Sustainable Community Development (BS)

Flavia Montenegro-Menezes Program Director

4-year Curriculum   3-year Curriculum   5yr BSSCD+MRP Curriculum   Minor in SCD   Apply

In the Sustainable Community Development major, students can explore a variety of perspectives on creating a more sustainable world through planning and design.  The planning and design of a sustainable world is complex, and this major offers students the opportunity to prepare academically to deal with this complexity by drawing on a variety of disciplinary fields and working at a range of scales. 

Students will become familiar with the theories and techniques of design and planning for creating sustainable communities, conserving the environment, and responding to other social, cultural, economic and political challenges of the built environment. Perhaps most important, students will gain experience in knowing how to facilitate and lead change in communities.

Students with this degree are well qualified for positions with non-profit organizations and community development agencies, municipalities, and private firms specializing in site, municipal and regional level work.  Students are also well placed to go on to graduate school at UMass, either in the Masters of Landscape Architecture (MLA) program or the accelerated Masters in Regional Planning (MRP), or to other programs and other universities.

Core Classes

Core classes prepare students to understand the dynamics of neighborhoods, cities and landscapes, and to engage communities in envisioning a more socially and environmentally balanced world. Through five concentration options, the BS-SCD program provides historical, theoretical, and professional perspectives in the liberal arts and science fields. Each concentration emphasizes environmental or social issues at a different  scale, from construction details and buildings to urban landscapes and regions. 

SustComm 110 Transforming Your World:  Intro to Comm Engagemt GE
SustComm 140 Awareness of the Visual Environment GE
SustComm 232 Sustainable Cities GE
SustComm 314 Writing in Comm Development & Landscape Arch GE
SustComm 394RI Research Issues in Community Development GE
SustComm 543 Landscape Architecture History I E/O, GE
SustComm 544 Landscape Architecture History II E/O
LandArch 547 + 547L Landscape Pattern & Process + Lab
SustComm 574 City Planning

E/O      Take one of the two History courses – either SustComm 543 or SustComm 544
GE       General Education Requirements:

  • SustComm 110        (SBU)
  • SustComm 140        (AT) –  course usually also offered online in the summer
  • SustComm 232        (HS-G)
  • SustComm 314        JYW – students must have completed the College Writing (CW) requirement to enroll in this course
  • SustComm 394RI     IE – GenEd requirement for Juniors or Seniors
  • SustComm 543        (AT)

Areas of Concentrations 

The SCD areas of concentration are Landscape Design and Build (formerly Horticultural Studies), Built Environment, City and Society (formerly Urban Studies), and Climate Change and Green Infrastructure (formerly Landscape Studies). With approval of the Program Director, cross-scale interests may be pursued with an Independently Designed concentration.  Students should decide on their Concentration by the end of their Sophomore year.

The Concentration in Built Environment (BE) allows the study of the living environment from a variety of perspectives, ranging from building techniques and architecture to the larger context of social and ecological landscapes. Architecture is a social art, thus, this concentration is as much about design theory and practice as it is about people and how their needs and ambitions can be expressed in spaces and structures. Students will study the sustainability, functionality, and beauty inherent in a well-designed building as well as the physical fabric of the city. Classes for the BE concentration emphasize studio art, architectural history, building technology, and human use of space. This concentration develops technical skills for understanding design and planning at the building scale within the framework of creating sustainable communities. Students in this major can go on to a wide range of design positions such as in the green building industry or pursue a graduate-level professional design degree that bridges building technology, architecture and landscape fields. BCT and architecture classes may be used toward this concentration.  This concentration also works well for students interested in the accelerated 2-year Master of Landscape Architecture, with the addition of 500-level LandArch studios in the senior year (the 4+2 program). 

