Sustainable Urban Systems Courses at Stanford

As part of a new educational initiative, our SUS courses are constantly being refined. Students can always find the latest information about our course offerings on this page. All of our courses are open to students in any major and degree level. If you are a current student interested in the SDC-SUS track, you should join the Stanford SUS Slack Channel to receive important communications. Any questions should be directed to 


autumn 2018

CEE 224X: SUS Fundamentals. Different from previous years. Focus on methods. Prerequisite for 224Y / 224Z. 3-4 units.

CEE 243: Introduction to Urban Systems Engineering. Focus on theory. 3 units.

CEE 224S: SUS Seminar. Always open to the public. 1 unit option for students.

CEE 224A: SUS Independent Study. Must coordinate with a faculty advisor. 3-5 units.

winter 2019

CEE 224Y: SUS Project. Apply in December. Real world projects in small teams. 3-5 units.

CEE 230: Urban Development and Governance. Taught by SPUR. Specific topics TBD. 3 units.

CEE 224S: SUS Seminar. Always open to the public. 1 unit option for students. 

CEE 224A: SUS Independent Study. Must coordinate with a faculty advisor. 3-5 units.

spring 2019

CEE 224Z: SUS Project. Apply in March. Projects in small teams. Includes new projects as well as continuations of 224Y projects. 3-5 units.

CEE 345: Network Analysis for Urban Systems. PhD level. 3 units.

CEE 224S: SUS Seminar. Always open to the public. 1 unit option for students. 

CEE 224A: SUS Independent Study. Must coordinate with a faculty advisor. 3-5 units.

CEE 224X

Sustainable Urban Systems Fundamentals

CEE 224X: Sustainable urban systems FUNDAMENTALS

Autumn Quarter
Instructors: Derek Ouyang, Len Ortolano, Glenn Katz, Jim Leckie
Time/Location: Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:30-11:50am in Y2E2 292A; Lab session TBD
Prerequisites: None; open to undergraduate and graduate students in any major
Cross-listings: ESS 118X, ESS 218X, GEOLSCI 118X, GEOLSCI 218X, GEOPHYS 118X, GEOPHYS 218X, POLISCI 224X, PUBLPOL 118X
3 Units, Letter Grade or Credit/NC, Enrollment cap: 40

Description: This course is designed to provide students with fundamental mindsets and toolsets that they can apply to real-world problem solving in the context of urban systems. It focuses on fundamental quantitative and qualitative methods for acquiring knowledge and assessing performance of urban systems. Quantitative methods covered include geographic information systems, advanced Excel methods and basic statistics, and qualitative approaches will include stakeholder engagement as well as ethical guidelines governing work with community groups. The course will also introduce four key types of systems performance: well-being, sustainability, resilience and equity. Topics covered are those students can expect to encounter as they pursue their future careers. The course is also a prerequisite for participation in the Sustainable Urban Systems Projects which take place in Winter (CEE 224Y) and Spring (CEE 224Z). Those SUS Projects are designed to immerse student teams in current planning challenges through service to local public and private sector stakeholders; they will require high levels of self-driven learning, time commitment, professionalism, and collaboration. Open to undergraduate and graduate students in any major.

Students who have seen CEE 224X as a course option in previous years should note that this version of CEE 224X is completely different. It is a combination of prior material from CEE 228, assignments derived from previous SUS Projects, and new material.

Teaching Team

Derek Ouyang graduated from Stanford University in 2013 with dual Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering and Architectural Design, and in 2015 with a Master’s in Structural Engineering. He was project manager of Stanford’s first-ever entry to the U.S. DOE’s 2013 Solar Decathlon, and has been featured as an up-and-coming designer in the Los Angeles Times, in Home Energy magazine’s “30 under 30”, at TEDxStanford, and at Stanford+Connects NY and Seattle. He is founder of City Systems as well as a lecturer at Stanford.

Glenn Katz is a research associate and lecturer in the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department at Stanford University. He received his Bachelor's Degree in Structural Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his Master's Degree in Construction Engineering and Management at Stanford University. At Stanford he has developed and taught a wide variety of classes focusing on Building Information Modeling, Virtual Design and Construction, Sustainable Design and Development Strategies, Computational Design and Multi-Disciplinary Optimization, Global Collaboration, and Project-Based Learning. He has also designed and developed Autodesk BI Curriculum for Architecture, Engineering, and Construction, created BIMtopia - an internet portal supporting the AEC educational community in using BIM-related technologies in traditional coursework and emerging learning paradigms, worked as an Autodesk Education Solution Specialist driving adoption of technology solutions at education institutions across North America and developing hands-on workshops, presentations, and lectures to support the innovative integration of technologies into architecture, engineering, and construction curricula.

