Delivering smarter buildings and a better built environment for the interconnected, sustainable world of tomorrow
We spend most of our lives indoors. But while our buildings are designed to be safe for us, they aren't always safe for our surroundings. On this Master’s programme you’ll explore how digital engineering can lead to smarter buildings that are better for their occupants and the environment.
- the scientific principles underpinning the way buildings and their systems are designed and operated
- how building data are collected, processed and interpreted, including data analytics and applications of machine learning in buildings
- to take an integrated perspective of a building's form, systems and users – a prerequisite for effective operation
- the factors affecting integrated building design in relation to sustainable operation
You’ll engage with industry experts to solve real-life problems, positioning yourself at the forefront of an emerging new discipline. And you’ll develop skills that are in short supply.
The world needs better buildings – can you help make that change?
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The world is changing at a faster and faster rate, and so are our buildings. Advances in digital modelling tools and technological advances, like the Internet of Things, provide unparalleled insights and data on how our buildings are designed and operated. As such we developed a programme that takes a forward-looking view on the impact of this digital transformation to the established discipline of Building Services Engineering.
The programme comprises eight modules, covering:
- core scientific principles, including building system physics and building system elements
- integrated building design and operation, and how this can impact the health and wellbeing of its occupants
- advanced topics, including modelling and simulation of building systems, and energy management systems
- a range of optional modules, from retrofitting and indoor air-quality to lighting and acoustics. You’ll also undertake in-depth research in a topic of your choice, delivered as a dissertation.
You can expect coursework briefs mirroring common industry practices, and experts in the field will deliver interactive sessions throughout the programme. These activities will help you develop professionally-relevant skills and gain an advanced understanding of the tools you’ll be using.
You’ll be taught primarily in Bloomsbury and will also have access to Here East, the Bartlett’s innovative new space in East London. Offering cutting-edge facilities and a collaborative learning environment, this multidisciplinary campus will add value and context to many of the topics covered on the course.
By the end of the programme you’ll have:
- gained expert knowledge of advanced building simulation and integrated design tools
- been taught by leaders in the field, and had the opportunity to network with key figures within the industry
- developed the skills and understanding to help design, maintain and operate better, smarter buildings
- developed your knowledge and appreciation of the transformative impact of digital engineering
Methods of study
The Smart Buildings and Digital Engineering MSc has three different entry qualifications:
- Master of Science (MSc, 180 credits)
The Smart Buildings and Digital Engineering MSc consists of six compulsory core modules and a choice of two optional modules. The programme can be studied full-time for one year, part-time for two years or on a flexible basis from 2-5 years.
Full-time students take 4 modules in Term 1, and 4 modules in Term 2, followed by the research dissertation in Term 3. Classes are generally 2 days a week, although additional tutorials and workshops may run throughout the week.
Below is a schematic of the programme structure; with Day 1 and Day 2 being the two days that you will be attending classes.
The topic of the dissertation is agreed with the Programme Leader and the dissertation supervisor. A series of regular tutorials support the student work throughout the dissertation. The date and time of these tutorials are arranged with the supervisor.
Note for part-time/flexible students:
The schedule for flexible students is partly dependent on the pace at which modules are taken. As an illustrative example, students wishing to complete the programme within 2 years would take 2 modules per Term (Term 1 and Term 2) in each year, plus work on their dissertation. This would require attending approximately 1 day of classes per week per term (in Term 1 and Term 2), plus work on the dissertation. On occasion, attendance at tutorials and other activities (e.g. residential field visit) may be required on other days, but we strive to keep this to a minimum. Please note that on occasion tutorials or site visits may take place after typical teaching hours (i.e. after 17:00).
Note: Most students wishing to study on a part-time/flexible basis should choose the ‘flexible’ attendance option. The ‘part-time’ option is only available to those applying for a government loan - please contact the programme administrator for more information.
