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Urban Environments and Infrastructures


Admission requirements

This course is obligatory for students of the MSc Industrial Ecology (joint degree Leiden University and TU Delft).
The course is an elective for the Sustainability Annotation of TU Delft and part of the Honours Program for the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment.


With half of the world population living in urban areas and with the building sector as the largest industrial sector in the US and Europe, urban environments and their infrastructures make a significant contribution to sustainability problems, in terms of resource management, including energy use and generation, material extraction and reuse/recycling, waste production, land conversion, GHG emissions, etc.

In this course, urban environments and their infrastructures are approached from an ecosystems perspective. Students will learn about key themes in urban areas which significantly influence the sustainability performance of urban areas: energy, water, construction materials and waste. The impact of different technologies is quantified and assessed; their implementation is discussed from a stakeholder perspective.

This course offers you the unique opportunity to acquire knowledge of sustainable urban areas from an engineering, a design and an institutional point of view. You will acquire knowledge of important sustainability effects of urban areas and learn methods and tools to assess and address these problems at various spatial scales: ranging from the building level to the urban plan. Also you will be acquainted with the specific institutional context of the built environment and its influence on the innovation and implementation of sustainable technologies. You will use this knowledge to develop integrated improvements for an existing urban plan.

Learning goals

At the end of the course students should be able: (1) To explain the importance of urban areas and infrastructures and how Industrial Ecology and the underlying ecosystem approach will help to analyse and improve urban design. (2) To apply the ecosystem approach to urban areas and infrastructures by: - analysing urban areas as composites of multiple subsystems that can be distinguished at multiple spatial levels; - modelling these subsystems in terms of input, throughput and output; (3) To create a simplified urban design proposal that integrates the modelled subsystems. (4) To evaluate urban areas and infrastructures for their sustainability performance, by: - judging whether state of the art knowledge and technologies of the focal subsystems in this course (energy, water, materials and waste) have been used; - identifying the trade-offs and synergies between and within subsystems and spatial scales and judging how these trade-offs and synergies have been accommodated; - arguing how the design of urban areas and their infrastructures can be improved/optimized; - discuss how decision-making for urban areas influences the feasibility of the design.

Teaching methods/mode of instruction

Lectures, assignments, workshop, excursion

Type of assessment

Individual written exam (open book, open questions) at the end of the first half of the semester (50% of final grade). Design assignment in groups during second half (50% of final grade). Both parts need to be passed to pass the course.

Course materials/reading list

Ellen van Bueren et al. (2012) Sustainable Urban Environments: an Ecosystem Approach, Dordrecht: Springer. Additional readings may be provided during the course. These readings will be tuned to the specific topics discussed in the lectures, and will be of an empirical, applied character. They will be published on Brightspace TU Delft.


Because this course is part of a joint degree between Leiden University and TU Delft, students (also guest and exchange) have to be enrolled in both universities.

All students have to enroll for the course via Brightspace (before the start of the course) and for the exam via uSis, Leiden University.

Students who are not enrolled for the MSc Industrial Ecology, have to ask for permission from the study advisor of Industrial Ecology ( to join this course, at least one month before the start of the course. After permission students can enroll for the course via Brightspace. This is different for TU Delft students not enrolled in the MSc Industrial Ecology who can choose this course as an elective and only have to ask permission from the course/module manager ( two months before the start of the course.

Exchange students can only enroll for this course if their home university has an exchange agreement with both Leiden University and TU Delft. Exchange students have to ask for permission from the study advisor of Industrial Ecology ( as soon as possible, preferably six months before the start of the course.


More information and the description of the course is published in the e-studyguide of TU Delft.