Sustainable Design & Construction Degree Programs

The "Sustainable Built Environment Group" at Stanford

The Sustainable Design & Construction Program is part of the Sustainable Built Environment (SBE) group in the department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Stanford, which includes faculty from:

Our focus is on educating practitioners and researchers who can play a variety of roles in planning, designing, building and operating more sustainable buildings and infrastructure.

Our new program in Sustainable Design and Construction (SDC-X) expands the program with courses in sustainable, multi-stakeholder design methods and tools that incorporate lifecycle cost analysis, green architectural design, lighting and energy analysis, to educate students from a variety of undergraduate backgrounds interested in promoting more sustainable development of buildings and infrastructure.

Each of these programs offers MS, Engineer and Ph.D. degrees. Admissions to these programs are handled separately; prospective students should indicate their preference on their application.

Within the Sustainable Built Environment group, the Sustainable Design and Construction Program offers six degrees: four MS degrees with a shared core and differentiated elective courses to support students with different career goals, and two advanced graduate degrees:

Master of Science Degrees:

Our MS degrees can typically be completed in three quarters of full time study, starting in Autumn Quarter, for students with an engineering or architecture undergraduate degree.

Application information can be found here. Applicants for a post M.S. degree should consult the tips on the pages for the degrees of Engineer and Ph.D..

Students with other undergraduate degrees - our MS alumni include students with undergraduate majors in field as diverse as physics, economics, management, industrial relations, philosophy and music - may require one or more additional quarters to complete the MS degree, depending on the student’s prior background in mathematics, physics and management topics. The curriculum requirements for all MS degrees may be found here (Requirements PDF download).

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Engineer Degree

Students interested in additional coursework and independent study beyond the MS can enroll in the degree of Engineer. This degree is similar to the M.Eng. degree that is offered at several other US engineering schools. The Engineer degree requires 45 units consisting of a program of additional coursework to address the student’s interests designed by the student and advisor, and a 12-15 unit thesis. This degree can be completed in three quarters of full time study beyond the M.S. degree.

Students typically enroll in the Engineer degree for one of two reasons:

Acquire state-of-the-art knowledge in a fast-changing field.

  • Our Engineer Degree graduates have explored topics as diverse as: designing, building and operating high efficiency data centers; deploying large scale photovoltaic solar arrays; developing innovative ways to finance global infrastructure projects; measuring the costs vs. benefits of deploying virtual design and construction methods and tools; and clarifying the legal liabilities of owners for construction accidents.
  • The Engineer Degree positions graduates to work as a leading edge practitioner or consultant in their newly won area of technical or managerial expertise.

Explore their interest in a research topic or research career, and demonstrate their research abilities for potential follow-on PhD research to a prospective advisor.

  • Students who already have an MS degree from another university and are interested in enrolling as PhD candidates in CEM are generally required to apply for admission as candidates for the Engineer Degree first.
  • Stanford M.S. graduates sometimes enroll in the Engineer Degree to explore their interest in, and their motivation and ability to pursue, a career as a researcher/educator.

See the Engineer Degree degree requirements page for more information.

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Ph.D. Degree

The Ph.D. degree requires 90 units beyond the M.S. degree (or 45 units beyond the degree of Engineer), including a dissertation that is judged by the student’s dissertation advisor and committee to make an original contribution to knowledge. The Ph.D. degree was historically on the path leading to a career in university education and research. This remains true; our Ph.D. graduates are highly sought after for faculty positions by the top universities in our field worldwide. More recently, leading edge companies and government agencies are also recruiting our Ph.D. graduates to serve as practice leaders and champions in the adoption of new technologies and management approaches.

It is theoretically possible to complete the Ph.D. Degree in six quarters of full-time study after the MS degree. A handful of our prior students have enrolled full time with support from their own funds, or from an external or internal fellowship, and completed all of the requirements for the Ph.D. in two years. However, most of our Ph.D. students receive 50% time research assistantships and can thus enroll for up to 10 units per quarter; so the Ph.D. degree takes a minimum of 9 quarters after the MS degree to complete, and more typically requires from 12-16 quarters of enrollment.

See the Doctor of Philosophy page for more information.

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