Students will be assessed for each module, using a mixed format of design projects (group-work) with associated written reports, individual coursework or unseen examinations. For the dissertation assessment is carried on the final report. Our approach to student assessment and to curriculum design is informed by UCL’s distinctive approach to research-based education – the Connected Curriculum.
In addition to the core learning of the MSc, students will be offered a range of supplementary activities with a focus on industry collaboration, ‘soft-skills’ training, and ‘hands-on’ experiences.A fieldtrip will be scheduled during the programme duration including a mix of workshops, seminars and team-building activities. Details and location will be made available to students in September. The trip costs are covered by the programme. A computing week is foreseen in Term 1, for students to become familiar with key tools such as modelling software. Students will have the opportunity to meet with UCL IEDE external industry partners and other stakeholders and discuss, for example, potential industry-focused dissertation projects. Visits to case studies are organised throughout the year, when possible.
MSc award requirements
- To be eligible for the Master of Science (MSc) award students need to complete eight 15-credit modules (six core modules and two optional) and a dissertation (60 credits) in a specialised topic closely associated with the programme theme.
If students do not complete the whole programme they may be awarded the following interim qualifications: Postgraduate Certificate (PG Cert, 60 credits) upon successful completion of four core modules; Postgraduate Diploma (PG Dip, 120 credits) upon successful completion of all eight taught modules of the programme (six core and two option modules). These awards may be classified if the requirements for the PG Dip or PG Cert options are satisfied.
- Postgraduate Diploma (PG Dip, 120 credits)
The PG Dip Smart Buildings and Digital Engineering consists of six compulsory core modules and a choice of two optional modules. The programme can be studied full-time in nine months, part-time for 21 months or on a flexible basis for 2-5 years.
Full-time students take 4 modules in Term 1, and 4 modules in Term 2. Classes are generally 2 days a week, although additional tutorials and workshops may run throughout the week.
Below is a schematic of the programme structure; Day 1 and Day 2 being the two days that you should be attending classes.
Note for part-time/flexible and part-time students:
The schedule for flexible students is partly dependent on the pace at which modules are taken. As an illustrative example, students wishing to complete the programme within 2 years would take 2 modules per Term (Term 1 and Term 2) in each year. This would require attending approximately 1 day of classes per week per term (in Term 1 and Term 2). On occasion, attendance at tutorials and other activities (e.g. residential field visit) may be required on other days, but we strive to keep this to a minimum. Please note that on occasion tutorials or site visits may take place after typical teaching hours (i.e. after 17:00).
Note: Most students wishing to study on a part-time/flexible basis should choose the ‘flexible’ attendance option. The ‘part-time’ option is only available to those applying for a government loan – please contact the programme adminstrator for more information.
Students will be assessed for each module, using a mixed format of design projects (group-work) with associated written reports, individual coursework or unseen examinations. Our approach to student assessment and to curriculum design is informed by UCL’s distinctive approach to research-based education – the Connected Curriculum.
In addition to the core learning of the PG Dip, students will be offered a range of supplementary activities with a focus on industry collaboration, ‘soft-skills’ training, and ‘hands-on’ experiences.An introductory fieldtrip in the first term including a mix of workshops, seminars and team-building activities. Details and location will be made available to students in September. The trip costs are covered by the programme. A computing week in Term 1, to become familiar with key tools such as modelling software. Students will have the opportunity to meet with UCL IEDE external industry partners and other stakeholders and discuss, for example, potential industry-focused dissertation projects. Visits to case studies are organised throughout the year, when possible.
PG Dip award requirements
- To be eligible for the award of the PG Dip, students will need to complete eight 15-credit modules (six core modules and two optional).
If students do not complete the whole program they may be awarded the following interim qualifications: Postgraduate Certificate (PG Cert, 60 credits) upon successful completion of four modules, of which at least three modules should be core modules. These interim awards are eligible for classification.
- Postgraduate Certificate (PG Cert, 60 credits)
The PG Cert Smart Buildings and Digital Engineering consists of four modules, of which at least three modules should be core modules. The programme can be studied full-time in 4-7 months, part-time up to 19 months, or on a flexible basis in up to 5 years.
