This course will explore the mutual influences of ideas of nature, theories of city design and planning, and practices of urban design, construction, and management. We will investigate how natural processes shape urban landscapes (from the scale of street corner to region) and how to intervene strategically in those processes in order to achieve certain goals. We will examine cases of cities that adapted successfully to natural processes and those that did not. Students will then have the opportunity to research a case of their choice and to present their findings for discussion. The subject may be historical or an an example of contemporary theory and practice. Additional information is also available at Professor Spirnâ€™s class website.
MIT Environment & Sustainability: Engineering
Like so many of the big challenges taken on at MIT, environmental and sustainability issues demand an interdisciplinary perspective.
From declining fisheries to acute urban pollution to record-breaking global temperatures, the evidence of human impact on the environment continues to mount. And at the same time, the environment shapes us, as human society and institutions are built upon our connection to the weather, land, water, and other species. What can we learn from ecological systems and cycles? What solutions will allow people and the planet to thrive?
MIT scholars, students and alumni are working to understand and help us make progress toward a more sustainable and just world. This core mission draws upon all of the fields represented at MIT: not just science, engineering, and technology, but also the humanities, arts, economics, history, architecture, urban planning, management, policy, and more.
This OCW course collection is inspired by two interdisciplinary MIT programs. Many of the undergraduate courses fall within the undergraduate Environment and Sustainability Minor managed by MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative (ESI); the OCW course list employs the undergraduate minor’s four topic pillars. Many of the graduate-level courses are part of the MIT Sloan School of Management Sustainability Certificate curriculum.
This course explores how citizen science can support community actions to combat climate change. Participants will learn about framing problems, design ways to gather data, gather some of their own field data, and consider how the results can enable action. Leaks in the natural gas systemÃ¢Â€Â”a major source of methane emissions, and a powerful contributor to climate changeÃ¢Â€Â”will be a particular focus. The course was organized by ClimateX and Fossil Free MIT, with support from the National Science Foundation for the methane monitoring equipment. It was offered during the Independent Activities Period (IAP), which is a special 4-week January term at MIT.
D-Lab: Energy offers a hands-on, project-based approach that engages students in understanding and addressing the applications of small-scale, sustainable energy technology in developing countries where compact, robust, low-cost systems for generating power are required. Projects may include micro-hydro, solar, or wind turbine generators along with theoretical analysis, design, prototype construction, evaluation and implementation. Students will have the opportunity both to travel to Nicaragua during spring break to identify and implement projects. D-Lab: Energy is part of MITâ€™s D-Lab program, which fosters the development of appropriate technologies and sustainable solutions within the framework of international development. This course is an elective subject in MITÃ¢Â€Â™s underGraduate / Professional Energy Studies Minor. This Institute-wide program complements the deep expertise obtained in any major with a broad understanding of the interlinked realms of science, technology, and social sciences as they relate to energy and associated environmental challenges.
D-Lab Development addresses issues of technological improvements at the micro level for developing countriesÃ¢Â€Â”in particular, how the quality of life of low-income households can be improved by adaptation of low cost and sustainable technologies. Discussion of development issues as well as project implementation challenges are addressed through lectures, case studies, guest speakers and laboratory exercises. Students form project teams to partner with mostly local level organizations in developing countries, and formulate plans for an IAP site visit. (Previous field sites include Ghana, Brazil, Honduras and India.) Project team meetings focus on developing specific projects and include cultural, social, political, environmental and economic overviews of the countries and localities to be visited as well as an introduction to the local languages.
D-Lab: Design addresses problems faced by undeserved communities with a focus on design, experimentation, and prototyping processes. Particular attention is placed on constraints faced when designing for developing countries. Multidisciplinary teams work on semester-long projects in collaboration with community partners, field practitioners, and experts in relevant fields. Topics covered include design for affordability, design for manufacture, sustainability, and strategies for working effectively with community partners and customers. Students may continue projects begun in EC.701J D-Lab I: Development.
This course introduces concepts of supply chain design and operations with a focus on supply chains for products destined to improve quality of life in developing countries. Topics include demand estimation, capacity planning and process analysis, inventory management, and supply chain coordination and performance. We also cover issues specific to emerging markets, such as sustainable supply chains, how to couple product design with supply chain design and operation, and how to account for the value-adding role of a supply chain. A major aspect of class is the student projects on supply chain design or improvement.
This course focuses on disseminating Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) or water/environment innovations in developing countries and underserved communities worldwide. It emphasizes core WASH and water/environment principles, culture-specific solutions, tools for start-ups, appropriate and sustainable technologies, behavior change, social marketing, building partnerships, and the theory and practice of innovation diffusion.
Water supply is a problem of worldwide concern: more than 1 billion people do not have reliable access to clean drinking water. Water is a particular problem for the developing world, but scarcity also impacts industrial societies. Water purification and desalination technology can be used to convert brackish ground water or seawater into drinking water. The challenge is to do so sustainably, with minimum cost and energy consumption, and with appropriately accessible technologies. This subject will survey the state-of-the-art in water purification by desalination and filtration. Fundamental thermodynamic and transport processes which govern the creation of fresh water from seawater and brackish ground water will be developed. The technologies of existing desalination systems will be discussed, and factors which limit the performance or the affordability of these systems will be highlighted. Energy efficiency will be a focus. Nanofiltration and emerging technologies for desalination will be considered. A student project in desalination will involve designing a well-water purification system for a village in Haiti.
