Students presenting a sustainability plan

"Protectors of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.” – Pope Francis


As leaders of Christian thought and education in the Catholic community, our nation and the world, we as faculty and students owe a duty to God to build and exemplify an environmental ethics as the preservation of creation: a symbiotic relationship between the preservation of human dignity, the environment, and society

The School of Architecture and Planning’s mission of building stewardship focuses on preparing architects and designers to assume personal responsibility for the welfare of the world.  Experienced in the integrative, creative, and holistic process of design, architects and planners are uniquely positioned to help forge a compelling contemporary attitude toward stewardship for society at large.

Today, the field of sustainable design is rapidly evolving and growing. Both designers and owners are starting to measure benefits in terms of their impact on human health and environment, as well as cost implications.  The program covers a wide range of sustainable design principles such as greenhouse gas emissions and zero energy design, embodied energy and life cycle analysis, national and international green rating systems, ethical design, facility performance evaluation, sustainable operations and maintenance, water conservation and management, and design for WELL.



The Master of Science in Net Zero Design program consists of 18 credit hours of coursework (six three-credit courses). Students must enroll concurrently in the school's Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) program (either two or three year program) and the Master of Science in Net Zero Design. If a student pursues the Net Zero Master of Science program, it will add one additional semester to their M.Arch program (two years  + one semester or three years + one semester).

Courses in Net Zero fall under the following categories:  Ethics, Urban Sustainable Design, Decarbonization, Health (individual human wellbeing and public scales), Resilience (water, site, climate), and Interiors (daylighting, biophilia, materials).


What is Net Zero Design?


  • Passive Design

    "By definition, “passive solar energy is the collection and distribution of energy obtained by the sun using natural, non-mechanical means.” This has provided buildings with heat, lighting, mechanical power, and electricity by natural means. The configuration behind passive systems consists of three types: direct gain, indirect gain, and isolated gain. Each system takes into account design strategies, such as location to the sun, the overall shape and orientation of a project, allocating interior rooms to the sun and wind, window placement, sheltered entrance, choosing materials that absorb heat, glass facades / solar windows where necessary, implementing trombe walls, skylights, water features, and shading elements, etc. Passive optimization is the first step to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by eliminating and optimizing energy needs in the beginning phases of design." --
  • Energy

    "Net-Zero Energy is when the building can offset, or counterbalance the amount of energy required to build and operate throughout its lifetime in all aspects: site, source, cost, and emissions. In other words, the building can produce enough energy to cancel or “zero out” the amount of energy for daily operations. Net-zero energy buildings are often designed with these three criteria: “producing energy onsite via equipment like solar panels or wind turbines, accounting for its energy use through clean energy production offsite, and reducing the amount of energy required through design optimization”. Achieving it is not entirely dependent on the building efficiency, but rather on reducing the energy load, and then employing renewable energy to offset the remaining energy." --
  • Carbon

    "Net-zero carbon is achieved by reducing construction techniques and building materials that result in high carbon emissions. Net Zero Carbon = Total Carbon Emitted - Total Carbon Avoided. Reducing embodied carbon through concise material selection and construction techniques often decreases harmful chemical off-gassing, which affects the occupants' productivity and well-being. Carbon emissions, or greenhouse gas emissions, emerge from the manufacturing of cement and the burning of fossil fuels, etc., and are considered the main reason behind climate change. Fossil fuels are non-renewable carbon-based energy sources such as coal, natural and derived gas, crude oil, and petroleum products. Although they originate from plants and animals, fossil fuels can be also made by industrial mixtures of other fossil fuels, such as the transformation of crude oil to motor gasoline. It is estimated that almost 80% of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions originate from fossil fuel combustion; with the construction industry being one of its biggest contributors." --
  • Sustainability

    "By definition, sustainability is when a subject can be sustained, meaning that it can be maintained at length without being interrupted, disintegrated, or weakened in the long run. In architecture, the term “sustainability” has been used in various contexts, such as to indicate being eco-conscious, an environmentalist, or “meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” by using natural, social, and economic resources. Based on the “sustainable” projects that have been developed and are being proposed, sustainability aims to be a holistic approach that takes into account three pillars: the environment, society, and economy, all mediated together to ensure vitality and durability. Sustainability is not only at an architectural level through recycled materials and construction techniques but also on an urban scale. For example, the European Commission has adopted several nationwide proposals that took action toward implementing the European Green Deal, an action plan that transforms the EU into a modern, resource-efficient, and competitive economy." --
  • Adaptive Reuse

    "Architects and urban designers have a responsibility of ensuring that spaces continually cater to individual people, the environment, the society as a whole, and maintain their cultural and historic value. However, recent years highlighted numerous socio-cultural predicaments related to the built environment such as housing crises, demolition of historic landmarks, lack of green areas, etc. One way of dealing with these crises is to reuse old structures and complement them with new elements or functions instead of complete demolition and reconstruction, which would generate a much larger carbon footprint. Adaptive reuse can be reusing materialsinterventions in pre-existing architecturesreclaiming abandoned architecture, or changing the original function of the space." --


Affiliated Organizations



CHN is committed to tackling climate change and re-orienting international climate change discourse toward arts, culture, and heritage.


The "Built Environment Education now" organization certifies and ranks architecture schools on their commitment to emphasize and increase the teaching of energy responsiveness.


The CND Project is an effort by SBSE to create and disseminate resources and tools needed to integrate carbon neutral and zero-energy design into professional architecture programs and practice.


The 2030 Palette is a database to facilitate the design of zero-carbon, adaptable and resilient built environments.


Architecture 2030 puts the built environment, the major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, at the center of solutions to the climate crisis.


The CARE Tool allows users to compare the total carbon impacts of renovating an existing building vs. replacing it with a new one.