Professor Leonard Ortolano, the UPS Foundation Professor of Civil Engineering in Urban and Regional Planning, has extensive experience in environmental and water resources planning and management. At Stanford, he served as director of the Program on Urban Studies for 23 years and the first Peer E. Haas Director of  the Haas Center for Public Service. In fall quarter of the 2017-18 academic year he taught CEE 265E, Adaptation to sea level rise and extreme weather events. His practical engagement with these issues involved work on adaptation options for the Sundarbans, a mangrove forest subject to intense cyclones and sea level rise that is within both India and Bangladesh. He is particularly interested in environmental and socioeconomic impacts of interventions to manage sea level rise and coastal flooding, including issues linked to environmental justice.

CEE 224Y / 224Z

Sustainable Urban Systems Project

CEE 224Y / 224Z: Sustainable urban systems project

Winter and Spring Quarter
Instructors: Derek Ouyang, Len Ortolano, Jenny Suckale, Glenn Katz, Jim Leckie
Time/Location: TBD
Prerequisite: CEE 224X or demonstration of equivalent skills
3-5 Units per quarter, Letter Grade or Credit/NC, Enrollment cap: 30

Description: The Sustainable Urban Systems (SUS) Project is a 1 or 2 quarter project-based learning experience. Students are placed in small interdisciplinary teams (engineers and non-engineers, undergraduate and graduate level) to work on complex design, engineering, and policy problems presented by external partners in a real urban setting. Multiple projects may be offered each quarter depending on student demand. Students are expected to interact with professionals and community stakeholders, conduct independent team work outside of class sessions, and submit deliverables over a series of milestones. This course has been designated as a Cardinal Course by the Haas Center for Public Service.

This project-based learning experience is a significant time commitment that will require technical capabilities and team-based communication skills. We expect all students to put in fifteen or more hours per week of mostly independent and self-directed effort. 

Past projects can be viewed under the Projects tab of this website.

Projects for Winter 2019 and Spring 2019 are in development. Project Briefs and Applications will be released in December for CEE 224Y.

CEE 224A

Sustainable Urban Systems Independent Study


Autumn, Winter, and Spring Quarter
Instructors: Flexible
Time/Location: Flexible
1-5 Units per quarter, Letter Grade or Credit/NC

Description: Compared to CEE 224Y and CEE 224Z, CEE 224A is a more flexible option for individual or small groups of students to develop their own research or service projects, or participate in more experimental/competitive projects in development by the SUS teaching team. Interested students should approach the SUS teaching team with personal project ideas a quarter in advance, or review any options listed below. Students must receive approval from and be evaluated by a faculty advisor, as well as enroll for at least 3 units, for CEE 224A to count towards the SDC-SUS curriculum. Independent Study carries the same expectations as the SUS Projects of significant time commitment that will require technical capabilities and communication skills.

CEE 224S

Sustainable Urban Systems Seminar


Autumn, Winter, and Spring Quarter
Instructors: Derek Ouyang
Time/Location: Thursdays 12-1:20pm in Y2E2 292A
1 Unit, Satisfactory/NC

Description: The SUS Seminar series features speakers from academia, practice, industry, and government who are on the forefront of research and innovation in sustainable urban systems. The SUS Seminar is open to the public; students have the option of obtaining 1 unit of course credit. 

See the Seminar page for information and past and upcoming speakers.

CEE 230

Urban Development and Governance

CEE 230: urban development & governance

Winter Quarter
Instructors: Egon Terplan, Kristy Wang
Time/Location: TBD
3 Units, Letter Grade or Credit/NC, Enrollment cap: 30

Description: CEE 230 is in development for Winter 2019. Below are last year's course description and syllabus, which should be fairly similar.

An interdisciplinary course that introduces students to key concepts in (1) urban and regional planning and governance; (2) transportation planning and policy; (3) urban systems and economic geography. Our approach will be wide-ranging and grounded in current Bay Area and California urban planning challenges, opportunities and case studies. The course will explore key topics such as the future of the corporate campus, the rise of autonomous vehicles and the planning for High-Speed Rail in California. Field trips and applied learning will give students the opportunity to see how what we learn plays out on the ground. By the end of the course, students should be able to understand the histories and causes of current issues in urban planning and policy - suburbanization, regionalism, cars and the city, the affordability crisis, planning for climate change, government revenue and fiscal strains, income inequality, and others - as well as contemporary efforts to address them.

