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: Mondays, 6-8:50pm in Y2E2 101
3 Units, Letter Grade or Credit/NC, Enrollment cap: 30

Description: CEE 230 is in development for Winter 2019. Offered for the first time in 2018 and has a slightly revised curriculum (description and link to the syllabus below) with an enhanced focus on real estate development and housing.

This is a course about the systems and forces that shape the growth of cities and metropolitan regions. The course will explore who decides where to add jobs and housing and how the public process of urban planning interacts with market decisions by real estate developers, employers and the general public. It will explore the extent to which there is coordination between decisions about development and the design and funding of transportation systems. It will look at ways to improve the linkage between decisions about land use and investments in transportation as well as to explore how to make various tradeoffs.

This course provides an overview of the key urban planning approaches and public policies that shape the development and governance of the contemporary metropolis. The course is grounded in both theory and practice, structuring the history of urban planning as a discipline that uses objective analysis, though is ultimately shaped by politics and markets/behavior. Planning is a normative practice; planning has values, drawn from science and social sciences, that it tries to bring to shape the world/cities. Planning is more than the physical; it includes the economy and society. Planning applies ideas onto the urban and regional landscape, managing growth through the market and political processes to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number (or some other outcome).

The focus is on the American urban and regional experience with a particular highlight on the San Francisco Bay Area. The course is informed by SPUR’s Bay Area urban planning and policy experience; SPUR is the region’s leading urban policy non-profit. Specific areas of focus will be Regional Planning and Governance, Land Use, Housing, the Economics of Real Estate Development, Transportation, and the Economy.

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.


Kristy leads SPUR's work in community planning and housing, splitting her time between San Francisco and San Jose. She co-wrote Room for MoreSPUR's housing agenda for San Jose, and SPUR's white paper Cracking the Code, which makes recommendations for raising the bar for urban design in downtown San Jose and other areas designated for urban growth. Prior to joining SPUR, Kristy was a project manager at BRIDGE Housing Corporation, one of California's largest affordable housing developers, where she worked all around the Bay Area, including on projects in the three central cities of San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland. She currently sits on the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation Board of Directors.

Kristy earned master's degrees in city planning and real estate development from MIT and a bachelor's degree in architecture and urban studies from Yale. She was also a Public Policy Fellow at the Rappaport Institute of Greater Boston at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. A Palo Alto native, Kristy lives with her family on the border of Bernal Heights and Glen Park in San Francisco.

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.