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MSc Building Services Engineering

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    Key information

    Mode of delivery
    Start date
    September, January


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    Our Building Services Engineering degree considers low carbon building design and the integration of renewable energy systems into buildings. It deals with services engineering issues, building the skills required to cope with modern construction challenges. As a conversion course, it gives a solid foundation for converting into, or accelerating, a career as a Building Services Engineer, or Technical Sustainability Consultant.

    This flexible degree is aimed at graduates or experienced construction professionals with a wide range of backgrounds in addition to Engineering, such as Project Management, Architecture, the Sciences or Mathematics. Courses are taught by experts in their fields ensuring that content reflects cutting-edge knowledge in the industry. Our active Industry Advisory Panel (including the last two CIBSE Chairs) also includes senior construction professionals from local and global consultants and contractors who help us keep the degree at the cutting edge, and relevant for challenges that lie ahead.

    Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design

    Our Architectural Engineering courses are delivered by the Royal Academy of Engineering Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Design. This is one of four such Centres established at UK universities that jointly form a national network to demonstrate and exchange best practice in teaching and research for the sustainable built environment. The Centre also ensures graduates from our courses will be used to working within an inter-disciplinary environment involving architecture, engineering and construction.

    Research-active staff

    Within the area of sustainable buildings, our Architectural Engineering staff have a long track record in research around low-carbon buildings, modelling and design, and the understanding of energy and water use in the built environment. Through millions of pounds of funding from research councils, industry and governments, our courses are taught by experts in their fields, ensuring that teaching content reflects cutting-edge knowledge in the subject area. Research projects involving Architectural Engineers that our students will hear about include:

    • The £20M EPSRC national Energy Systems Integration, demonstrating the role of buildings within the wider energy infrastructure
    • Over £3M of projects from the EPSRC Adaptation and Resilience in a Changing Climate (ARCC) course, looking at how our buildings might perform in a future climate
    • The £1.4M 'Tarbase' project, investigating low-carbon refurbishments

    Our postgraduate teaching is fundamentally linked with our research work, so that, our MSc courses not only provide our students with an important insight into current industry practice; but also our latest research can guide you as to how industry might evolve in the future.

    Degree duration

    Online Learning: The fastest this MSc can be completed is in 2½ years. The maximum completion timeframe is 8 years. On average, most students complete a MSc in 3-4 years.

    Flexible study options

    The online Building Services Engineering degree has been designed with flexibility in mind. It is ideal for those in employment or with other commitments, providing flexible study options that fit around work or family. Some features that our students value include:

    • MSc degrees can be completed between 2½ - 8 years, depending on your pace of study.
    • You have up to two years to complete an individual course (or module) after registering for the course.
    • Courses are paid for on a 'pay-as-you-study' basis, allowing you to spread the payments across the duration of your degree.

    Delivery of online degrees

    Our up-to-date and progressive course materials are made available online through the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The VLE links you with our expert academics and course materials through videos, webinars, articles, journals, assessments and discussion boards. Tutors will provide you, by phone, Skype or email, with academic support similar to that received by our on-campus students.

    To find out more about time requirements, support and exams, view our How online learning works pages to find out more. 

    Studying an Online MSc Building Services Engineering Degree

    Heriot-Watt graduate, Akshay Kumar Annadata, talks about his experience of studying a MSc Building Services Engineering degree online.

    Course content

    Year 1

    Students undertake eight taught courses for the Diploma plus the research dissertation for the MSc. Students can opt to complete a total of four courses and graduate with the Heriot-Watt University Postgraduate Certificate.

    The taught element of the course comprises eight courses, with one mandatory/core course and seven optional courses.