Note for flexible and part-time students:
The schedule for flexible students is partly dependent on the pace at which modules are taken. When choosing the four modules it is important that a coherent programme of study is developed – students should consult with the programme leader to help formulate their programme of study according to their needs and interests. Each module is delivered on a specific day and time that might change from year to year. On occasion, attendance at tutorials and other activities (e.g. residential field visit) may be required on other days, but we strive to keep this to a minimum. Please note that on occasion tutorials or site visits may take place after typical teaching hours (i.e. after 17:00).
Depending upon module selection, students will be assessed using a mixed format of design projects (group-work) with associated written reports, individual coursework or unseen examinations. Our approach to student assessment and to curriculum design is informed by UCL’s distinctive approach to research-based education – the Connected Curriculum.
In addition to the core learning of the PG Cert, students will be offered a range of supplementary activities with a focus on industry collaboration, ‘soft-skills’ training, and ‘hands-on’ experiences.
A fieldtrip will be scheduled during the programme duration including a mix of workshops, seminars and team-building activities. Details and location will be made available to students in September. The trip costs are covered by the programme. A computing week is foreseen in Term 1, for students to become familiar with key tools such as modelling software. Students will have the opportunity to meet with UCL IEDE external industry partners and other stakeholders as part of the taught component of the course. Visits to case studies are organised throughout the year, when possible, that all PG Cert students are welcome to attend.
Note: Each supplementary activity is linked to a specific module. Depending upon module selection PG Cert students will be expected to participate in all relevant activities.
PG Cert award requirements
To be eligible for the award of the PG Cert, students will need to complete four 15-credit modules of which at least three modules should be core modules.
For the majority of our students (depending on optional modules selected) teaching is delivered on two days per week and structured to facilitate professionals to attend on a day-release basis. For more information, contact the Programme Leader, Dr Dimitrios Rovas (email@example.com).
Note: The schedules below are indicative. Core teaching days may be subject to change in subsequent academic years. For up to date information for the current academic year check the programme timetable. Optional modules subject to availability.
- Core modules
Building systems physics
Engineered environmental elements
Integrated building design for health, comfort and wellbeing
Building systems modelling
Week 3 only
Building simulation software learning week (computing week)
Integrated building systems simulation
Machine learning in smart buildings
- Optional modules
Mathematical modelling methods for the built environment
Indoor air quality in buildings
Energy systems modelling
Low-energy housing retrofit
Light, lighting and wellbeing in buildings
Multi-objective design optimisation
tbc Advanced lighting control design
After consultation with the programme lead, students may also select one of their two optional modules to be any of the other modules offered by the Department. This option is subject to availability and capacity constraints.
Monday (Tutorial meetings also need to be arranged
at regular intervals with the dissertation supervisor.)
The programme can be studied full-time over one year, two years part-time, or two to five years flexibly.
Read the full entry requirements for this programme on the UCL Graduate Prospectus.
Information about tuition fees for this programme is available on the UCL Graduate Prospectus.
- A scholarship is available to successful applicants who hold an offer for this programme: see details on our scholarships page.
- Find out about Bartlett scholarships that may be available for successful applicants to this programme.
- For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding section of the UCL website.
The Smart Buildings and Digital Engineering programme consists of six core modules – four of which are offered in Term 1 and two in Term 2 – and a choice of two optional modules.
- Core modules
Building systems physics (Term 1)
This module considers the application of physics, thermodynamics and heat transfer, contextualised in the development and operation of engineered building systems.