The City and Society Concentration (CS) is concerned with the quality of life in neighborhoods, towns, cities, and metropolitan areas.  Closely aligned with urban planning, the CS concentration allows students to explore creative and systematic approaches to environmental, economic, and social issues affecting communities and larger regions. Sustainable communities may be created through careful economic development, control of sprawl, heritage conservation, expanded recreational and cultural opportunities, green infrastructure, improved housing, preserved open space, not to mention political reform and environmental justice. CS concentration courses focus on social equity, human ecology, cultural vitality, economics, politics, policy, land use, and other issues related to city planning, to build a broad social science understanding of how cities work and how they can be influenced to better serve a broad range of sustainability goals. Students with this concentration often go to work in government agencies, consulting firms, or start their own non-profit organizations. They also go on for a Master’s degree in planning or other related fields such as public policy and transportation planning. This concentration works well for students interested in pursuing the accelerated Masters in Regional Planning (the 4+1 program).

The Climate Change and Green Infrastructure Concentration (CCGI) is concerned with large scale environmental planning and policy. This concentration focuses on the ways that cities and buildings can reduce greenhouse gasses, improve livability and resilience, and enhance ecology through building, infrastructure and planning interventions.  Students will learn how enhance the environmental quality through wise allocation of resources that mitigates, anticipates and accommodates pressures arising in rapidly changing environments and perform the delicate balancing act between development and conservation.  Concentration classes for CHGI typically relate to biodiversity, ecology, resource and environmental policy, and sustainable landscape planning and management.  Students can go to work in sustainability related professions, urban planning and design. They are well placed to attend graduate school in a wide variety of climate or design related fields. This concentration works well for students interested in pursuing the accelerated Masters in Regional Planning (the 4+1 program).

The Concentration in Landscape Design and Build (LDB) is concerned with the small-scale details of building and maintaining sustainable landscapes. It allows environmentally-aware students to explore different aspects of the rapidly expanding ‘green’ industries and learn how to apply sound scientific, construction, and management principles in adding beauty to a sustainable environment. This concentration brings together scientific knowledge of plants, soils, and ecology with the theoretical and practical aspects of landscape design, construction technology and business management.  The LDB concentration serves students who want to design and build landscapes in a sustainable way.  This major provides an excellent background for those who want to go on for a Master in Landscape Architecture or go to work for design and contracting firms.  Requirements are suited to entry for students with 2-year Associates Degrees in Landscape Contracting or related fields. This concentration also works well for students interested in the accelerated 2-year Master of Landscape Architecture, with the addition of 500-level LandArch studios in the senior year (the 4+2 program). 

If a SCD Major has potential professional interests at the intersection of the standard concentrations, that student may, in consultation with the Concentration Advisor and with the approval of the Program Director, combine LARP courses from the various standard concentrations to allow more interdisciplinary focus - e.g. cultural heritage, urban policy, transportation planning. The Independently Designed Concentration could also support applications to the 4+1 accelerated Master of Regional Planning, or to the 4+2 Master of Landscape Architecture. Students in this concentration must work closely with the Concentration Advisor.

The Sustainable Community Development major offers four areas of concentrated study:​

Concentrations within the major allow students to focus on particular issues and scales of design and planning.  Students are required to take a total of 16 classes: 7 core requirements and 9 classes in one of the concentration areas.

3 Year Bachelor’s Degree in Sustainable Community Development

The Sustainable Community Development Bachelor's Degree is both rigorous and flexible, with a high percentage of elective courses.  As such, it is very feasible to complete it in three years. A suggested curriculum to achieve the Sustainable Community Development degree in three years is available here.

4+1 Accelerated Bachelor and Master of Regional Planning

BSCD students in their senior year can apply to be admitted to the MRP.  If admitted, they are able to count select LARP undergraduate courses toward their masters degree, and finish the MRP within two to three semesters.  For more information, click on the link above or contact the MRP Program Director, Mark Hamin, mhamin@larp.umass.edu.

Departmental Honors (DH)

Departmental Honors (DH) tracks are Advanced Scholarship Tracks of Commonwealth Honors College, available in most majors.  The are recommended for students who wish to undertake advanced research within their majors, especially those who intend to pursue graduate study in the discipline of their major.  Students may complete DH as part of the full CHC curriculum, which includes Honors General Studies, or they may complete DH alone. All DH students are members of CHC. For information about DH, please check: https://www.honors.umass.edu/dhreqs/environmental-design-departmental-honors