The Climate 101 presentation was developed by Brandon Leshchinskiy in collaboration with Professor Dava Newman, MIT Portugal, and EarthDNA in an effort to mobilize young people as educators on the issue of climate change. The presentation addresses not only the science but also the "economics and civics of climate change, incorporating "a negotiation activity that brings key concepts to life. This resource includes the slides and instructions for the presentation, along with an introductory video from Prof. Newman, a video of Leshchinskiy actually delivering the presentation to a classroom full of students, and extensive supporting materials that will help users to become climate ambassadors and deliver the Climate 101 presentation themselves.
Ecologies of Construction examines the resource requirements for the making and maintenance of the contemporary built environment. This course introduces the field of industrial ecology as a primary source of concepts and methods in the mapping of material and energy expenditures dedicated to construction activities.
Choice of material has implications throughout the life-cycle of a product, influencing many aspects of economic and environmental performance. This course will provide a survey of methods for evaluating those implications. Lectures will cover topics in material choice concepts, fundamentals of engineering economics, manufacturing economics modeling methods, and life-cycle environmental evaluation.
This course explores the complex interrelationships among humans and natural environments, focusing on non-western parts of the world in addition to Europe and the United States. It uses environmental conflict to draw attention to competing understandings and uses of "natureâ€ as well as the local, national and transnational power relationships in which environmental interactions are embedded. In addition to utilizing a range of theoretical perspectives, this subject draws upon a series of ethnographic case studies of environmental conflicts in various parts of the world.
This class explores the interrelationship between humans and natural environments. It does so by focusing on conflict over access to and use of the environment as well as ideas about "natureâ€ in various parts of the world.
This course focuses on the thermal, luminous, and acoustic behavior of buildings, examining the basic scientific principles underlying these phenomena and introducing students to technologies and analysis techniques for designing comfortable indoor environments. Students are challenged to apply these techniques and explore the role light, energy, and sound can play in shaping architecture.
Student teams formulate and complete space/earth/ocean exploration-based design projects with weekly milestones. This course introduces core engineering themes, principles, and modes of thinking, and includes exercises in written and oral communication and team building. Specialized learning modules enable teams to focus on the knowledge required to complete their projects, such as machine elements, electronics, design process, visualization and communication. Examples of projects include surveying a lake for millfoil from a remote controlled aircraft, then sending out robotic harvesters to clear the invasive growth; and exploration to search for the evidence of life on a moon of Jupiter, with scientists participating through teleoperation and supervisory control of robots.
This course covers fundamentals of thermodynamics, chemistry, and transport applied to energy systems. Topics include analysis of energy conversion and storage in thermal, mechanical, chemical, and electrochemical processes in power and transportation systems, with emphasis on efficiency, performance, and environmental impact. Applications include fuel reforming and alternative fuels, hydrogen, fuel cells and batteries, combustion, catalysis, combined and hybrid power cycles using fossil, nuclear and renewable resources.
This design-based subject provides a first course in energy and thermo-sciences with applications to sustainable energy-efficient architecture and building technology. No previous experience with subject matter is assumed. After taking this subject, students will understand introductory thermodynamics and heat transfer, know the leading order factors in building energy use, and have creatively employed their understanding of energy fundamentals and knowledge of building energy use in innovative building design projects. This year, the focus will be on design projects that will complement the new NSTAR/MIT campus efficiency program.
For the first time in history, the global demand for freshwater is overtaking its supply in many parts of the world. The U.N. predicts that by 2025, more than half of the countries in the world will be experiencing water stress or outright shortages. Lack of water can cause disease, food shortages, starvation, migrations, political conflict, and even lead to war. Models of cooperation, both historic and contemporary, show the way forward. The first half of the course details the multiple facets of the water crisis. Topics include water systems, water transfers, dams, pollution, climate change, scarcity, water conflict/cooperation, food security, and agriculture. The second half of the course describes innovative solutions: Adaptive technologies and adaptation through policy, planning, management, economic tools, and finally, human behaviors required to preserve this precious and imperiled resource. Several field trips to water/wastewater/biosolids reuse and water-energy sites will help us to better comprehend both local and international challenges and solutions.
The half-semester Graduate / Professional course in Green Supply Chain Management will focus on the fundamental strategies, tools and techniques required to analyze and design environmentally sustainable supply chain systems. Topics covered include: Closed-loop supply chains, reverse logistics systems, carbon footprinting, life-cycle analysis and supply chain sustainability strategy. Class sessions will combine presentations, case discussions and guest speakers. All students will work on a course-long team project that critically evaluates the environmental supply chain strategy of an industry or a publicly traded company. Grades will be based on class participation, case study assignments and the team project.
In this sophomore design course, you will be challenged with three design tasks: a first concerning water resources/treatment, a second concerning structural design, and a third focusing on the conceptual (re)design of a large system, Bostonâ€™s Back Bay. The first two tasks require the design, fabrication and testing of hardware. Several laboratory experiments will be carried out and lectures will be presented to introduce students to the conceptual and experimental basis for design in both domains. This course was based in large part on the Fall 2005 offering of 1.101, developed by Prof. Harold Hemond.