2016-17 Sustainable Urban Systems Courses at Stanford

If you are a Stanford University student interested in experiencing the Sustainable Urban Systems concentration curriculum in the 2016-17 academic year, consider one of the courses below. To see recent coursework, check out our Projects tab. 

CEE 224XYZ: Sustainable urban systems project

Autumn, Winter, and Spring Quarter
Instructors: Jim Leckie, Derek Ouyang, Glenn Katz
Time/Location: Tuesdays and Thursdays 9-10:20am in Y2E2 180/184
3-5 Units, Letter Grade or Credit/NC

Description: Sustainable Urban Systems (SUS) Project is a project-based learning experience being piloted for an upcoming new SUS M.S. Program within CEE. 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 are 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.

Students who would like to participate in the Spring Quarter (CEE 224Z) course should apply ASAP, especially if they are interested in the Monterrey project. Students may still be admitted on a rolling basis through Week 3 of Spring Quarter. Click here for FAQ. Please contact Derek Ouyang at douyang1@stanford.edu with any questions.

Project Descriptions:

City of San Jose Sustainability Project (Autumn/Winter/Spring)

The City of San Jose, CA is seeking a long-term partnership with the SUS Program to develop its sustainability strategy in alignment with the UN’s newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (San Jose is one of three model cities in the Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s USA Sustainable Cities Initiative). SJ must adapt global sustainable development goals in the context of a developed country’s major urban center. The city must develop measurable and accountable indicators, and create viable engineering/policy pathways to meet these goals. A team of 4-6 students will engage with SJ. The team will develop data analytics skills and a thorough knowledge of Sustainable Development Goals and SJ’s policies and urban systems. The team will support the development of the City’s sustainability plan, specifically indicators on water and GHG emissions, and produce a computational toolbox that includes dashboard visualization and decision-support tools.

Peninsula Cities Last Mile Mobility Project (A/W/S)

City managers from Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, and Redwood City, convened by Joint Venture Silicon Valley, are seeking holistic policy/engineering solutions around last mile mobility. In the mid-peninsula, most residents and employees frequently travel across city borders. Trips are often relatively short (5-10 miles or less), but can cross multiple political boundaries. The group would like a student team of 4-6 to quantify, analyze, and evaluate key sub-regional travel patterns and origin/destinations to help inform transportation projects/investments. The SUS team will partner with a team of students from the Public Policy practicum course, taught by Larry Litvak in the Autumn Quarter and by Preeti Hehmeyer in the Winter.


When Tecnológico de Monterrey first opened its doors in the 1940s, it was isolated from the City of Monterrey, much like Stanford University with its insular Olmsted Plan. Since then, Monterrey has grown to swallow its peripheries, including the university campus. The 1000 acres, 24 colonias (neighborhoods) around the campus home to 16 million people, are collectively recognized as Distrito Tec by the Municipal Government. Despite being a college area with good urban facilities and a prime location, DistritoTec lost 22 percent of its population over a period of 10 years (from 2001 to 2010, according to data from INEGI). In part this demographic phenomenon is due to continued expansion on the outskirts of the city which has led to a decline in population density in the core. This poses a challenge for sustainability and community development. A student team of 4-6 will work with representatives from Distrito Tec, as well as faculty and students from Monterrey Tec, to further sustainable development goals through engineering and policy recommendations. The team will analyze existing datasets from Distrito Tec, develop a baseline energy portfolio, and evaluate the feasibility of future infrastructure and building development to achieve energy targets.

Project Mentors:

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 co-created the Global Urban Development Program in 2012 (the predecessor to this course), 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 Co-founder of Cloud Arch Studio as well as a lecturer at Stanford and the Nueva Upper School.

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.

Rob Best has a Ph.D in Sustainable Design and Construction from the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Stanford University and currently works at Arup. His research focused on network planning, integration, and optimization of urban infrastructure systems. He has a B.S. in Engineering from Harvey Mudd College and an M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Stanford. He was the Design and Construction Manager for the Stanford Solar Decathlon Team, a student-driven project to build a net-zero energy home. In 2010-2011, as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow, Rob researched the socioeconomic and political conditions that foster eco-city development worldwide. He also has experience as a consultant modeling the energy consumption of buildings and urban developments and evaluating the long-term impacts of pollution and hazardous industries.


Kevin Fan Hsu specializes in urban sustainability, international cooperation and climate-friendly development. He co-founded the Human Cities Initiative, a platform for collaborative teaching, work and research in the urban environment. As a scientist with Disney Research, Kevin integrates the study of cities with engineering and planning issues, such as clean energy infrastructure, low-carbon mobility, heritage protection, and human-centered design for better communities. He holds three degrees from Stanford University, in Earth Systems (Energy Science & Technology), International Relations, and Civil & Environmental Engineering.