- Applied thermodynamics for building engineering systems
- Building systems heat and mass transfes
- Psychrometric and hygro-thermal analysis of essential building system processes
- Identification and application of parameters to quantify and deliver thermal comfort
- Building heating and cooling load calculations and energy demand calculations
- Building Systems Modelling and Energy Management Systems (Term 1)
Engineered environmental elements (Term 1)
The module will provide students with an understanding of the principles of building systems fundamental components and subsystems. Topics related to energy generation systems (boilers, chillers, heat pumps, etc.) and energy distribution systems (ducts/pipes and fans/pumps) will be addressed. Students will be introduced to the science and engineering of key building systems components such as heat exchangers, filters, zone terminal units as well as components integrated in the building fabric such as underfloor heating, chilled ceilings and integrated photovoltaics. The performance of building systems fundamental components and subsystems at both full-load and part-load operation will also be discussed.
Integrated building design for health, comfort and wellbeing (Term 1)
This module introduces the concept of integrated building design within the context of enhancing inhabitant comfort, wellbeing and health whilst reducing building energy use and improving environmental performance.
The module is an introduction to the fundamentals of building design and operational strategies for addressing the factors which affect comfort, wellbeing and health in buildings. It also covers passive and low carbon design principles, with a focus on thermal, visual and acoustic conditions, ventilation and indoor air quality performance.
Building systems modelling (Term 1)
This module will introduce students to the process of developing dynamic building thermal simulation models and associated simulation techniques. Students will be exposed to the principles of software validation, modelling forensics, parametric simulation, sensitivity and uncertainty analysis. Students will critically review the modelling process and the impact of assumptions and uncertainties on the quality of the model predictions. In addition, the module will introduce students to EnergyPlus Energy Management Systems (EMS) framework and the role it can play for making simulation models more realistic.
Machine learning in smart buildings (Term 2)
Through a series of case studies, this module will introduce students, to applications of machine learning and the potential of such models to making buildings smarter. The case studies will draw upon applications in areas like occupant modelling, performance prediction, building services and their control.
Through the lens of these case studies relevant machine learning algorithms and tools will be presented to provide grounding on:
a) Machine learning model-development basics (hyperparameters, validation sets, overfitting, underfitting)
b) Regression (e.g. Support Vector Machine, Gaussian Processes)
c) Clustering (e.g. k-means clustering)
d) Reinforcement learning
e) Advanced topics (deep neural networks, convolutional neural networks)
Integrated building systems simulation (Term 2)
The module will provide an understanding of development and optimized operation of efficient building systems as a part of the integrated system of building fabric, building space, occupants, building services and controls. Students will be introduced to modelling of universal HVACR systems with an emphasis on understanding both system’s primary (energy generation) side and secondary (energy distribution) side as well as an understanding of the system’s integration in a building. Students will learn about the use of operational data for: model calibration, control inefficiency and systems performance degradation identification.
- Optional modules
Mathematical modelling methods for the built environment (Term 2)
The module will teach the mathematical basis and the application of some of the main methods used in the analysis and use of mathematical models of the built environment. Students will learn about the mathematical methods underpinning (i) the uncertainty analysis (parametric and structural) of models, (ii) the optimization (statistic and dynamic) of models, and (iii) the use of models for decision-support in relation to cost-benefit, cost-effectiveness and multi-criteria evaluation of interventions in the built environment.
Indoor air quality in buildings (Term 2)
This module addresses indoor air quality (IAQ) issues in buildings, the implications for health & wellbeing, and methods of assessment, remediation/avoidance and how to design for healthy IAQ. A range of airborne pollutants from both indoor and outdoor sources will be explored, their impacts on physical and mental health, as well as aspects such as wellbeing and human performance.
Students will gain a critical understanding of pollutant source identification, methods of pollutant modelling and monitoring, and remediation/avoidance strategies in building design/operation. Course work will be based on data analysis from monitoring and simulation modelling of the case study building.
Light, lighting and wellbeing in buildings (Term 2)
This module is a targeted overview of how building design/operational factors related to light and lighting should be addressed to enhance health, wellbeing, human performance and comfort.
Key topics include: fundamentals of light and lighting, and impacts on health, wellbeing and human performance; design principles (and associated guidance, where applicable); modelling tools; assessing light and lighting quality in situ.
