Introduction A collaborative building design project undertaken within an internationally distributed team involves a dynamic process characterised by generation and sharing of information and synthesis of knowledge between participants. Learning within this dynamic environment is challenging but can bring a number of notable benefits for the participants. Inherent within successful collaborative learning is the required ability to co-produce design ‘content’ with others from different disciplines and to manage the ‘relationship’ among all participants involved in the design team (Leinonen, Järvelä and Häkkinen, 2005). The ‘content’ constitutes individuals’ inputs, which originate from disciplinary knowledge, skills and expertise, whereas managing the relationship requires a set of ‘soft’ people management skills. During the design process, the participants are presented with a problem (in a building project, it is usually a client brief ), which has multiple potential solutions. To arrive at an optimum solution, the participants should explore the rationale of each alternative, and present and negotiate alternatives with the other participants. This process encourages deep learning of the subject discipline and helps to develop people management skills, such as teamwork, communication and other performance-enhancing behaviours which have been linked to ‘proactive personality’ (Tymon, 2013). In the present and future labour markets, graduates are expected to be able to work across disciplinary and geographical boundaries (Becerik-Gerber, Ku and Jazizadeh, 2012; BIM2050 group, 2014), and these people management skills have been identified as the skills for developing sustainable built environment (BE) (Egan, 2004). In a report commissioned by the UNESCO, Beanland and Hadgraft (2014) further stressed the importance of the development of appropriate interpersonal attributes and capabilities as an integral part of engineering education worldwide.