College of Environmental Design

Sustainable Environmental Design

Bachelor of Arts

The Program

SED Majors at 2018 Graduation

The 2018 graduating cohort of SED majors.

The sustainable environmental design major recognizes that the emergent, multidisciplinary field of sustainability science is growing rapidly. As the world population urbanizes, the planning and design of resilient, resource-efficient, healthy and socially just cities and metropolitan regions is profoundly important. The College of Environmental Design, with its long-standing expertise in sustainable urbanism and design, is an ideal setting for an undergraduate major in sustainable environmental design, with a focus on the built environment.

The major offers students a critical understanding of the sustainability challenges facing urban regions in California and around the globe, and equips them with the technical, analytic and design tools key to devising creative solutions. Graduates have many career paths and fields of graduate study open to them.

Students who complete this major will:

  1. Understand the application of physical, biological and social science in the design of sustainable cities and metropolitan regions.
  2. Understand sustainable urban technologies and design strategies.
  3. Comprehend issues of equity and social justice as they relate to sustainable cities and regions.
  4. Evaluate and monitor the present state and future potential of built environments in terms of sustainability.
  5. Comprehend the implications of policy and institutions and their potential to shape future sustainable cities and regions.

SED Faculty and Staff

Eric Cesal

SED Program Director Eric Cesal. Photo credit: Shayan Asgharnia

CED is pleased to welcome Eric Cesal in his new role as the SED Major Program Director. Cesal is also a Lecturer in the Department of Architecture, where he teaches an undergraduate design studio and a graduate seminar on disaster and resilience.

In addition to his roles at CED, Cesal also serves as the Special Projects Director for the Curry Stone Foundation, a U.S. non-profit which seeks to support and empower community-driven social impact design.  There, he also hosts Social Design Insights, a weekly podcast with the leading voices of the public interest design movement.

A designer, writer, and noted post-disaster expert, Cesal led Architecture for Humanity’s post-disaster programs from 2010 to 2014, working on post-disaster construction projects after the Haiti earthquake, the Great East Japan Tsunami, and Superstorm Sandy.  He has been interviewed widely on the subjects of disaster and resilience by publications such as The New Yorker, Architectural Record, Architect Magazine, Foreign Policy Magazine and Monocle. 

Faculty Advisers Staff Adviser

Eric Cesal
350 Wurster Hall

Office Hours: Tues/Thurs 2-4pm

350 Wurster

Heather Grothjan
250 Wurster Hall

Major Overview

SED Major Handbooks
Students doing field sampling at Strawberry Creek

Field Work in Strawberry Creek

Features of the major

  • The gateway course, LD ARCH 12, Environmental Science for Sustainable Development, introduces students to the scientific basis of sustainability as explored through the study of energy, water, food, natural resources and the built environment, with a focus on the application of scientific insights to sustainable development strategies.  The course emphasizes hands-on learning through field-based exercises such as measurement of atmospheric particulate matter, micro-climates, channel form, aquatic insects and water quality, and direct observations of green infrastructure, green building methods, and urban agriculture. 
  • A critical approaches course, ENV DES 102 Critical Debates in Sustainable Urbanism. The course challenges students to think critically about the idea of sustainability, develop critiques of current sustainable urbanism/design practice, and envision the institutional and behavioral changes required for a more sustainable future.
  • A methods/technology course, LD ARCH /GEOG C188 Geographic Information Systems. GIS has become a basic tool for a wide range of analytic tasks across all environmental design fields. The course addresses both GIS theory and applications, offering a dynamic analytical framework for gathering, integrating, interpreting and manipulating temporal and spatial data.
  • A set of upper-division courses, on energy and environment; deep green design; the nature of cities; planning for sustainability; ecological analysis; and sustainable cities and landscapes.
  • A series of area requirements allowing students to specialize in a variety of aspects of sustainability, such as economics, business, and policy; society, culture, and ethics; resources and environmental management; design and technology.
  • A capstone workshop course, ENV DES 106 Sustainable Environmental Design Workshop. Linking sustainability science and technology with urban form and social dynamics, the workshop requires independent and collaborative research, with an external "client" organization, to offer innovative strategies for sustainable environmental design.

Partial List of Faculty Teaching in the Major

  • Charisma Acey, Assistant Professor of City and Regional Planning
  • Gail Brager, Professor of Architecture
  • Iryna Dronova, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning
  • Matt Kondolf, SED Faculty Head and Professor of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning
  • Emily Pilloton, Lecturer in Architecture
  • John Radke, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning and Urban Planning
  • David Waldron, Lecturer in City and Regional Planning
Field Trip

Field trip to the ‘Living Machine’ at San Francisco PUC headquarters