Multi-objective design optimisation (Term 2)
This module aims to introduce students to the concept and practice of Multi-Objective Design Optimisation (MODO), equip the students with a number of tools, including optimisation techniques and associated cutting edge parametric design tools. Critically the module also aims at developing practical skills on when and how to apply the different tools and techniques, and critically review the results.
Building acoustics (Term 2)
This module introduces the main fundamentals of building acoustics and sound, within the context of designing/operating buildings for optimising health, comfort and wellbeing.
It addresses factors such as: fundamentals of sound, building and room acoustics; noise control and sound design (building design/operational strategies); monitoring and modelling approaches; case studies and regulation.
Low-energy housing retrofit (Term 2)
This module goes into detail about understanding the issues around retrofitting existing homes with insulation and systems to reduce energy consumption. Case study retrofits are criticised, incorporating a site visit.
• Intro to PHPP Policy and Regulations
• Natural Materials – Passivhaus Approach to Retrofit
• Engineering systems for PH/EnerPHit
• Airtightness, condensation
• Case Studies and Practical Issues
Energy systems modelling (Term 2)
The module focuses on developing skills in energy system modelling, and understanding how models are used, to aid the development of policies to meet energy and environment objectives such as climate change targets. The sessions consist of a lecture followed by students building models in class, this requires no numerical skills beyond school level. The staff involved are international experts.
Advanced lighting control design (Term 2)
In this module you will learn how to design a lighting control system to meet people’s needs in different environments and to understand the practical implications and consequences of your design. This is a structured design module in which you will be guided through the relevant theory so that you can make informed lighting control design decisions.
The module reviews current technology including defined systems, defined message systems and cross system gateways. It will also explore control hierarchy principles and discuss strategies for ensuring that the lighting gives the user what they need even when elements of the system may not be fully functional.
To enable any complex system to function, a top down system integration process is needed where the necessary software necessary to control all of the sub systems is created. The module will provide students with the tools to specify not only the correct lighting equipment and controls but also how to play their role in the systems integration process so that they can ensure that the users get the lighting they want and need. An understanding of how connected sensor data can be exploited to produce buildings which adapt to people’s needs whilst driving efficiencies and cost savings will be developed.
Dissertation (Term 3, Summer)
Students following the Smart Buildings and Digital Engineering MSc are required to submit a 10,000-word dissertation. The dissertation provides students with the opportunity to develop a substantial piece of work on a topic of their choice. Students apply what they have learnt in the taught-components of the programme and autonomously tackle, with the help of a supervisor, an important subject within the field of the Smart Buildings and Digital Engineering. The dissertation project is also an opportunity for students to deepen their knowledge in a topic of their own interest and develop the understanding and skills to conduct a detailed theoretical and/or empirical research on that topic.
The UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering is home to some of the world’s leading experts in the field.
- Programme leaders
Dr Dimitrios Rovas – Programme Leader
Associate Professor of Building Simulation and Optimisation
View Dimitrios’ profile
Dr Ivan Korolija – Deputy Programme Leader
Lecturer in Building Systems Modelling
View Ivan’s profile
Dr Hector Altamirano
Associate Professor of Environmental Design and Engineering
View Hector’s profile
Dr Mark Barrett
Professor of Energy and Environmental Systems Modelling
View Mark’s profile
Dr Esfand Burman
Lecturer in Complex Built Environment Systerms
View Esfand’s profile
Dr Stephen Cannon-Brookes
Associate Professor of Light and Lighting
View Stephen's profile
Dr Zaid Chalabi
Associate Professor in Mathematical Modelling
Prof Tim Dwyer
Honorary Professor of Effective Building Services
View Tim’s profile
Dr Virginia Gori
EPSRC UCL Doctoral Prize Fellow
View Virginia’s profile
Dr Sung-Min Hong
View Sung-Min’s profile
Dr Nishesh Jain
Mr Fred Labbe
Dr Valentina Marincioni
View Valentina’s profile
Dr Anna Mavrogianni
Associate Professor of Sustainable Building and Urban Design
View Anna's profile
Dr Valentina Marincioni
View Valentina's profile
Prof Tadj Oreszczyn
Professor of Energy and Environment
View Tadj's profile
Dr Rokia Raslan
Associate Professor of Building Performance Simulation
View Rokia's profile
Dr Yair Schwartz
View Yair's profile
Dr Farhang Tahmasebi
Lecturer in Engineering and Architectural Design
View Farhang's profile
Mr David Trew
Visiting Lecturer of Acoustics
Dr Marcella Ucci
Associate Professor of Environmental and Healthy Buildings
View Marcella's profile
Dr Yi Zhang
Teaching Fellow in Engineering and Architectural Design
View Yi's profile
You might be a recent engineering graduate looking for a way to develop your passion for sustainability. Or a buildings services professional with an interest in advanced buildings systems modelling. You might be looking to drive innovation within the industry – or build a research career in the field.