This course is co-taught by regional policy practitioners from SPUR, an urban policy think tank that promotes good planning and good government through research, education and advocacy in the San Francisco Bay Area.

teaching team


Egon Terplan is SPUR's regional planning director. He is a specialist in economic development, land use, transportation, government reform and regional policy. He has authored or co-authored dozens of reports and policy studies, including the first-ever report on the Northern California megaregion, a report on land use planning and high speed rail, a strategy for improving economic opportunity and upward mobility in the Bay Area, and strategies for the future of downtown Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco. Egon is a frequent speaker and lecturer and also teaches in the Urban Affairs graduate program at the University of San Francisco.

Prior to joining SPUR, Egon spent more than five years with ICF International advising cities and regions throughout the world on economic development and competitiveness. His work included managing and writing collaborative regional strategies throughout California and in Alberta, British Columbia, Connecticut, Louisiana, Ohio, Ontario and South Carolina. His international work included designing and implementing competitiveness programs in Argentina, Bosnia & Herzegovina, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Nigeria.

Prior to ICF, Egon worked with several labor unions, including SEIU and UNITE. He was also a NYC Urban Fellow working on economic development for Mayor Giuliani in New York City and a public school teacher on Rikers Island, Queens.

Egon earned a Master’s degree in city and regional planning from UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. He received a Bachelor’s degree, Phi Beta Kappa, from Swarthmore College, where he wrote a thesis comparing street vendor political organizing in Bogotá, Colombia, and New York City.

Ratna Amin leads SPUR's work to create a high-quality transportation system in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and the Bay Area region. Her areas of focus include public transit, land use and transportation integration. In 2014, Ratna published SPUR’s first transportation policy report about Silicon Valley, Freedom to Move. More recently, she published Seamless Transit, an agenda to address the Bay Area's transit fragmentation problem. She was named to Mass Transit magazine's "Top 40 Under 40" in 2015.

Ratna's previous roles include chief of staff to the Oakland City Council president, senior associate at Environmental Science Associates and analyst at Cambridge Systematics. She has master’s degrees in city and regional planning and transportation engineering from the University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree in computer science and engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.

She is an alumnus of the San Francisco Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and of Teach for America.

Laura Tolkoff coordinates SPUR’s planning and policy work in San Jose. She is responsible for putting SPUR's urban design, transportation, land use and economic development ideas into action in San Jose. Prior to joining SPUR, Laura was a senior planner for energy and the environment at Regional Plan Association (RPA), a nonprofit research, planning and advocacy organization in the New York metropolitan area. There she managed and led the organization’s energy program and coastal climate resilience portfolio. She co-authored a number of reports and policy studies on the transformation of the power sector, climate resilience and hazard mitigation. Prior to RPA, Laura coordinated a HUD-funded study of mixed-income housing at New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

Laura earned a master’s degree in urban and environmental policy and planning from Tufts University and a bachelor’s degree in media studies from the University of California, Berkeley. 

CEE 243: Intro to Urban SysTEMS Engineering

Autumn Quarter
Instructors: Rishee Jain
Time/Location: Mondays and Wednesdays 10:30-11:50am in Y2E2 292A
3 Units, Letter Grade or Credit/NC, Enrollment cap: 30


This course is an introduction to the interdisciplinary domain of urban systems engineering. It will provide you with a high-level understanding of the motivation for studying sustainable cities and urban systems, systems-based modeling approaches and the social actor theories embedded in the urban sustainability decision making process. Coursework will be comprised of three group mini-projects corresponding to course modules.

teaching team

rishee jain.jpg

Dr. Rishee Jain is an Assistant Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering. His research focuses on the development of data-driven and socio-technical solutions to sustainability problems facing the urban built environment. His work lies at the intersection of civil engineering, data analytics and social science. Recently, his research has focused on understanding the socio-spatial dynamics of commercial building energy usage, conducting data-driven benchmarking and sustainability planning of urban buildings and characterizing the coupled dynamics of urban systems using data science and micro-experimentation. For more information, see the active projects on the Stanford Urban Informatics Lab website.

CEE 345: Network Analysis for Urban Systems

Spring Quarter
Instructors: Rishee Jain
Time/Location: Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:30-2:50pm in Y2E2 292A
3 Units, Letter Grade or Credit/NC, Enrollment cap: 30


The objectives of this course are to: 1) introduce you to the mathematical theory of networks and common metrics of networks; 2) develop an understanding of how to utilize network models to study urban systems; 3) provide an opportunity to apply network models to analyze a real urban system. Students are expected to have a strong background in calculus and linear algebra before taking this course and should be comfortable with the calculation and manipulation of matrices. Experience in a numerical scripting language (preferably Python, R or Matlab) is necessary for the final project. Coursework will consist of graded problem sets pertaining to both theory of networks and applications to urban systems. There will be a final project where students will be required to apply network based methods to the analysis of real data of an urban system. NOTE: This is a PhD-level course.