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Past Newsletters


SUS Newsletter: Winter 2018

Just like that, almost a year has passed since I've had time to put together a newsletter for the Sustainable Urban Systems Initiative, which hopefully speaks less to my poor planning and more to the incredible amount that we've grown! In fact, this past Fall, we admitted the first class of M.S. students in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering who have the option of graduating with a concentration in SUS under the Sustainable Design & Construction program, and many of those students have already done amazing work in SUS projects and courses, which we'll share highlights from in this newsletter.

This Spring, we would love to see you at a seminar and at the end-of-year Symposium on June 7, 2018. I'm particularly excited to have Senator Scott Wiener, who is advancing ambitious housing bills in the California State Senate, as our keynote speaker. Seating is limited, so I encourage you to register on Eventbrite ASAP.

We hope you will continue to follow our journey to become a formal research and educational program at Stanford. Please subscribe to our newsletter, spread the word about our initiative, and send us feedback on what you'd like to see. I also encourage you to join in weekly conversation on our Facebook group. Enjoy the updates below, and have a great Spring!

Derek Ouyang, Lecturer
Summer 2017 Projects

San Francisco Sustainable Chinatown Initiative

Last summer, students Max O'Krepki and Tyler Pullen built a dashboard for the Sustainable Chinatown project, led by SF Planning and the Chinatown Community Development Center. To see the interactive tool, go to their website and click on "Dashboard" at the top. The SF project team ultimately won a Data and Innovation Award from the Mayor's Office of Civic Innovation; we were happy to have played a small role in their success!

East Palo Alto Accessory Dwelling Units

In another Summer 2017 project, Jacob Waggoner and Nikhil Chaudhuri produced a study called "Detached ADU's in East Palo Alto" in partnership with local community groups. The project combined data-driven analysis of parcel suitability with an industrialized construction framework for delivering second units. The work was ultimately showcased at San Mateo County Housing Leadership Council's Housing Leadership Day last October.

Localizing the Sustainable Development Goals

Concluding a year-long partnership with the City of San Jose and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network to experiment with localizing the Sustainable Development goals, a team led by graduate Jack Lundquist completed a brief titled "Data Tools for the California Bay Area: Actionable Intelligence for Cities to Support SDG Achievement", published on the SDSN website. The report's key recommendation is for the development of a prototype "Local Reporting Platform", which is exactly what a new SUS team is working on this Spring!

Resilient Bay Area (CEE 224XYZ)
Students from CEE 224X walking with Len Materman, director of the San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority, on a floodwall construction site at the mouth of the creek, October 6, 2017.

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 are participating through a year-long, project-based, service-learning course that closely mirrors RBD. SUS has joined forces with the Department of Geophysics, the Bill Lane Center for the American West, and the Stanford Urban Resilience Initiative to organize this course.

Students and faculty from CEE 224Y, with lead partners Jasneet Sharma and Hilary Papendick from the San Mateo County Office of Sustainability, after a presentation to county and municipal stakeholders on March 14, 2018.


25 students participated in the Autumn Phase of our project, which developed a risk assessment framework for communities and government officials from Burlingame to San Jose, and presented their research and interactive maps to stakeholders in December. 15 students participated in the Winter Phase, which narrowed its focus onto San Mateo County in partnership with its Office of Sustainability, and presented in March. This Spring, 8 students are finishing off a full year of in-depth analysis by evaluating infrastructure, policy, and community engagement interventions, as well as exploring the possibility of expanding our analysis to the whole Bay Area. In addition to the course sequence, a few students have also had the opportunity to embed directly in two of the Resilient By Design teams, BIG+One+Sherwood and Team Uplift.

This year's focus on resilience has yielded exciting new research opportunities for Stanford faculty and researchers, as well as the opportunity for sustained project-based, service-learning courses focused on resilience planning for many years to come. See more from the Resilience Project, including interactive maps, here!

