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Realising Sustainable Development

sdg sustainable


Dr Jonathan Clarke

Module Leader

Option - Final year only
Pre-requisite modules: GD105 and GD106
Term 1
10 x 2 hour seminars
10 x 1 hour additional tutorials
Additional unsupervised time working on projects

Not available to students outside GSD

Principal Aims

This practical, interdisciplinary module is designed to provide a bridge between the theoretical knowledge of sustainability principles and techniques, and the application of this knowledge to ‘real world’ situations and applications. This is accomplished by engaging students in small-scale, community-based projects, within the University campus and its locality, concentrating upon interventions within the natural and built environment.

Using student’s enthusiasm for enacting real change, the module focusses upon a number of local challenge themes, including biodiversity, education and housing, where they will work collectively to diagnose problems and generate ideas for more sustainable approaches. These practical projects provide opportunities for partnering and working alongside a range of stakeholders including sustainability professionals, volunteers and government officials throughout the implementation process, and in doing so gaining hands-on experience within these sectors. Supported by a range of practitioner-led workshops, it is envisaged that students will identify potential co-benefits to address the local ‘problem spaces’ of global sustainable development. This practical focus allows the students to form an appreciation of the complexities inherent in implementation, including the diversity of perspectives on key issues and thus potential trade-offs necessary. The module will stimulate student’s creativity, vision and reflexivity.

Principal Learning Outcomes

  • Communicate a nuanced understanding of the different local and national policies relating to sustainability practice;
  • Demonstrate critical engagement with the complexities and trade-offs of development implementation;
  • Demonstrate practical skills and understanding of local sustainability challenges;
  • Design and implement sophisticated auditing and assessment techniques for sustainable development;
  • Research and articulate the connection between the natural and built environment, and their implications for individuals and communities, for a range of audiences;
  • Engage creatively with the possibilities of transforming society through GSD;
  • Introduce a range of potential perspectives for realising sustainable development, and in doing so identify potential co-benefits and collaborative solutions to local problems;
  • Introduce potential career paths and real-world stakeholders;
  • Design and demonstrate the potential for enacting transformative change.

Employability Skills

Through this module, you will develop a number of different skills that are sought by employers which will support your professional development. We have highlighted this to enable you to identify and reflect on the skills you have acquired and apply them throughout your professional journey including during the recruitment processes whether this on an CV/application form or at an interview.

  • Oral communication - Developed through consultative project discussions with stakeholders as well as presenting persuasive business proposals.
  • Written communication – Students are expected to carry out foundational research for presentation to a non-technical client.
  • Project Management and Organisation - Working on a real-life project involving all stages from the initial assessment, planning, research, consultation with partners, scheduling tasks, monitoring progress to completion. Students are expected to produce a project plan, including milestones and individual tasks for implementation.
  • Teamwork - Collaborating with peers and multiple partners on project briefs involving sharing ideas, knowledge and best practice.


The syllabus follows 5 x 2 week themes for realising sustainable development within a local context, which shape the structure of weekly learning and activities.

I. Local Context and Assessment:

  • Understanding site context;
  • Environmental Impact Assessment;
  • Baseline Habitat Assessment;
  • Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM);
  • Site Mapping Skills (GIS, etc).

II. Natural Environment:

  • Develop a more nuanced understanding of Biodiversity (building on GD105);
  • Environmental Designations and Protection;
  • Biodiversity action plans (building on GD105);
  • Water, drought and flooding (building on GD105).

III. Built Environment:

  • Design and Planning;
  • Construction, Materials and Methods;
  • Energy and thermal performance;
  • Environmental/Passive Design.

IV. Biophilia:

  • Ecosystems Services (building on GD105);
  • Natural Capital (building on GD105);
  • Health, Well-being and Nature;
  • Green Infrastructure.

V. Interventions:

  • Co-benefits;
  • Adaptive Pathways;
  • Towards sustainable development.



Seminar Participation (10%)

Group Assessment (in-person) Presentation (30%)

Individual Proposal (in-person) Presentation (40%)

1 x 1500 word Individual Research Report (20%)

  Please note: Module availability and staffing may change year on year depending on availability and other operational factors. The School for Cross-faculty Studies makes no guarantee that any modules will be offered in a particular year, or that they will necessarily be taught by the staff listed on this page.