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Unit of study_

DESC9148: Sustainable Building Design Practice

Semester 1, 2021 [Block mode] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

Assessing building performance and integrating environmental building systems and construction forms the core of sustainable building design practice. This advanced unit explores the methods, workflows and regulatory frameworks to design best-practice sustainable buildings. It develops your ability to work as a sustainable building consultant. You will learn how to evaluate and critique the environmental performance of real-world projects and set targets and apply strategies to improve designs. The unit also reviews working methods for integrated design and will develop your ability to communicate environmental performance to other design team members.

Unit details and rules

Unit code DESC9148
Academic unit Architectural and Design Science
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge

Fundamental knowledge of sustainable design

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Daniel Ryan,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Sustainable practice research report
60% Formal exam period
Due date: 14 Jun 2021 at 23:59
10 x A3 pages + appendix (max 4 pages)
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Assignment group assignment Low-Carbon Retrofit
Case Study
40% Week 06
Due date: 12 Apr 2021 at 23:59
A3 illustrated report 2000 words + ills
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
group assignment = group assignment ?

Assessment summary

  • Sustainable Retrofit: As a group, you are asked to examine a sustainable retrofit of a commercial or educational building from the past ten years.
  • Design Report: Using a brief for sustainable retrofit and design challenges from University Infrastructure you are asked to review the brief and develop a design report that
    • evaluates the basic reasons for current problems in the building
    • develops a range of preliminary solutions that could meet the brief and evaluate the solutions against the client requirements and industry standards
    • analyses the performance of preliminary options, showing how performance could be improved and any trade-offs involved
    • considers how biophilic principles could be incorporated into the design

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a High distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a Distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

Work of outstanding quality, demonstrating mastery of the learning outcomes assessed. The work shows significant innovation, experimentation, critical analysis, synthesis, insight, creativity, and/or exceptional skill.


75 - 84

Work of excellent quality, demonstrating a sound grasp of the learning outcomes assessed. The work shows innovation, experimentation, critical analysis, synthesis, insight, creativity, and/or superior skill.


65 - 74

Work of good quality, demonstrating more than satisfactory achievement of the learning outcomes assessed, or work of excellent quality for a majority of the learning outcomes assessed.


50 - 64

Work demonstrating satisfactory achievement of the learning outcomes assessed.


0 - 49

Work that does not demonstrate satisfactory achievement of one or more of the learning outcomes assessed.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 02 introduction, integrated design - theory and practice, low carbon retrofit, green leadership, project briefing Lecture (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Client briefing and walk around Tutorial (2 hr) LO3 LO4 LO5
Week 04 1. Building phase and sustainable design 2. Construction operations and commissioning 3. Facade and building services integration 4. Case study on making tangible improvements 5. Biomimetic facades Lecture (5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO6
Assignment tutorial Tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 07 1. Case study; 2. Communicating sustainable design 3. Introduction to biophilic design 4. Biophilic Design and the Living Building Challenge Lecture (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Preliminary design review Tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO6
Week 09 1. Case study; 2. Rating Systems - history and development; 3. Communicating sustainable design; Lecture (4 hr) LO1 LO2 LO4 LO6
Developed design review Tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 12 1. Architects Declare Movement 2. Creating a carbon neutral practice 3. Making a career in sustainable design 4. Wrap up Lecture (4.5 hr) LO1 LO4 LO5
Final review Tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6

Attendance and class requirements

Please refer to the Resolutions of the University School:

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. Evaluate the environmental performance of design proposals against industry standards
  • LO2. Understand how to balance sustainability objectives and how to apply them to a project
  • LO3. Systematically develop design propositions in response to a client brief
  • LO4. Demonstrate an awareness of the characteristics of professional leadership in sustainable design practice
  • LO5. Develop the ability to work collaboratively with others
  • LO6. Rigorously communicate research, knowledge and sustainable propositions to a variety of professional audiences

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

The unit has been revised to build on student feedback for more design opportunities in the capstone unit. We have also engaged in a real-world brief by liaising with University Infrastructure, taking the campus as a living laboratory for Sustainable practice. Lecture sequence has been further rationalised to more closely align with the assignments. Assignments have also been revised to allow students to build on knowledge gained over the course of the degree and the course of the unit.

Additional costs

There will be a small travel cost to cover the site visit to Wollongong, Students are expected to cover costs associated with travelling to site visits and printing assignments.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.