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EME 504 - Foundations in Sustainability Systems

This is a sample syllabus.

This sample syllabus is a representative example of the information and materials included in this course. Information about course assignments, materials, and dates listed here is subject to change at any time. Definitive course details and materials will be available in the official course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.


This course provides the theoretical background for the discussion and analysis of sustainability issues that range from energy and natural resources to biodiversity and global climate change. The course focuses on the following main aspects: (i) the definition of sustainability and sustainable method development including application of life cycle analysis, (ii) system thinking approach including mass balance, flow diagram and tipping point discussion, (iii) design of supply chains, networks, and to network optimization using examples of centralized and de-centralized infrastructures and resource management, (iv) political aspects in different regions and trends in global markets, and (v) ethical aspects and societal values in the context of sustainability. The students will look into interrelationships among natural, societal, economic, technological and political systems on the local and global scale. Big emphasis in this course is given to peer discussion and term paper on the topic of interest to enable students to develop an encompassing understanding of the challenges of sustainability and sustainability issues and to become successful sustainability leaders in their field.


Students who excel in this course are able to:

  • Develop an encompassing understanding of sustainability issues
  • Develop the ability for systemic thinking
  • Analyze how specific issues, such as particular renewable energies, are interrelated with other sustainability issues
  • Understand the embedment of sustainability issues in environmental, societal, and economic systems, and the relevance of the conditions, interrelations, and dynamics of these systems
  • Do basic systemic analyses, such as material and energy flow analyses
  • Understand the political and global aspects relevant to specific sustainability issues and do analyses of the political background for specific projects
  • Understand and interpret the normative dimension of sustainability and its implications for dealing with specific sustainability issues, and do integrated ethical analyses for specific issues or projects
  • Become critical and proactive thinkers and, with this, successful leaders in the field

Required Materials

Typically, there are no required materials for this course. If this changes, students will find a definitive list in the course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.




We have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible. How much and how well you learn is dependent on your attitude, diligence, and willingness to ask for clarifications or help when you need them. We are here to help you succeed. Please keep up with the class schedule and take advantage of opportunities to communicate with us and with your fellow students. You can expect to spend an average of 10 - 12 hours per week on class work.

Major Assignments

  • Discussions (40% of total course grade)
  • Case Study 1 (30% of total course grade)
  • Case Study 2 (30% of total course grade)

Course Schedule

Course Schedule
1Hidden Costs
  • Discussion
2Measuring Weak Sustainability
  • Discussion
  • Case Study 1: Topic Selection
3System Architecture
  • Discussion
4Life Cycle Analysis
  • Discussion
5Types of Tips
  • Discussion
  • Case Study 1: Introduction Draft
6Design for Environment
  • Discussion
7Centralized and Distr. Energy Sys.
  • Discussion
  • Case Study 2: Selection 
8Creating Value
  • Discussion
  • Case Study1: Working Draft
9Ethics and the Tardis
  • Discussion
  • Case Study 1: Peer Review
10Integrating the Social Component
  • Discussion
11Sustainability and Decision-Making
  • Discussion
  • Case Study 1: Final Version
12Patterns of Consumptions
  • Discussion
last weeksWork on Case Study 2
  • Case Study 2: Presentation for peer review
  • Case Study 2: Replies to questions
  • Case Study 2: Final Version