A New SUS Course Designed by SPUR 
This Winter Quarter, SUS offered a course titled CEE 230: Urban Development & Governance, inviting guest lecturers Egon Terplan (Regional Planning Director), Ratna Amin (Transportation Planning Director), and Laura Tolkoff (San Jose Policy Director) 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. Emphasis was placed on the history of local and regional planning in the Bay Area, and relationship between land use, transportation, and the economy. Students participated in a walking tour of downtown San Francisco, and were also required to attend at least one public meeting during the quarter and observe urban governance in action. The course was well-received, and we hope to offer expanded SPUR course offerings next year!
Student Spotlight

Youssef Karam, One Year In

"I started the Sustainable Urban Systems program having a strong interest in sustainability, yet a vague understanding of it. I knew sustainability was closely related to the environment and efficient design. I didn’t know it would involve so much policy, community engagement and due diligence. Through this program, I'm learning the importance of rigorous scientific research, and the value of communicating the scientific data effectively with our audience. I'm discovering that sustainable urban cities involve design, policy, planning, communications and even politics. I've come to appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of sustainability." Youssef is a 1st year SDC-SUS student and has taken all three quarters of the resilience project this year.

Alumni: Leopold Wambersie

"A year out, I can reflect on the impact SUS has had on me. I gained an understanding of the types of design and coordination problems that exist in the Bay Area and the wider urban world. I better understand the extent to which information is important in decision making, but also the extent to which it is ignored if incentives are misaligned. I see urban issues such as housing and transit as the most powerful levers we have to improve sustainability and quality of life. I got to peer inside the black box that is municipal government." Read more from Leo at the SUS Blog.

Check out the SUS Blog

The SUS Seminar series now includes a blog assignment for enrolled students, meaning you will now be able to find regular posts by students, in their own voice and of their own interest, on the SUS Blog! Recent topics include "Advancing Transportation Equity in the Bay Area" by Robert Young, "Environmental Racism in Houston's Harrisburg/Manchester Neighborhood" by Julianne Crawford, and "The Rise and Fall of Jeepneys in Metro Manila, Phillipines" by Naomi Gregorio. The best way to follow these posts is to just be on the Facebook group, where they will always be shared when published.

Coming Soon

National Planning Conference 2018 in New Orleans

A group of SUS students will attend the American Planning Association's annual conference (for the second year in a row) at the end of April. Lecturer Derek Ouyang will be speaking in a panel titled "Building Equity Into Resilience Planning" with former SUS student Jack Hogan, now with Arup.

Smart Cities NYC in May

An SUS team will be hosting a workshop at Smart Cities New York called "Data for Urban Planning in the Bay Area", May 8th from 3-4:15p at NYU CUSP's Symposium Room. You can get tickets for the conference here with code SPRING2018 for a 25% discount on tickets! We hope you'll join us!

Bank of America Low Income Housing Challenge

Last year, the inaugural SUS entry into the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Low Income Housing Challenge won first place with their South Stockton project. This year, a new team is competing with a project in East Palo Alto, with local partner EPA CAN DO. The winner will be announced at a ceremony on May 17 at The City Club of San Francisco. Look out for an official invitation on the Facebook group shortly.

2018 Symposium

The SUS Symposium is an annual celebration of exemplary work by students, researchers, faculty, and external partners in the past academic year under the Sustainable Urban Systems Initiative, and an opportunity to explore new ideas and future collaborations within the broader community. This year our keynote speaker is Senator Scott Wiener, a strong housing advocate in our State Senate. Register on Eventbrite.


Thanks to the Haas Center for Public Service, Stanford Professionals in Real Estate, the Dawe family, the Center for Sustainable Development & Global Competitiveness, the Blume Center for Earthquake Engineering, and the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering for supporting the SUS Initiative.

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SUS Newsletter: Spring 2017

Spring at Stanford saw an exciting series of activities in the Sustainable Urban Systems Initiative, from the diagnosis of a district in Monterrey, MX to a first-place finish in a low income housing challenge to progress on localizing the Sustainable Development Goals. We hope you will continue to follow our exciting journey to become a formal research and educational program at Stanford. Please subscribe to our newsletter and send us feedback on what you'd like to see. I also encourage you to join in weekly conversation on our Facebook group. Enjoy the updates below, and have a great Summer!
Derek Ouyang, Lecturer
CEE 224Y Mobility Team
Distrito Tec Development Project

An urban district characterized by the university it’s built around, Distrito Tec is located in the southern part of the city of Monterrey, Mexico. Though the university, Tec de Monterrey, has successfully developed into an engine for growth, innovation, and prosperity, the neighborhoods that surround it have lagged behind. Along with struggling to retain the talent of young professionals who graduate from Tec, the district is also experiencing symptoms of urban sprawl endemic to much of industrialized Mexico: among these, air pollution, traffic congestion, and a contested transition from low to high density development. As a result, Distrito Tec is well-positioned for a revitalization effort.