    Degree structure

    • Design of Low Carbon Buildings
    • Dissertation (Architectural Engineering Discipline)
    • Foundations of Energy
    • Demand Management and Energy Storage
    • Architectural Acoustics
    • Building Electrical and Lighting Services
    • Climate Change, Sustainability and Adaptation
    • Design of Low Carbon Buildings
    • Modelling for Sustainable Building Design
    • Energy Systems and Buildings
    • Thermofluids
    • Ventilation and Air Conditioning
    • Water Supply and Drainage for Buildings
    • Water and Wastewater Treatment
    • Innovation in Construction Practice
    • People and Organisation Management in the Built Environment
    • Contracts and Procurement
    • Value and Risk Management

    Detailed degree guide

    Understanding, Knowledge and Cognitive Skills

    • Fundamentals of the main Building Services and Architectural Engineering specialisms;
      • Building Services Engineering theory, design and practice.
      • Energy Efficient Construction, Sustainable Development and Environmental friendly design.
      • Behavioural responses of people to their environments.
      • Fluid mechanics
      • Water Conservation
      • Aural, Visual and Thermal Environmental Assessment
      • Construction Technology and Principles of Structures.
      • Health and Safety regulations.
      • Principles of Management related to built environment professionals (Contracts & Procurement and Value & Risk management).
      • Sustainable building design
      • Carbon management.
    • Management and business practices which form the basis of modern Architectural Engineering management.
    • Fundamentals of Mathematics and Applied Physics as applicable in the context of sustainable building design and Architectural Engineering.
    • Comprehensive understanding and knowledge of the concepts, principles and theories of specialist technical issues, as selected by the student to meet their professional aspirations.
    • Transfer problem-solving skills to a variety of contexts
    • Apply numerical, scientific and management skills
    • Integrate theory and practice

    Scholarship, Enquiry and Research (Research Informed Learning)

    • Conduct and analyse results from laboratory exercises relevant to the science of engineering
    • Ability to plan, execute and report a self-directed research project
    • Transfer problem-solving skills to a variety of contexts
    • Apply numerical skills and engineering knowledge in the analysis of a novel problem.
    • Apply theory to sustainable building design in collaboration with colleagues and industrial partners.
    • Integrate theory and practice

    Approaches to Teaching and Learning

    The postgraduate Building Services Engineering programme provides a flexible, student-centred, and resource-based learning and teaching environment, which actively promotes a deep approach to learning. Learning and teaching resources include lectures, tutorials, seminars and task-based activities. The programme includes group based lectures and tutorials, and students are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning. The techniques adopted include library and computer-based facilities and design based activities focussed on individual programme courses designed to integrate the knowledge covered in the programme as a whole and develop transferable skills through dissertation, coursework and problem-solving elements.

    Approaches to learning and teaching are reviewed and assessed by the course Leader and Director of Studies on an annual basis. The review and redesign of techniques and methods adopted are obtained from the Industrial Advisory Panel, student questionnaires, comments from the Student-Staff Committee, pass rates and external examiners' reports.

    Specific details about learning and teaching methods are provided in the appropriate course descriptors.

    Assessment Policies

    The assessment policy for courses on the Building Services Engineering Programme is to tailor the methods of assessment to the subject being taught and the nature of the classes so that understanding, knowledge and subject-specific skills are assessed using a variety of approaches. These include written examinations, summative and formative coursework, practical exercises, presentations, individual projects and the dissertation. What is best for each programme is moderated by seeking a balance of modes which, as a whole, most effectively and efficiently test the learning outcomes of the Programme as a whole.

    Formal assessment in courses teaching subject specific understanding, knowledge and skills is by either coursework or unseen written examinations but there are some courses which are assessed by both. The examinations are summative while coursework may be used to assess understanding and subject specific skills on a formative or summative basis. Continuous assessment is more common in courses explicitly designed to develop cognitive and core skills, and professional awareness. This approach to assessment enables staff and students to monitor the establishment and honing of transferable skills in practical exercises that are directly applicable to the built environment.

    The methods of assessment adopted are continually reviewed. Specific details about assessment methods are provided in the appropriate course descriptor.

    Fees and funding

    Tuition fees

    Tuition fees
    Status Per course [footnote 1] Dissertation/Project [footnote 1]
    UK / EU / Overseas GBP1480 GBP1910
    1. The tuition fees listed are for courses starting between September 2023 and August 2024. Fees normally increase annually. Find out more about our tuition fees.

    Additional fee information

    Financial support

    Tuition fee loans are available to Scottish distance learning students on some taught postgraduate courses. Find out more from the Students Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS)

    Scholarships and bursaries

    We aim to encourage well-qualified, ambitious students to study with us and we offer a wide variety of scholarships and bursaries to achieve this. Each year, hundreds of students enhance their educational experience through a variety of Heriot-Watt and externally funded scholarships, including opportunities funded by the University's generous alumni community, based all over the world.

