CIVL 250 (3 cr): Engineering and Sustainable Development

The in-person final examination for the course will take place in the December Examination period.

Course Description

It is well recognized that engineering has a crucial role to play in addressing sustainability issues. CIVL 250 introduces you to foundational concepts and strategies aimed at confronting and managing the sustainability problems currently discussed in the media, by politicians, in the private sector, and around the dinner table.

NOTE: This technology and society course is open to all UBC students. Students from all faculties are welcome to take it. If you are an engineering student, completing this course will give you the full technology and society requirement set out by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board.

Course Overview

In the 1990’s we didn’t know much about engineering-for-sustainability. There were no case studies (they were being lived, not reported!), the theory was in early stages, there were no books on the subject, and there was only one engineering course in all of Canada on the subject (you guessed it, CIVL 250 at UBC – started in 1994 by Professor Atwater). Fast forward to today and wow! It’s an area of engineering in demand by employers and for which there are a growing number of graduate degrees. Whether you are keen to practice engineering at the Canadian Space Agency or you want to become a consultant in the “resilient urban infrastructure” sector, this course will introduce you to some basic ideas and practices that will enable you to achieve your career goals.

Course Objectives

CIVL 250 aims to:

  • bring you up-to-speed with the basic definitions and drivers.
  • engage you in meaningful professional development activities.
  • introduce you to the basics of Systems Theory.
  • familiarize you with the so-called “urban metabolism”.
  • help you develop foundational knowledge about what it means to have a sustainable supply chain.
  • introduce you to the concept of humanitarian engineering.
  • get you to think twice about systems by introducing Resiliency theory and Causal loop diagrammes.
  • present concrete information about adaptive leadership and argumentation.
  • give you opportunities to practice these critical professional development skills.

The overarching aim of CIVL 250 is to offer you a solid grounding in what it means to practice engineering-for-sustainability.

Course Structure

Module 1. Introduction to Sustainable Development
Module 2. Professional Development (Released upon successful completion of the Module 1 Quiz)
Module 3. Introduction to Systems
Module 4. Engineering for Sustainable Cities
Module 5. Engineering for Sustainable Supply Chains
Module 6. Humanitarian Engineering
Module 7. Revisiting Systems
Module 8. Revisiting Professional Development – Leadership for Sustainability


  • Online Small Group Discussions
  • 8 Assignments
  • Self-regulated Learning Project and Journal
  • 1 Mid-term Exam
  • Final Exam

Reading Materials

No textbook for this course. All course reading materials will be available on Canvas.

For more information, contact Dr. Susan Nesbit at