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. 


For Spring Quarter, we are welcoming statements of interest and CVs/transcripts emailed to for CEE 224Z, SUS+RBD, and CEE 224A on a rolling basis through the first week of spring. see below for more information about each opportunity.


CEE 224XYZ | CEE 224Acee 224s | cee 228 | cee 230 | CEE 243 | CEE 345


Sustainable Urban Systems Project

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.

 Students in CEE 224X presenting at a formal RBD event in San Francisco's Exploratorium in December 2017.

Students in CEE 224X presenting at a formal RBD event in San Francisco's Exploratorium in December 2017.

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, particularly the County of San Mateo Office of Sustainability. Students who have not taken CEE 224X may be eligible, and students can take just CEE 224Y or just CEE 224Z.


We are accepting new students for Spring Quarter (CEE 224Z). If you are interested, please send a statement of interest with your CV/transcript to 

sus+rbd opportunity

In addition to the guided project-based learning experience, we have offered a standalone, exclusive opportunity each quarter 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.


We are accepting new students for Spring Quarter into both rbd teams. If you are interested, please send a statement of interest with your CV/transcript to 



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.

CEE 224A

Sustainable Urban Systems Independent Study


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

Description: Compared to the year-long 224XYZ series, CEE 224A is a more flexible option for individual or small groups of students to propose 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 the options listd below. Students are paired with one or more mentors. For CEE 224A to count towards the SDC-SUS curriculum, students must take CEE 224A for at least 3 units. Independent Study carries the same expectations as CEE 224XYZ of significant time commitment that will require technical capabilities and communication skills. Any questions should be directed to 


spring 2018 project: san jose sdg local reporting platform

The City of San Jose, California, is a leader in local progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. It has recently released Climate Smart San Jose, a bold plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) related to energy and mobility (transportation) and ensure a long-term water supply.

Stanford students, led by advisors from the Sustainable Urban Systems Initiative and Computer Science for Social Good, will develop a prototype Climate Smart San Jose (CSSJ) Monitoring Dashboard, to be user-tested by the city leaders and community stakeholders in the City of San Jose, and delivered by June 2018. The prototype will accomplish the following objectives:

  • Support progress on CSSJ’s City Action Plans and overall data management.

  • Provide momentum for national and international fundraising initiatives on local reporting platforms and the SDG Compacts.

To achieve the above objectives, the prototype will include the following features:

  • Visualize baseline and progress milestones for the 23 metrics in CSSJ, as well as any other metrics requested by the City and its partners.

  • Provide data insights, including geospatial mapping, stakeholder mapping, equity measures, efficacy assessment of policies and programs, and SDG/Paris alignment, for city and/or public view.

  • Test web-based interaction strategies based on CSSJ Community Playbooks and other district-level community engagement techniques to activate multi-stakeholder partnerships.

The prototype web tool, supplementary data analysis, and a summary manual will be delivered by two collaborating courses, CS 50 (Using Tech for Good, led by Varun Bindra) and CEE 224A (Sustainable Urban Systems Project, led by Derek Ouyang), in Spring 2018 (April to June). Students working on the project through CEE 224A will focus on data analytics, needfinding, and research on decarbonization strategies, while the CS 50 students will focus on developing the web-based tool.


We are accepting students for this spring quarter project. If you are interested, please send a statement of interest with your CV/transcript to 


spring 2018 project: low income housing challenge, east palo alto

 The Stanford LIHC team, on site in East Palo Alto, February 2018.

The Stanford LIHC team, on site in East Palo Alto, February 2018.

A team of seven students has been selected to compete for the second year in a row in the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Low Income Housing Challenge. The final deliverable of the project is May 17, 2018 in San Francisco. This year, the students, led by advisors Derek Ouyang and Moom Janyaprasert, are working with EPA CAN DO on a 2-acre, mixed-use, affordable housing project in the Four Corners area of East Palo Alto. See last year's 1st place Stockton project here.

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. Spring 2018 lineup is in development.

CEE 228

Methods in Urban Systems

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 and Governance

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. 

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.