Building off of the work done in Distrito Tec over the past five years, we tasked ourselves with identifying strategic interventions that would add value to the district’s existing plans. Our process was an iterative one, engaging first and repeatedly with four of the main systems underlying the district - water and mobility infrastructure, land usage, and energy consumption - to understand their shortcomings. Using indicators built from this system-level research, we identified five key areas for intervention that we believe complement Distrito Tec’s vision and should be pursued: expanding complete streets and biking infrastructure, siting community centers in the district, redeveloping parking, and bolstering flood prevention infrastructure.  

Monterrey Development Project Team


See more from the Monterrey Development Project here!

CEE 224Y SJ Team
Bank of America Low Income Housing Challenge, Stockton, CA

During the financial crisis, the city of Stockton, in California’s Central Valley, led the nation in home foreclosure rates and the city itself filed for bankruptcy.

Stockton recovered somewhat, but almost one-quarter of its population still lives below the poverty line. In South Stockton, where unemployment hovers around 18% and almost half the population lives in poverty, Stanford Engineering students have teamed up with city officials and community leaders to design a plan to revive the neighborhood through a mixed-use housing development.

The students faced real world constraints: They would have to keep costs low enough so that apartments would be affordable to people with extremely low incomes, a difficult hurdle even with subsidies.

At the same time, the plan had to be attractive and practical enough to attract solid commercial tenants – and investors – to one of the city’s most depressed neighborhoods.

In May, this student-conceived plan won Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s annual Low Income Housing Challenge, a 25-year-old design competition that is judged by experts in affordable housing, architecture and finance.

Excerpt from "This is the future of architectural design" - an article by Edmund L. Andrews for Stanford Engineering
See more from the Stockton Project here!
CEE 235 Red Team
SUS Symposium
This June, the SUS Initiative hosted a variety of distinguished guests, faculty and students for a Symposium centered around the resilience, sustainability and well-being of urban systems. In addition to panel discussions on the aforementioned three topics with experts in their respective fields, students from Stanford's Sustainable Urban Systems course, a cohort of students from Sichuan University and a variety of Stanford researchers had an opportunity to present their work.

See and hear more on the Symposium here!
CEE 224A Dharavi Team
USA Sustainable Cities Initiative
In early May, Derek Ouyang and a cohort of students from the SUS Initiative traveled to New York City and Washington DC for a variety of presentations and meetings regarding their ongoing work and research into the localization of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The team received useful feedback for the project from professionals and representatives of stakeholder groups across both cities. The project and major insights gained from these meetings are described in articles within the page below.

See more from the SDG Project here!

Sichuan University

In parallel to the Distrito Tec Development project, students from Sichuan University conducted a similar project focused on the sustainability of their campus. They visited Stanford in June to present their results. More information on their work can be found here.


Congratulations, Graduates!

While we have no formal graduates of the SUS degree (yet), we want to extend our warmest congratulations to graduating students who have participated in SUS courses and projects! We thank you for your incredible contributions to the Initiative, and wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors. (Pictured: some graduates at the 2017 Commencement)

SUS Summer Work

The work never ends at the SUS Initiative! This summer, students Ian Bick, Jack Lundquist, Max O'Krepki, Rubi Rodriguez, Jacob Waggoner, and Nikhil Chaudhuri will work on a variety of projects. These include work on affordable housing in East Palo Alto, a SDG dashboard for the Bay Area, a sustainability dashboard for San Francisco Chinatown, and preparation for the upcoming Resilient by Design (see below). Stay tuned for updates!

SUS Seminar

Coming Up: Resilient by Design

Next year, graduate students in the new Sustainable Urban Systems degree concentration will embark on a year-long capstone project alongside professional Design Teams in the "Resilient by Design Bay Area Challenge". Building off the success of the "Rebuild by Design" competition in New York City, students will support a team of planners and engineers to identify sites and design solutions to improve the Bay Area's resilience to sea level rise. Stay tuned for updates!

Upcoming Events

7/19 -- UN Higher Education Sustainability Initiative in NYC
8/17 -- SIMCenter Demo of SUS SDG work in Palo Alto (register here)

To stay updated and connected, please check out our website, subscribe to our newsletter, email us, or join our Facebook group.