Dehan (Danno) Glanz is an urban designer with more than two decades of professional experience in architectural design, urban design and urban planning.  He currently teaches at Stanford University and since 2012 has operated an urban design consultancy that works on sustainable design projects both domestic and international.


Autumn, Winter, and Spring Quarter
Instructors: Jim Leckie, Derek Ouyang, Glenn Katz
Time/Location: Thursdays 12-1:20pm in Y2E2 382
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. Email Derek Ouyang at douyang1@stanford.edu for access to the syllabus.


The Bank of America Low Income Housing Challenge is looking for undergraduate and graduate student teams with an interest in real estate development, finance, architecture, planning, and community development. Work within an interdisciplinary team of Stanford students on real-world affordable housing development projects, and compete against other schools like Berkeley and Cal Polytechnic to create a forward-looking and feasible project that addresses all aspects of an affordable-housing development. Students will participate in education, feedback and networking sessions with experts from industry, and finalists will be invited to San Francisco to present their proposals at an award ceremony in May to a jury of experts in affordable housing development, architecture and finance for a chance to be crowned 2017’s winner!

Mixed-Use Development in Stockton, CA: A Stockton nonprofit developer, STAND, is looking to develop a mixed-use project on a 1.6 acre site in South Stockton. The surrounding neighborhood is economically stressed, struggles with crime and blight, and lacks access to fresh food and healthcare services. STAND has worked closely with local stakeholders to identify neighborhood priorities for development, including affordable housing, a medical center, a public market focusing on local businesses, and other community spaces. The site was formerly owned by Stockton’s Redevelopment Agency; STAND is currently in an exclusive negotiating rights period with the City to purchase the site and is building out its project development team. Students will work closely with STAND, a local architecture firm, and other stakeholders including local residents to produce a schematic design and financing plan for the project. CEE Lecturer Derek Ouyang will mentor the team as academic advisor.

CEE 224a (section 15): SUSTAINABLE development studio (india projects)

Winter Quarter
Instructors: Terry Beaubois, Ronita Bardhan
Time/Location: Mondays and Wednesdays 9-10:20am in Y2E2 253/180
3-5 Units, Letter Grade or Credit/NC

Description: Multi-disciplinary, collaborative projects on sustainable urban and rural development in India. Students will work in team(s) to address significant environmental, socioeconomic, and infrastructural challenges for different regions and populations. Two focus projects are available: (1) Smart Villages in Andhra Pradesh, India, mentored by Terry Beaubois, Architect, and (2) Vertical Slums in Mumbai, mentored by Ronita Bardhan, PhD, visiting professor from IIT Bombay. Students will be required to study the local context and stakeholders and develop design, engineering, and policy schemes that can be reviewed by mentors on a regular basis. Engineering, Architecture, Urban Studies, Public Policy, Computer Science, Economics, Urban Studies, Public Policy, Education, Business, Medicine, and other majors welcome. Projects may continue for two quarters.

Please contact Terry Beaubois at tbeaubois@gmail.com if you are interested in this course.

Project Descriptions:

Andhra Pradesh Smart Villages Project

“India needs Smart Villages before Smart Cities” declared the Prime MInister of India, recently. Many of today’s cities evolved from villages and by examining village design, the systems that make up villages, and potential elements of a “smart” village allows students to build a sense of how small communities develop sustainability. Villages are still an important community type. Seventy percent of India’s population of 1.3 billion live in villages. The Chief Minister of the state of Andhra Pradesh believes that connected, Smart Villages are critical to the overall success of the state and the country. “If all of the villagers move to the city, it will collapse the cities and the villages.” A teams of 3-4 students will work with Terry Beaubois, a practicing architect in Palo Alto and visiting lecturer at Stanford, who has 40 years of experience in Silicon Valley and is currently involved in a Smart Village-India pilot project in Andhra Pradesh. The team will produce village element design and village design visualizations for Mori Village and evaluate those designs. The team will consider the elements required for a Smart Village web–based dashboard that is a component to the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister’s Dashboard (AP CM Dashboard), to help the government visualize the activity of Smart villages within the state.

Mumbai Slum Design Project

The city of Mumbai in Maharashtra, India is home to 12 million people of whom more than 50% live in slums. Most of these slums are located at the periphery of the city landfill sites. Hence these sites cause huge concern to the health impacts to the slum habitants. There are efforts by the government to improve the living conditions of slums as the core sustainability agenda.  However, the actual living conditions as an impact of the distance from the landfill sites are yet to be explored. Through this focused project, students will explore the impact of physical spaces on human health and well-being. It is now essential to develop measurable and accountable indices that can establish the critical relationships between well-being with respect to current development, socio-cultural context and built environment practices. It is expected that these critical relationships will pave pathways for adapting sustainable habitat goals for marginalized communities. The team will develop knowledge of sustainable development for low income marginalized communities through data analytics, urbanization and habitat systems and policies. The team will produce a web–based dashboard to help the government visualize the impact of landfill sites on well-being of the slum habitats. This tool should be able to display multiple indices and provide decision support tools.

