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Specialized Areas of Study

Sustainable Infrastructure

Sustainable Infrastructure

Urban infrastructure refers to engineered systems that provide water, energy, transport, sanitation, information and built environments for more than half of the world’s population living in cities today. With rapid population growth placing a strain on available and vulnerable resources (water, energy and materials), the need for high-performing, resilient, cost-effective, resource-efficient and environment-friendly infrastructure is being recognized globally as a key component of future urban sustainability. UC Denver has developed a unique, interdisciplinary integrated research and teaching program on sustainable urban infrastructure across four graduate programs: the College of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Public Affairs, the College of Architecture and Planning and the health and behavioral sciences program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The curriculum is being delivered at both the MS and PhD levels with courses team-taught across the disciplines. Students with training in the physical sciences and mathematics, engineering, architecture and planning, social sciences, public affairs and health and behavioral sciences may join the graduate program for study at either the MS or the PhD levels.

Course Work

Integrated Core courses
Four semester-long core courses will first introduce vocabulary and then provide training in methods pertaining to sustainability across the disciplines of science and engineering, architecture and planning, public affairs and health and behavioral sciences.

  1. Semester 1—Sustainable Urban Infrastructure and Development: A foundation course introducing students to key vocabulary and concepts in resource-efficient technologies, urban planning, public administration, health and human behavior.
  2. Semester 2—Defining and Measuring Sustainability: A methodology course on techniques to measure physical (environmental and ecosystem) and social-cultural aspects of sustainability.
  3. Semester 3—Planning and Policy for Sustainability: Urban infrastructure planning methods are discussed followed by principles of governance for sustainability.
  4. Semester 4—Integrated Infrastructure Design Seminar: A collaborative, problem-based, capstone design seminar, organized around buildings and neighborhood design. Expected to incorporate an independent study element, leading to MS and PhD theses proposal formulations.

Infrastructure Electives

MS and PhD students are expected to couple the core courses listed above with electives that span at least two related infrastructure sectors, for example, water and health, energy and transport, or energy and buildings, etc.
ENGR = Engineering
CAP = College of Architecture and Planning
SPA = School of Public Affairs
HBS = Health and Behavioral Sciences

Built Environment

ENGR: Structural Analysis, Structural Steel Design, Concrete Design CAP: Building Construction and Technology, Sustainable Land Use Planning, Urban Design, LEED


ENGR: Transportation Systems, Urban Transportation, Traffic Impact Assessment CAP: Transportation Planning


ENGR: Water and Wastewater Systems, Water Resources Management, Water Quality Engineering, Sustainable Water and Renewable Energy Systems, Western Water Rights CAP: Landscape Ecology


ENGR: Renewable Energy Systems, Energy Conversion, Power Systems,  Sustainable water and renewable energy systems


SPA: Health Policy, Health Care Ethics, Health Care Economics HBS: Cooperative Health Systems, Biocultural Health, Human Ecology and Environmental Adaptation,  Global Health Studies, Natural Resource/ Environ Health Law


SPA: Disaster and Emergency Management Policies, Environmental Politics and Policy, Environmental Management, Natural Resource and Environmental Health Law

Research Examples

Some examples of broad cross-disciplinary research areas relevant to sustainable urban infrastructure are listed below. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but more to serve illustrative purposes. Prospective students may wish to contact the faculty from the various disciplines involved in each topic area to gather further information.

Emerging Infrastructures and Technologies:

Developing and evaluating innovative break-through technologies for resource-efficient and environmentally-benign urban infrastructures using environmental/economic life cycle assessments and material flow analyses.

Urban Resource Flows:

Linking emerging technologies, urban form, population growth and distribution as they impact energy-material flows within and outside the city.

Multi-Criteria Policy Evaluation:

Multidimensional benefit-cost analysis of alternative infrastructures and built environments, particularly focusing on two aspects: 1) the impact of alternative urban infrastructures on urban system vulnerability and resiliency; and, 2) the impact of alternative infrastructure designs on human health and well-being.

Human Behavior and Sustainability Outcomes Assessment:

Identifying barriers to personal and community engagement in sustainable infrastructures and tracking a common set of relevant indicators of health, well-being and urban infrastructure sustainability that are measurable, policy-relevant and intuitive so as to foster community engagement.