This spring quarter has seen a variety of collaborations and partnerships that are due thanks.

First off, a big thanks to all of the speakers at our seminar series this spring: Michael Tubbs, Sarah Jo Szambelan, Les Norford, Lisa Fisher, Wendy Tao, Zac Shore, Lydia Tan, Claudia Preciado and Tamara Lima. Thanks for your contribution to a varied and thought-provoking seminar series!

We would also like to thank the distinguished guests and faculty who participated in our symposium: Lynn Hildemann, Jim Leckie, Bruce Cain, Christine Thomson, Laszlo Varga, Rob Best, Jim Stickley, Jack Baker, Gil Friend, Peter Pirnejad, Eg
on Terplan, Melissa Lunden, Rishee Jain, Michael Lepech, Jesus Andrade, Fred Shiel, Dana Harvey, Nancy Huante, Hector Lara and Michelle Anderson. Thank you for an engaging and timely series of discussions!

Thanks also go to the instructors at Sichuan University for their collaboration and participation in a parallel Sustainable Urban Systems project course and guidance of the visiting students: Liqiong Lan, Hongyan Lu, Xiaoshuang Shi, and Xiaolan Chen. Thank you for your expert guidance!

Finally, thanks to Yasmany Mancilla, Gabriela Ortiz, Alberto Mendoza, Roberto Blanco, Fabián Lozano García, José
Antonio Torre and Julio Noriega for their hospitality on our trips to DistritoTec Monterrey!

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SUS Newsletter: Winter 2017

As our Sustainable Urban Systems Initiative grows, we are now excited to bring our community a quarterly newsletter documenting exciting projects, activities, and news. Please subscribe to our newsletter and send us feedback on what you'd like to see. I also encourage you to join in weekly conversation on our Facebook group. Enjoy the updates below, and have a great Spring!
Derek Ouyang, Lecturer
CEE 224Y Mobility Team
Peninsula Cities Mobility Project

The Managers Mobility Partnership (MMP) is an agreement between the cities of Redwood City, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Stanford to more freely exchange information to improve mobility related issues within this region of the peninsula. At Stanford, teams have worked on policy related issues as well as data analytics. The group within the SUS Initiative performed the data analytics in an effort to gain insight into the different mobility challenges facing this area. For the Winter 2017 quarter, the team focused largely on two distinct but related research directions: a spatial analysis of surveyed Stanford commuters living within the Partner Cities as well as an in-depth statistical analysis of the surveyed Stanford commuting population to gain better insight into the different factors affecting mode choice as well as their magnitude. Although the focus of study this quarter was the Stanford population, it is the hope of the research team that the methods developed could be applied by any large campus-style employer to enable the shift away from the masses arriving to work alone in their cars.

This project provided the student research team an opportunity to participate in a real consulting engagement with the MMP. The final deliverable in this project was a presentation and report to the MMP. What’s unique about this experience is that the work produced by the team has to be so much more than just high quality. The deliverables have to be produced with the intended audience in mind in an effort to really sell the MMP on the team’s work. In the end, this project experience provides a great opportunity to explore a pressing challenge facing modern urban systems. It provides the chance to develop solutions aimed at addressing these challenges mindful of the socioeconomic constraints acting on people as well as the need to craft ethical policy mindful of all.

Max O'Krepki, (M.S. CEE)

See more from the Peninsula Cities Project here!

CEE 224Y SJ Team
San Jose Sustainability Project
As a part of Stanford’s Sustainable Urban Systems Initiative, one Stanford team is creating a public-facing dashboard to enable the citizens of San José to view their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions based on where they live! This dashboard is meant to incentivize San José residents to become more sustainable by raising awareness, inspiring change, and motivating action in regards to reducing their carbon footprint. Residents can also compare their emissions to other parts of San José at both the group and individual level through the input of personal usage data. The dashboard even includes recommendations and a rewards system to better incentivize citizens to make lifestyle changes that will reduce their emissions. The image below shows the main page of the five-part dashboard, which has been repeatedly revised throughout the course of the project. In addition, the current prototype of the dashboard, built using ArcGIS Online for the data visualization, features preliminary GHG estimations of CO2 per capita for each sector (energy, mobility, water, food and goods) down to the block group level. Although the actual numbers produced are just back-of-the-envelope calculations, the methodology nonetheless provides a template for further data collection and refinement. Since the accuracy of the data included in the dashboard is critical to its effectiveness and success, future project work will focus on creating the avenues and partnerships necessary to build out the database in full. One next step is to test the dashboard in a single district and acquire community feedback. As the project moves forward, it is exciting to see how both the dashboard and database will be improved and implemented by San José!
Grace Lee (M.S. CEE), Emmanuel Assa (B.S. EnvSE), and Rubi Rodriguez (M.S. MS&E)

