Certificate in Sustainable
Built Environment

20101111_BGI_IslandWood-Intensive_106smOur built environment affects every facet of our daily lives, the quality of the air we breathe inside our homes and offices, the way we use energy and water, the way we move about our neighborhoods, cities and towns and the way we interact with the community around us. A built environment that is thoughtfully and intentionally designed can encourage a thriving economy and a healthy lifestyle. The status quo of energy intensive buildings and poorly planned communities is no longer acceptable. BGI has crafted a four-quarter, one-year graduate certification to sharpen student’s skills so that they can be change agents who create a sustainable built environment. We will look at a variety of building scales, residential, mixed-use, commercial, industrial, rehabs and neighborhoods. We will examine cutting edge projects, learn from practitioners and look for business opportunities throughout the building industry. The course series includes an in-depth action learning practicum in which each student develops a project, such as a real estate development, a small business idea or improvement to an existing business and presents that project to a panel of industry leaders.


The instructors for the course bring a wealth of experience in the built environment. The course opens with grounding in sustainable building principles presented by Richard Graves, Executive Director of the International Living Futures Institute and his team. The International Living Futures Institute created the Living Building Challenge, which is pushing the edge of sustainable building into regenerative design. The course will additionally be taught by Mercy Rome, a real estate developer specializing in sustainable building. Mercy has developed commercial projects and mixed-use affordable housing projects, including the first LEED Gold affordable housing development in the country. Mercy earned her MBA from BGI. The course will include lectures and sessions from industry leaders, developers and building owners to present a robust body of knowledge and help students develop a strong network.  The student community itself fosters a rich learning environment with each student’s own career history, keen insights and high caliber work products.

20121119_BGI_New-Space_028smWho Can Benefit

Anyone already (or aspiring to be) in the sustainable building industry who wants to sharpen their skills and gain insight into the leading edge of sustainable building. This course will position individuals to establish their own businesses within the industry, or become project managers, sustainability experts or finance managers within the building industry. We prepare our students to think holistically, work in integrative teams, present compelling cases and speak cogently to champion change. This education can benefit individuals in positions such as design, engineering, project management, construction management, real estate development, real estate sales, property management, planning, construction, and other areas of the building industry.

Expected Results

The Certificate program’s objective is to prepare students to understand the foundations of ecological design and to create profitable real estate development projects from feasibility assessment through lease-up or sale. You will leave this program with hard financial skills, a strong network, a clear understanding of the process to get projects off the ground, and the confidence to ask the right questions, gather the right information, and make confident decisions.

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Program Format

This course is taught in a hybrid format, meeting for nine Saturdays (once monthly from Oct – June) at the Islandwood campus, in addition to twenty-four online classes held on Wednesday evenings for ninety minutes each. During the first quarter the students will gain a foundation in sustainable building and begin their team project which they will work on through quarters two and three. The fourth quarter is reserved exclusively for students to work on their individual practicum projects. A prerequisite for the course is a demonstrated interest in the sustainable built environment and ecological design.

Smart Grid


Q1 Sustainable Building: the Foundation and the Leading Edge

In quarter one you will gain a deep understanding of ecological design principles and how to use those principles to create sustainable buildings. We will explore the issues and opportunities in the industry.  This quarter also includes participation in a full day Living Building Workshop, which is a prerequisite for the Living Futures Accreditation.  We will explore all scales of development including residential, mixed use, commercial, neighborhood, new construction and rehabs.  (3 credits)

What you will learn:

  • Understand the scope, history and future trajectory of the green building movement
  • Understand the role of the built environment in the larger environmental and social context
  • Understand project performance against standard metrics for both construction and operations
  • Effectively communicate both issues and opportunities in sustainable building

Q2 Nuts & Bolts of Creating Sustainable Buildings

This course gives you the context and tools that you need to lead, manage or market a sustainable building project.  You will learn who is involved in a project team, their roles and responsibilities and how that differs with project scale.  This course delves deeply into the financial side of sustainable building, giving you the tools to make the business case for sustainable building and understand the market context that determines a project’s success or failure.  We will also look at how we can use development as a tool to increase social justice in our communities.  (3 credits)

What you will learn:

  • To make the Business Case and promote sustainable building – quantifying the return on investment, payback period, and health / productivity benefits of sustainable choices
  • The market context for creating successful projects

Energy Percent

Q3 Creating a Thriving Built Environment

In quarter three you will learn how to prepare feasibility assessments of projects, analyze costs, both capital and operating, and further hone your ability to make the business case for sustainable building.  You will explore how to structure and finance projects and become familiar with bids, contracts, and marketing.  You will examine green leasing strategies and how they can help improve building performance.  This quarter will focus on building relationships and networks within the building industry.  By the end of the course you will confidently understand how to design and build for the market and the future. (3 credits)

What you will learn:

  • Real estate feasibility analysis
  • How to structure and finance real estate projects
  • How to prepare a property package for financing
  • How to bring vitality back to communities through development

Q4 Action Learning Practicum

In this quarter you will apply the concepts and tools learned during the preceding quarters to further a real world project. In the practicum students will identify a business or real estate project, analyze the value proposition, make the business case, and successfully pitch the project to representatives from the industry. (3 credits)

What you will learn:

  • To apply ecological & integrative design principles to development and delivery of a real or potential project or business
  • To think holistically to create a building project or business to serve the industry
  • To make a presentation and case for a sustainable building project or business


Chart from the Living Futures Institute, learn more at living-futures.org.

Download the Program PDF

For more information, contact us at admissions@bgi.edu or 206.855.1215.