Project Mentors:

Terry Beaubois is a practicing architect in Palo Alto, CA U.S. and a Consulting Professor at Stanford. He has 40 years of experience in Silicon Valley and his current work includes being a team member on a Smart Village-India pilot project in the Indian State of Andhra Pradesh. Terry has spent time in the village of Mori during January, June, and September 2016.


Dr. Ronita Bardhan, PhD, is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Stanford Urban Informatics Lab (UIL) and Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering. She is an Assistant Professor at the Centre for Urban Science and Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India and has been awarded the Building Energy Efficiency Higher & Advanced Network Fellowship supported by the Department of Science and Technology, Govt. of India, and the Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF) for her research in the field of Sustainable Built Environment. She has a PhD from University of Tokyo, Japan where she was a MEXT Scholar in the Environmental Systems Lab at the Department of Urban Engineering. She holds a Master in City Planning from Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur and a BArch from Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology. Ronita is an avid traveler, a fitness enthusiast and loves to watch Bollywood movies. Email: ronita@stanford.edu


Winter Quarter
Instructors: Bry Sarté, László Varga
Time/Location: Mondays and Wednesdays 4:30-6:20pm in Y2E2 266
5 units, Letter Grade or Credit/NC

Description: Silicon Valley’s rapid expansion has created explosive urban development in a fragile and under-prepared natural context. Delicate coastal ecology and rapid urbanization (expanding technology headquarters, new residential housing, parking, services, etc.) are competing for space. The same land also serves the regional functions of transport, open space, recreation, water supply, flood protection and wastewater treatment. Compounding the problems between these competing factors are global climate change instabilities increasing the certainty of catastrophic flooding, infrastructure collapse, and other urban resilience challenges.

Students will be immersed in a process that allows them to understand and spatially identify these risks, develop a vocabulary and an understanding of innovative tools to respond to them, and then work with expert practitioners to create unique design responses. Students will be provided with urban design frameworks (for planning, site development, and conservation) combined with advanced sustainable design concepts (such as resource co-optimization, adaptable infrastructure platforms, and high performance urban ecology) by working with expert lecturers and in small groups. Students will ultimately develop a series of visual and technical presentations to propose a final thesis for a local intervention that could be replicated in other coastal contexts globally.

This course has been designed to develop student learning through a project-based format. Students will be organized into design teams of 3 or 4 and will have the quarter to collaborate with partners on an interdisciplinary proposal including policy and design recommendations. We have selected a site on the Bay Edge of Silicon Valley that will foster a complex array of design responses. Students will take broad ideas around coastal resilience and apply them through a series of visual and technical presentations to propose a final thesis for a replicable response.

Bry Sarté is an author, academic, nonprofit founder and founder of Sherwood Design Engineers. He has worked on hundreds of leading international engineering projects in over 20 countries pioneering the intersection of infrastructure, ecological and urban design. Mr. Sarté is the author of two books on Sustainable Infrastructure and is currently serving on the faculty of Columbia University where he teaches the graduate course Infrastructure, Resiliency and Public Space. Sarté founded the Sherwood Institute in 2009, which is comprised of academic, professional, and government advisors from five countries directing research and innovation at the nexus of critical urban water issues. Mr. Sarté has served as the principal in charge for projects that range from the largest private real estate development in the U.S., Hudson Yards in New York, to the award­winning San Francisco Better Streets Plan. Other notable projects include the revitalization of the iconic waterfront Brooklyn Bridge Park, the award winning Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, and the 35 sq­km award­winning Baietan Urban Area Plan in the heart of Guangzhou, China. Additionally, he has led the engineering design for numerous completed construction projects that have changed the direction of how we build. The projects range from institutional buildings to civic infrastructure.

László Varga is an architect, urbanist and entrepreneur based in the Bay Area, California. He has held the post of Campus Architect at Google in its Mountain View headquarters in California with responsibility for strategic developments of Google’s real estate portfolio from 2014 to 2016. László has worked with some leading European architectural practices and has been involved in a leading capacity on a wide range of urban, masterplanning and architectural projects across Europe and the US, including Google’s Dublin Headquarters, Waze’s Tel Aviv offices and Publicis’ new London Headquarters. He has been a lecturer and guest critic at the University of East London, the University of Nottingham, University of Westminster, The Bartlett UCL, London Metropolitan University and Columbia University.