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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Developing a framework to guide building owners’ sustainability choices

The modern world is filled with an abundance of information. Access to excessive information results in overwhelming options and causes choice paralysis. Building owners are no exception and often revert to standard design choices based on the lowest first-cost estimates when improving or renovating buildings. These decisions are rarely sustainability-driven and often have unsatisfactory consequences for the environment. This study (a) asks what practical sustainable construction looks like in a retrofit context and (b) proposes a novel tool that assesses sustainable upgrade options to increase the awareness of sustainable practices for clients. Following a short review of related literature and global sustainable building practices, a survey of building professionals was conducted regarding their perceptions of sustainable construction and the effectiveness of current tools. In light of the gaps in knowledge, I propose a novel tool for increasing sustainable awareness of building owners. By entering basic building information such as size, age, occupancy, and location; users are provided a series of upgrade options. The tool generates a series of estimated scores and graphs showing the economic, environmental, and social impacts of the upgrade choices in real-time, all taking a matter of minutes. The research is capped with several interviews of building owners who are presented with the tool and questioned regarding the effectiveness of increasing their awareness and driving them towards practical change. This study condenses the foundational research on practical sustainable construction, links it to retrofits of existing buildings, and provides the first iteration of a tool that will help owners make smarter, more sustainable upgrade choices.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.