ESW-U Short Courses

Sustainable engineering as a discipline includes new design methods like life-cycle assessment or passive solar architecture, but an understanding of sustainability benefits from exposure to a wide set of topics, such as ecological economics and energy policy. Access to this material should be available to students and professionals regardless of location or local institutions. Since 2014, ESW has offered a series of digital short courses to provide new opportunities to learn and engage with new ideas. Designed to be 4-6 weeks long, digital, and as interactive as possible, they're big enough to have many viewpoints, but small enough for discussion and participant-driven topics. 
Like the idea but want to see a different topic? Have something you'd like to teach? Want to see one of these courses run within your school, organization, or company? We're always looking for new short course ideas and partners, and we're happy to put something specific together for your organization. Contact ESW-U Education Coordinator Andrew Beck at abeck (at) with ideas and questions!
Registration for our most current course can always be found right here!

Selections from the Course Catalog

  • Biomimicry (6 sessions)Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. In this short course, foundational concepts about biomimicry will be discussed including, but no limited to, "biomimicry design spiral", "Nature's Unifying Pattern", and "biological models".  Next term: Spring 2017.
  • Ecological Economics for Scientists and Engineers (6 sessions): In contrast to traditional economics, ecological econmics considers ecosystem services, measuring development without GDP, and new economic ideas at all levels. Both an overview of theory and case studies for change, this course provides a different way to think about the modern economy. 
  • Energy Efficient Building [Re]Design (5 sessions): We all spend lots of time in buildings, and they consume 40% of our energy. Looking at both new and existing buildings, high-tech and low-tech approaches, this course covers the basics of energy use, how we assess and model usage, and a variety of ways to improve designs and retrofit structures to improve efficiency.
  • Industrial Decarbonization (5 sessions): Industrial activities (manufacturing, chemicals, etc.) comprise more than 21% of global GHG emissions. This course – drawing on the work of the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project (DDPP) – dives into our current options for addressing this slice of the carbon pie, including the underutilized design principles of Industrial Symbiosis.  Next term: Fall 2017.
  • Wicked Problems in Sustainability (4 sessions): Wicked problems (technical term) are undefined, values-based, and path-dependent - think urban planning or water usage in the US west. This course looks at how to approach ill-formed problems and discusses engineering’s role in resolving multi-stakeholder issues.  Next term: Fall 2017.
  • Intro to Lifecycle Assessment (5 sessions): LCA is a critical tool for better product and process design. We focus on setting up LCA questions and interpreting results rather than using software, aiming to help students and professionals become 'LCA literate' and comfortable with a new way of thinking.