What to Expect From a Sustainable Architecture Program: Areas of Study

Updated January 2023

If you're interested in architecture and passionate about the environment, it makes good sense to consider a sustainable architecture diploma.

Diplomas teach practical design and drafting skills, with a focus on green building principles. Where degrees go deep into the history and theory of sustainable architecture, diplomas focus on job-ready drafting skills.

A diploma is a good option for someone who wants to work in architecture, but doesn't want to invest years of training to become a licensed architect.

But programs of this kind are fairly new, so a lot of students have questions about how training works. It's important to know what skills you'll graduate with and where you can work after college.

How is sustainable architecture different from traditional architecture programs? What "extra" or different coursework is involved?

Here's everything you need to know about diplomas in sustainable design, including the main areas of study and career paths after college.


What is Sustainable Architecture?

First of all, we should clarify what we mean by "sustainable" architecture. This field of design is all about green building systems, techniques, and technologies. The goal is simple: to minimize the negative impact of structures on the environment.

For example, sustainable architectural designers focus on using renewable, non-toxic building materials. They create building plans that maximize energy efficiency (water recycling systems, solar panels, etc.), and ensure local ecosystems aren't disrupted by the structure.

This line of work has become increasingly popular over the last several years because of demand for more responsible, eco-friendly ways of living.

From homeowners to businesses to governments—all kinds of building projects are now focusing on green design, and there are international organizations that rate structures according to their sustainability. Eco-design is becoming the new normal.


Sustainable Architecture Diploma Programs

Architectural designers (also called architectural technicians) are the ones who actually create the blueprints and building plans for new structures.

A supervising architect or engineer comes up with the concept, based on the client's vision, and then the designer maps out those ideas with technical drawings.

They usually follow the project throughout the whole building process, making sure the construction team stays true to the original design.

When you take sustainable architecture training, you'll be learning standard architectural drafting skills PLUS the principles of green building design.

You'll learn how to draft blueprints and map out building plans that are up to code, and meet the latest standards of eco-friendly construction.

Most full-time diplomas take about 24 months to complete.


4 Main Areas of Study in Sustainable Architecture Training

So, what do sustainable architecture students learn to prepare them to create eco-friendly building designs for architects, engineers, and construction companies?

Diploma programs usually cover four main areas of study:


1. Computer-Aided-Design (CAD) Software for Architecture

You will learn how to use the latest version of AutoCAD to create several kinds of architectural drawings, including blueprints, elevations, sections, building site plans, and construction details.

These plans are the "language" of builders. Construction companies use these technical drawings to understand every aspect of a new project—including which materials will be used, all of the plumbing and HVAC systems for the building, and the precise measurements for every room, angle, and element of the structure.

You'll also learn some hand drawing techniques so you can sketch out ideas quickly. But the majority of your time will be spent learning the latest architectural drafting and modelling tools.


2. Principles of Eco-Friendly Architectural Design

To make sure the building plans you create are truly eco-friendly, you'll need to understand the principles and history of sustainable architecture.

You will study the elements of green building, how structures impact their environment, and the rating systems we use in Canada to judge whether a building is sustainable or not.

This is also where you'll learn about the many kinds of materials you can use to create eco-friendly building designs. You'll find out how common building materials are produced, where they come from, and their chemical components, to make sure the designs you create are as green as possible.

Plus, you will study how to analyze an existing structure—like an old building— and develop plans to renovate it to be more sustainable.


3. Building Codes & Regulations

Part of your job as an architectural designer is to ensure the building plans you create are up to code (safe and legal). In order to successfully complete training, you will need to learn the standards, codes, and regulations of the National Building Code of Canada.

As a sustainable designer, you will also need to learn the "codes" used to construct eco-friendly buildings. These are the standards people use around the world to determine whether a building meets accepted standards for sustainability.

A good example is the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. This is a rating system used to certify buildings as environmentally responsible. You'll learn all about LEED during training.


4. How to Create Eco-friendly Designs for Different Building Types

Sustainable architectural designers work on many different kinds of buildings. You could create plans for homes, retail stores, schools, hospitals, museums, offices, and every kind of structure in between.

It's important for students to understand the different design challenges they'll face when creating plans for various kinds of structures.

This part of training focuses on helping you develop those skills. You'll learn how to choose the right materials, lighting, electrical, and water systems, as well as zoning and bylaws for residential, commercial, cultural, and industrial projects.

Throughout training, you'll be creating sample designs to practise your skills and build up your portfolio.

There's a lot more to cover in a sustainable architecture diploma. Click below to see a complete list of courses and projects you'll work on in class.


See a Detailed Course List for a Sustainable Architecture Program


Where Can you Work After Graduation?

After graduating, you will have the option to work as an architectural technician/designer for architecture and engineering firms and construction companies.

You will also be qualified to work for firms that specialize in eco-friendly building. Your skills will cover regular building projects and sustainable structures. You will be ready to tackle brand-new building designs or work on renovating existing structures.

Some sustainable architecture grads work freelance, taking on contracts from several firms at the same time. This way, you manage your own hours, decide your own rates, and choose which projects you'd like to accept.

You could also find work as an appraiser—someone who specializes in evaluating buildings for environmental impact and makes recommendations for improvement.


Learn More About Sustainable Architecture Training in Montreal

Looking for quality sustainable architecture training in Montreal, and want to learn more about Herzing's program? Your next step is to speak with an admissions advisor.

An advisor can answer any questions you have about:

  • Admission requirements for the program
  • Tuition costs and financial aid options
  • How to apply
  • Booking a campus tour or class visit
  • Key skills you'll need to succeed in this training
  • Career options
  • How the internship works

Click below to get started. See program details, a course list, and chat live with an advisor right now. We're here to help!

Learn More About Herzing's Sustainable Architecture Training


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