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Sustainable Urban Systems (SDC-SUS)

Stanford University’s Sustainable Urban Systems concentration with the Sustainable Design and Construction (SDC) program applies multiple engineering knowledge fields in an integrated approach to shape the future of our cities.

Today’s urban areas provide a disparate quality of life and quality of services to their populations, and they inflict a mostly adverse impact on our natural environment. Our challenge is to design and re-engineer our urban environments for the future to provide modern services in ways that allow humans and nature to flourish.

The engineered systems that support cities today are largely stand-alone entities, such as the electricity grid designed by individual sectors under the assumption that bigger is better to leverage economies of scale. Unfortunately, this approach often creates inflexible systems that can be difficult to manage, impose high environmental costs and largely ignore interactions with the people they serve. Yet with advances in information systems, engineered technologies and understanding of human behavior, we can design cities that respond better to the needs of the inhabitants and adapt more readily to changing climatic and environmental pressures and demands.

Students admitted to graduate study in the department can satisfy the requirements for the Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering in Sustainable Design and Construction with a Sustainable Urban Systems emphasis by completing 3-5 quarters of residency and a minimum of 45 units of study beyond the undergraduate degree. All 45 units must be taken at Stanford. A minimum 2.75 grade point average (GPA) is required for candidates to be recommended for the MS.

The MS program in Civil and Environmental Engineering requires at least 30 units at the graduate level (courses numbered 200 or above) and at least 24 units from the School of Engineering. No more than 6 units of coursework that is offered with a letter grade option can be taken for pass/no credit. No courses numbered less than 100 can count toward the MS degree. The coursework must form a coherent program of study approved by the student's faculty advisor.

Refer to the SDC program's academic curriculum to see which required and elective courses comprise the SUS concentration. The foundation of the curriculum is the project-based, community-engaged learning course series, CEE 224XYZ, in which student teams collaborate on a year-long project with an industry or city partner on an urban systems challenge.

Prospective students are encouraged to direct any curriculum inquiries by email to Questions related specifically to the SUS courses can be directed to Lecturer Derek Ouyang at Learn more about Sustainable Urban Systems projects, courses, seminars, and events at