    View our full range of postgraduate scholarships.

    Entry requirements

    For MSc level entry applicants must have:

    • Minimum of 2:2 honours degree or equivalent academic qualification in cognate and semi-cognate subject area.
    • Corporate (or chartered) membership of relevant professional institutions will also be considered.

    For PG Diploma level entry applicants must have:

    • Third class honours degree in a cognate or semi-cognate subject area PLUS 2 years of relevant experience at an appropriate level completed post qualification.
    • Cognate or semi-cognate ordinary degree PLUS 3-4 years of relevant experience at an appropriate level following graduation.
    • Candidates who do not meet the above entry requirements or have no formal academic qualifications will be considered individually based on their CV and interview. Admission via this route will be at the discretion of the Director of Admissions and the number of successful applicants will be restricted.

    There is no entry at PG Certificate level except through exceptional agreement with approved learning partners.

    Non-graduating study at masters level:

    • Entry is based on CV or on formal academic qualifications or graduate (or incorporated) membership of a relevant professional institution.

    English language requirements

    If English is not the applicant's first language a minimum of IELTS 6.5 or equivalent is required with all elements passed at 6.0 or above.

    Applicants who have previously successfully completed courses delivered in the medium of English language may be considered and will be required to provide documentary evidence of this. Examples would be secondary school education or undergraduate degree course. A minimum of at least one year of full time study (or equivalent) in the medium of English language will be required.

    We offer a range of English language courses to help you meet the English language requirement prior to starting your masters course:

    • 20 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.0 with no skill lower than 4.5)
    • 14 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.5 with no more than one skill at 4.5);
    • 10 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.5 with minimum of 5.0 in all skills);
    • 6 weeks English (for IELTS 5.5 with minimum of 5.5 in reading & writing and minimum of 5.0 in speaking & listening)


    There is an increasing need for construction professionals who understand the need to mitigate against future carbon emissions, and to adapt to future climate threats and predictions: Building Services Engineers are the main provider of these initiatives in the team.

    They are the professionals who understand design lifecycles and who can make appropriate material and design decisions which meet the needs of building users now, but also preserve resources for future generations, are sought in every industry sector. The ability to save money, improve sustainability and lower organisational impact is critical.

    We have students from all ages, cultures, backgrounds and walks of life but there are two distinct and common motivations: Some students come to advance their existing careers. Others are from different educational or professional backgrounds and wish to enter the industry using this qualification. The degree is designed and sought after to serve both purposes. To read about what our students and graduates think about studying online visit our Meet our students pages.

    All heriot watt students have access to our award-winning Careers Advisory Service. Our students benefit from professional, impartial and confidential careers advice and guidance from specialist Careers Advisers who focus on specific subject areas related to their disciplines.

    Why Heriot-Watt?

    Ranking (Building, Complete University Guide 2023)

    We are ranked 1st in Scotland and 7th in the UK for Building in the Complete University Guide 2023.

    Your career

    Employers around the world actively seek out our graduates because they are work-ready. All our degrees are career-focused and relevant to the needs of industry. Around 95% of our students are in employment or further study within six months of graduating.

    Online events

    We host online events throughout the year, giving you the opportunity to speak to our academic teaching staff, meet students, find out what it is like to study using our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and discover how to enrol.

    Lifelong connections

    Upon completing your studies you will automatically join the UK's oldest alumni association The Watt Club, with 147k members worldwide.

    Flexibility and affordability

    Study at a time and pace that suits you, and even while you work. HW Online offers pay-as-you-study courses and fees inclusive of exams and study materials, meaning you can focus on success, not extra costs.

    We are accredited by the following organisations

    At Heriot-Watt University we develop degrees that are relevant for the world of work. We work with Professional bodies and Institutes to gain appropriate Accreditations and Professional Memberships for your industry. Find out below how this degree aligns to industry.

    Energy Institute logo

    Energy Institute (EI)

    MSc Renewable Energy Engineering is accredited by the Energy Institute as 'Further Learning' for a Chartered Engineer.

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