Department of
Architecture and Built Environment

MArch in Sustainable Tall Buildings

This course introduces tall buildings as a strategy for urban sustainability and densification for the 21st Century. It explores advanced concepts of urban and social living, smart structures and systems, vertical landscaping, construction, and bioclimatic design for super-tall skyscraper.

The M.Arch programme originates with Ken Yeang's theory that tall buildings can be part of the strategy for urban sustainability. We are seeing the emergence of mega-cities like Tokyo and Shanghai where population grows, expectations of living standards are raised, and land values are such that there is no choice but to build tall. The outdated tall building model of glassy, air-conditioned, energy-consuming towers is unsustainable in the arid post-oil world - but developers keep building them, and cities still want them. So how do we make them better? Cities, governed by the motorcar, have sprawled in a low density way that is unsustainable in the post-oil era. 

We ask: can tall buildings aid the densification of large cities? Can we link tall building clusters to public transport nodes? Are we more inspired by 21st C cities like Hong Kong and Singapore, or by urban museums of 20th C buildings like Chicago? The course ensures that the most appropriate urbanistic and architectural design concepts, materials and technologies are considered for future tall buildings to make them low-carbon, bioclimatic, socially and economically sustainable.


Sikkas tower on the Corniche, Abu Dhabi

For further information, you are welcome to address questions specific to the M.Arch in Sustainable Tall Buildings to the Course Director, david.nicholson-cole@nottingham.ac.uk and/or to the head of Tall Building research philip.oldfield@nottingham.ac.uk   


Schools tower in Leamouth, London 

Distinguishing Features

Tall buildings have been taught at Nottingham since 2002, and this Masters course started in September 2009. It is the first such course in the world and forerunner of more to come. The course includes distinguished guests and practitioners from key practices to contribute to tutoring and lectures. Students' work is featured in conferences, articles and websites as examples of innovative thinking for the very complex ideas of sustainable tall buildings. Most of the content of this programme has been running for several years as design projects and lecture courses within our existing Masters courses, so it is tried and tested.


Kampong tower, Singapore, by Sam Holt

Career Prospects

The MArch in Sustainable Tall Buildings provides graduates with immediate career opportunities in UK and abroad. Many architects and developers know tall buildings, but few know bioclimatic ones. Governments and clients are now demanding 'Tall and Green' buildings, which must reach the highest standards of BREEAM and LEED. Developers will only invest in sustainable tall buildings if architects can fully convince them of the necessity and possibilities. Our graduates understand the complex interaction of the design concepts required for sustainable tall buildings.

Prizes2012 - Canary Wharf Tall Buildings prize

Winners of 2012 Canary Wharf PLC Prize for Tall Building design 

Course Structure

The course consists of 180 credits and provides a series of taught design projects and seminar/lecture programmes (120 credits in total). Tall buildings are introduced in the first semester through technical, urban design, modelling workshops, precedent case studies concluding with a tall building design task with a strong commitment to climate, context and culture. This is always sited in a distance place, such as recent designs for sites in Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Mumbai, Chicago, New York or Rotterdam.


Vertical parking concept for PV charging of electric rental cars

The course moves progressively to a second semester design project incorporating advanced concepts of urban and social sustainability, civic design, vertical greening, smart structures and systems, mixed use planning and detailed bioclimatic design for super-tall skyscrapers suitable for the 21st Century. This is usually sited in London.


Atrium interior in the Kampong tower, Singapore

The final part of the course is a dissertation (60 credits), a scholarly exploration of a technical, ethical, regional, historical, cultural or theoretical aspect of Tall Buildings.

Green Canyons design for New York Isover Competition 2010-2011

Mixed use tower in New York  

Entry Requirements

Applicants should hold a good first degree (normally 2:1 minimum) in architecture or a relevant urban design or engineering discipline. For those whose first language is not English, you require a qualification equivalent to IELTS 6.5. Two references and a design portfolio (preferably submitted as a PDF presentation on CD with a minimum of ten pages) are also required for the application.


Vertical pharmaceutical farming in Singapore

There are also opportunities for scholarships for strong candidates, and more about this can be found on the page:



Skybridge structure in Leamouth, London  


Department of Architecture and Built Environment

The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 4882