Urban Sustainability

Why Urban Sustainability?

The Urban Sustainability concentration provides the basis for a holistic understanding of cities through the lens of environmental and social sustainability. By combining coursework in urban studies, history, sociology, and design with the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), students in the Urban Sustainability concentration are exposed to both the environmental and infrastructural aspects of cities, as well as issues of human development, urban societies, public policy, and social equity.

Students in the concentration acquire a foundation in sustainability concepts and skills for research and professional practices. The Urban Sustainability concentration helps prepare students to serve as social change agents in future roles as scholars, urban planners, designers, entrepreneurs, public servants, and advocates to address the most pressing issues of urban development and its human impacts in cities around the world.


Students in this concentration may select as their advisor:

Zephyr Frank (email) (read more)
Deland Chan (email) (read more)

Special Programs and Opportunities

Students in the Urban Sustainability concentration may be interested in the Goldman Undergraduate Honors Program in Environmental Science, Technology and Policy, which aims to provide a select group of Stanford undergraduate students with a unique honors capstone experience in the area of environmental solutions, as well as the MAP Sustainability Energy Fellowship, which places students in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to support sustainable energy development. Students interested in pursuing graduate studies may consider the Coterminal M.S. degree program in Earth Systems.

Required Course

The following course is required for the urban sustainability concentration:

  • EARTHSYS 112, Human Society and Environmental Change, 4 units

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Additional Courses

Courses (20-25 units in total):
25 units for students declaring before Fall 2014
20 units for students declaring after Fall 2014

Students must select at least one course from each of the following categories: 1) environmental sustainability, 2) social sustainability, and 3) project-based courses.

Environmental Sustainability
Environmental sustainability refers to the biosphere, environmental planning and policy, natural resource planning and development, sustainable building design, and urban infrastructure systems.

CEE 64 Air Pollution and Global Warming: History, Science, and Solutions
CEE 100 Managing Sustainable Building Projects
CEE 129 Climate Change Adaptation for Seaports
CEE 142A Negotiating Sustainable Development
CEE 165C Water Resources Management
CEE 171 Environmental Planning Methods
CEE 172 Air Quality Management
CEE 172S Green House Gas Mitigation
CEE 173A Energy Resources
CEE 176A Energy Efficient Buildings
CHEMENG 35N Renewable Energy for a Sustainable World
CHEMENG 60Q Environmental Regulation and Policy
EARTHSYS 10 Introduction to Earth Systems
EARTHSYS 41N The Global Warming Paradox
EARTHSYS 101 Energy and the Environment
EARTHSYS 147 Controlling Climate Change in the 21st Century
EARTHSYS 175 California Coast: Science, Policy, and Law
EARTHSYS 188 Social and Environmental Tradeoffs in Climate Decision-Making
ECON 17N Energy, the Environment, and the Econom
ECON 155 Environmental Economics and Policy
ENGR 90 Environmental Science and Technology

Social Sustainability

Social sustainability refers to land use planning and its human impacts, distribution of public goods, human-centered design, human and community development, citizen participation, and social equity.

ANTHRO 183B Human Mobility and Adaptability
BIO 102 Demography: Health, Development, Environment
EARTHSYS 37N Climate Change: Science & Society
EARTHSYS 105 Food and Community: New Visions for a Sustainable Future
POLISCI 19N Politics of Energy Efficiency
SOC 135 Poverty, Inequality, and Social Policy in the United States
URBANST 111 Urban Politics
URBANST 163 Land Use Control
URBANST 165 Sustainable Urban and Regional Transportation Planning
URBANST 167 The Automobile and the City

Project-Based Courses

Project-based classes enable students to work on a real-life urban sustainability issue in collaboration with local and international community partners. Students will grapple with sustainability concepts while practicing community engagement and capacity building, fluency in cross-cultural collaboration, human-centered design thinking, and developing a sense of one’s place in relation to global society and the praxis of urban sustainability.

CEE 124 Sustainable Development Studio
CEE 177X Current Topics in Sustainable Engineering
URBANST 145 International Urbanization Seminar (EARTHSYS138, IPS274)
URBANST 164 Sustainable Cities
URBANST 171 Urban Design Studio

Sample Course Plans

The inclusion of a range of sustainability-relevant skills and focus courses – e.g. policy, engineering, environmental science, urban history – offers the opportunity for each student to tailor the cumulative learning process to their own interests. A couple of few sample course plans are listed below. Please consult with an advisor to discuss potential course plans.




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