Sustainable Urban Systems Courses at Stanford

If you are a Stanford University student interested in experiencing the Sustainable Urban Systems concentration curriculum in the 2017-18 academic year, consider one of the courses below. To see recent coursework, check out our Projects tab. 


CEE 224XYZ | cee 224s | cee 228 | cee 230

CEE 224XYZ: Sustainable urban systems project


Autumn, Winter, and Spring Quarter
Instructors: Jenny Suckale, Derek Ouyang, Len Ortolano, Bruce Cain, Jim Leckie
Time/Location: Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:30-2:50pm in Y2E2 292A
3-5 Units per quarter, Letter Grade or Credit/NC, Enrollment cap: 40

Description: The Sustainable Urban Systems (SUS) Project is a year-long 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 throughout the academic year and may span multiple quarters. 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, and prefer students who can commit to multiple quarters of the project. Any questions should be directed to 


THIS YEAR'S project: resilienT by design | bay area challenge


Resilient by Design | Bay Area Challenge is a collaborative research and design project that brings together local residents, public officials, and local, national and international experts to develop innovative solutions to the issues brought on by climate change that our region faces today. Alongside the formal process which involves professional Design Teams, Stanford students will have an opportunity to participate through this intensive project-based learning experience.

Students will form interdisciplinary teams and work alongside community members to identify critical vulnerabilities throughout the Bay Area and propose exciting, new, community-based solutions that will strengthen our region’s resilience to sea level rise, severe storms, flooding and earthquakes.

In Autumn Quarter (CEE 224X), SUS joined forces with D3: Disasters, Decisions, Development to offer D3+SUS. Students learned the basic concepts of resilience and tools of risk analysis while applying those mindsets and toolsets to a vulnerability assessment of a specific region in the Bay Area. The collective body of work was presented to a variety of stakeholders at the end of Autumn and documented online, and serves as the foundation for further work in Winter and Spring.

In Winter and Spring Quarter (CEE 224Y and CEE 224Z), students will work on projects scoped out by SUS in collaboration with local community stakeholders, or directly with an RBD Design Team (see below). Students who have not taken CEE 224X may be eligible, and students can take just CEE 224Y or just CEE 224Z. More details about the project opportunities will be released shortly. We don't expect to fully finalize projects or project teams until after we have reviewed the applications (which are noncommittal), but students should expect a mix of options in research or design across different sites and stakeholders. 


sus+rbd opportunity

In addition to the guided project-based learning experience, we have offered an exclusive opportunity for a small pool of students to dive even deeper through partnerships SUS has formed with two Design Teams for the official RBD Challenge:

  1. BIG + One + Sherwood

  2. Team Uplift (Gensler, Arup)

SUS+RBD is a unique opportunity for advanced students interested in careers focused on resilience in the face of natural (e.g. earthquakes) and man-made (e.g. sea level rise due to climate change) hazards to embed directly into one of these two Design Teams and co-create innovative solutions with leading experts in architecture and engineering. Up to five students per team will put in time outside of their courses to complete RBD deliverables, individually and in teams, and be expected to maintain the highest level of professionalism in their responsibilities. SUS+RBD students will have unparalleled exposure to these firms and the network of the high-profile, international challenge.

If you have questions about this opportunity, please email


Teaching Team

Dr. Jenny Suckale is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geophysics at Stanford University. She is also an affiliated faculty member of Stanford’s Institute for Computational and Mathematical Engineering. She received her PhD in geophysics from MIT and also holds a Master in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School. The goal of her research is to advance our basic understanding and predictive capabilities of complex multi-phase flow problems in Earth science. She pursues this goal by developing original computational methods customized for the geophysical system at hand. Prior to joining graduate school, Dr. Suckale worked as a scientific consultant for different international organizations aiming to reduce the impact of natural and environmental disasters in vulnerable communities. She has published on induced seismicity and seismic hazard.

Dr. Bruce E. Cain is the Spence and Cleone Eccles Family Director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West, and Charles Louis Ducommun Professor in Humanities and Sciences. Professor Cain succeeded the Center's founding faculty co-director, David M. Kennedy, and is tasked with carrying on the Center's study of the past, present and future of the American West. Professor Cain brings a wealth of experience in U.S. and California politics. A pioneer in computer-assisted redistricting, he is a well-known expert on elections, term limits, polling, and the relationships between lobbyists and elected officials. He is a frequently cited source in media coverage of politics. 

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.

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 Cloud Arch Studio as well as a lecturer at Stanford.


Autumn, Winter, and Spring Quarter
Instructors: Derek Ouyang
Time/Location: Thursdays 12-1:20pm in Y2E2 180
1 Unit, Satisfactory/NC

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

See the Seminar page for the speaker list. Winter 2017 lineup is in development.

CEE 228: methods in urban systems

Autumn Quarter
Instructors: Glenn Katz
Time/Location: Tuesdays and Thursdays 3-4:20pm in Y2E2 292A
3 Units, Letter Grade or Credit/NC, Enrollment cap: 30

Description: This course teaches technical skills that are applicable to project work in CEE 224XYZ while exploring emerging theories in urban science and informatics. The primary tool covered is GIS (geographic information systems) and prepares students to process real urban datasets, script and perform spatial analyses, interpret results, and produce visualizations and interactive tools for clients. Other toolsets covered include Python and CityEngine. Finally, the course introduces qualitative assessment methods like needfinding and field surveying.



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.

CEE 230: urban development & governance

CEE230 Winter 2018 Flyer3.jpg

Winter Quarter
Instructors: Egon Terplan, Ratna Amin, Laura Tolkoff
Time/Location: Tuesdays 6:00-8:50pm in Shriram 366
3 Units, Letter Grade or Credit/NC, Enrollment cap: 30


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 three 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.