See more from the San Jose Sustainability Project here!
Prototype dashboard visualization created by San Jose Sustainability Project team in Winter 2017.
CEE 235 Presentation
CEE 235 Red Team
Sunnyvale Resilience Design Studio
Visiting Lecturers Bry Sarte and Laszlo Varga from Sherwood Design Engineers taught CEE 235: CapaCity Design Studio this Winter and brought together two interdisciplinary teams of students to develop bold resilience strategies for a coastal site in Sunnyvale, CA.

See more from the Sunnyvale Resilience projects here!
CEE 224A Village Team
CEE 224A Dharavi Team
Smart Villages and Smart Slums in India
Visiting Lecturers Terry Beaubois and Ronita Bardhan taught CEE 224A: India Projects this Winter and brought together two interdisciplinary teams of students to explore "smart" strategies for urban and rural sites in India. 

See more from the India projects here!

SUS Trip: ESRI, Redlands, CA

Students from CEE 235 and SUS instructors traveled to Redlands, CA in January to meet with ESRI CEO Jack Dangermond and staff. We're grateful for ESRI's hospitality and excited about future education and research collaborations!

SUS Trip: Monterrey, MX

Students in Spring's CEE 224Z spent part of their Spring Break visiting DistritoTec in Monterrey, MX, where they will be working on an SUS project. Stay tuned for the results of the project in our next newsletter!

SUS Seminar

SDC-SUS Degree is Live!

Students admitted to graduate study in the department can now get an M.S. CEE in Sustainable Design and Construction with a Sustainable Urban Systems concentration. Learn more about the degree here.

Upcoming Events


Thanks to Pat Dawe (Class of 1962) and Marsha Dawe (formerly in Stanford's Office of Development) for their generous support of the SUS Initiative!

Pat and Marsha are very excited about the SUS Initiative, and its potential for preparing students to lead the planning and management of livable and sustainable cities of the future.  Pat’s career as an architect/planner has been based on a multi-discipline approach to creating the most desirable and least impactful communities.  He sees that future cities, where most of us will live, are the places where Stanford-quality expertise and insight is the most needed. 

Pat retired from RNL Design Denver in 2012 as an architect and urban planner.  After retirement, Pat founded and became CEO of Greenhouse GO, an environmental software company. The company’s software product—Carbon Planner—is designed to quickly and inexpensively predict CO2 emissions from land development projects.  The software also provides mitigation options to reduce expected emissions.

Pat was a Class of 1962 Stanford architecture student who transferred to MIT and earned his BA in Architecture in 1965 because Stanford was discontinuing its Architecture program. In 1967, Pat received a Masters in City Planning and a Masters in Architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania. In the 1990’s for Stanford’s 100th Anniversary, Pat consulted with the Stanford Planning Office on major campus planning projects including plans for the Stanford streets and walks, a water master plan, an upgrade to Marguerite service, a campus utilities capital program process, and a strategic plan for the Stanford leased lands.

Marsha graduated with a BA degree from the University of Colorado Boulder in 1965; and an MBA from Pepperdine University in 1987. Following a career in human resources, Marsha began her fundraising career at Caltech before joining the Stanford Office of Development from 1994-1998 when Pat and Marsha returned to their home in Denver, CO. Marsha retired from the University of Colorado Foundation in 2010.

Their two daughters are Stanford graduates: Leslie Dawe Class of 1992 and Lisa Dawe, Class of 1996, and MBA from the Stanford GSB 2005. Son-in-law Darrell S. Park is Stanford MS GSB 2005 graduate. 

Pat and Marsha are members of Stanford’s Founding Grant Society, having designated a bequest in their estate plans to benefit Stanford’s College of Civil and Environmental Engineering to support the Sustainable Urban Systems Initiative; and the College of Humanities and Sciences to support undergraduate scholarships.

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