’ facilities and space when necessary.

Digital Presentation

At the School, we have placed a large emphasis on digital presentation. We currently have nine plasma screens for such uses, and try to keep our facilities as paper-free as possible.

Professor Ljubomir Jankovic

Professor of Zero Carbon Design

Ljubomir is the Professor of Zero Carbon Design at Birmingham School of Architecture and Design, where he has established a research group called Zero Carbon Lab. He conducts multidisciplinary research in the field of zero carbon design of buildings,and lead a Masters Course on Zero Carbon Architecture and Retrofit Design. My book 'Designing Zero Carbon Buildings Using Dynamic Simulation Methods' has been adopted as core text at several UK, US and European universities and has been used as a handbook by major international consultancies, such as Arup.Ljubomir is preparing a Second Edition of the book, which will be published by Routledge in 2017.

Part of his research is based on the work done to evaluate the Birmingham Zero Carbon House, a ground-breaking carbon-neutral building based on a 170-year-old redbrick Victorian house. This research showed how best to convert existing buildings into zero carbon homes of the future, and how home owners could eliminate energy bills and fuel poverty, and potentially achieve a significant return on investment. He has established an international conference series on Zero Carbon Buildings Today and in the Future. In the absence of a global plan about how to make our planet net zero emissions, the conference series address the ‘how’ question and thus makes a small but important step towards a global change in the right direction.

UK prospective students:

UK enquiry form

+44 (0)121 331 5595

EU / International prospective students:

International enquiry form

+44 (0)121 331 5389

Already applied?

Email the applications team

+44 (0)121 331 6295