What all our students share is a desire to make real-world impact in the way buildings are designed, maintained and operated.
We’re looking for people who:
- are ambitious and excited by the opportunity to become leaders in a new discipline
- are inquisitive, with a particular appetite to develop a deep understanding of new modelling techniques and how building systems operate
- have a strong quantitative background and a degree in either engineering or science
- are digitally-focused, with a keen interest in digital technologies
- have an interest in the effective use of data
- most importantly, are passionate about the future of the built environment
With flexible study options available, as well as postgraduate certificate and diploma routes, the programme caters both to recent graduates and early/mid-career professionals looking to deepen their knowledge in the field.
The digital transformation of our built environment is only just beginning, and engineering graduates possessing the knowledge and skills acquired on this programme will be in high demand.
With an MSc in Smart Buildings and Digital Engineering you’ll be an ideal candidate for specialist roles in digitally-focused companies that provide engineering, design, planning and consulting services.
Potential job titles might include:
- Energy Systems Analyst
- Buildings Engineer
- Building Services Engineer
- Sustainability consultant
- Engineering building designer
- Building Energy Modeller
- Building Systems Engineer
- Facility and Operations Manager
- Computational High-performance designer
- Computational Designer/Programmer
- Research Analyst (In low carbon buildings)
- Energy Consultant
- Environmental Designer (or Engineer)
- Digital Buildings Engineer
You’ll learn how to use building modelling software such as EnergyPlus and DesignBuilder, and become familiar with modelling languages like Modelica. You'll develop soft skills, gaining the ability to communicate to different audiences and work in large groups.
The programme’s focus on active learning methodologies will enable you to gain the confidence to undertake large interdisciplinary projects that involve multiple unknowns and uncertainties. You’ll learn to coordinate work, integrate across disciplines and make balanced decisions.
By the end of the programme, you’ll have acquired highly specialist knowledge and skills that will only be of increasing value to our digital and sustainable future.
This programme was co-created with the industry. We conducted a survey of building professionals that received 150 responses: 88% said they would recommend the Smart Buildings and Digital Engineering MSc to colleagues and students, while 89% said the programme’s graduates would be in demand once they entered the world of work.
This course has been accredited as suitable further learning to meet the academic requirement for Chartered Engineers (CEng) by Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE).
The UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering (IEDE) is a world-leading centre of research and teaching excellence. As part of The Bartlett, UCL’s Faculty of the Built Environment, our research over the past 40 years has helped make buildings, towns and cities better places to live and work in.
- a world leading learning environment, #1 for Architecture/Built Environment studies in the UK and #3 in the World according to QS World University Rankings (2020)
- a world-leading track-record in building design and engineering
- established and an extensive alumni network within many of London’s and UK’s major building engineering firms
- long-standing strong established relationships with stakeholders from industry, policy makers and academia, who often give lectures and appear at networking events providing unrivalled networking opportunities
- a London location at the centre of open innovation and the biggest cluster of engineering and architectural consultancies
- an inclusive environment that promotes , and an ethos of equality and diversity
- a track record of delivering exceptional graduates that went on to assume leadership roles in the industry and academia
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