ENVR E-119G. Sustainable Cities


  • Professor: Julio Lumbreras
  • Term: Fall
  • Days: M
  • Time: 3:00-5:00PM, or on demand
  • School: Harvard Extension School
  • Course ID: 15759
  • Subject Area: Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning

More than half of the world's population (54 percent according to the World Health Organization) live in urban areas, and this share is expected to grow in the future (65 percent by 2050 according to the United Nations). However, urban life is currently far from sustainable due to inequality, poverty, poor air quality, high risk of natural disasters and climate change, and lack of access to energy, water, and waste treatment. Faced with these challenges, member countries of the United Nations adopted in 2015 an agenda for 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), with one of these goals focused on "making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable." Therefore, the future of urban societies, and thus of most of the world's population, depends on our ability to design, build, and run cities in a sustainable manner. This course aims at contributing to this goal by surveying the scientific principles of sustainability at the urban level, exploring cities and their metabolism as systems of systems. It covers the main challenges that cities of every size are facing: governance, inclusive urban economic development, national/regional development planning, safety, citizen participation, risk and vulnerability reduction, air quality, resource efficiency, and access to universal basic services, housing, and infrastructures. By paying attention to the contextual factors in which these challenges play out for different types of cities, students not only gain a general understanding of the key dimensions of urban sustainability, but they also learn tools to further analyze and tackle urban sustainability challenges. Some of the tools presented are life cycle assessment, social impact assessment, cost-benefit analysis, multi-criteria decision making, air quality modeling, and urban indicators.

Note: Students can attend in person on campus, participate live online at the time the class meets via web conference, or watch the recorded video on demand. Videos are available within 24 hours of the lecture.