Course Syllabus

Introduction to Urban Environmental Analysis


Introduction to Environmental Analysis

Fall 2019

Friday, 9:00 – 11:00 am

Urban Planning Lab – Fayerweather Hall Rm 202

Peter J. Marcotullio

Adjunct Professor



The urban environmental analytics course will focus on urban energy.  There are substantive and analytic goals to the class.  The substantive goals are to introduce students to: 1) Key physical and infrastructural features of contemporary energy systems; 2) The economic, social, environmental, and policy issues raised by current energy usage; and 3) Energy assessments and scenario development.  The analytic goals of the course are to: 1) Generate energy assessments and scenarios at the urban scale.

Expected outcomes

By the end of the semester, you will have knowledge of the distribution of primary energy resources, the different conversions these sources undergo to end use and the social implications of our energy use trends, the environmental impacts of energy use and the challenges to making the system sustainable.  Analytically, students will be able to:

  • Input data into the LEAP software to generate a Sankey diagrams, cost-benefit analysis, least-cost analysis and generate future scenarios for energy and GHG emissions.  

Student evaluation

Evaluations are based upon:

  • Class attendance and participation. Participation in class discussion is vital. As mentioned, a significant portion of class time is devoted to discussion of readings and class lectures;
  • The completion of in-class assignments. Each student will be required complete 4-6 training exercises that will introduce them to analysis software (Excel, LEAP, other). These assignments will be started during class time every other week.  Student will need to run analyses and produce output as per given input data. 
  • Students will prepare an original scenario based upon data they collect during the semester. They will provide analysis and report the output in a final paper.  The paper should be approximately 2-3,000 words including bibliography, tables and figures. 
  • Finally, on the last day of class, students will present their research to the rest of the class.


Percent of

Class activity                                                                          final grade                               Due date

Class participation                                                                         20%                             Throughout

Assignment 1 – In-class assignments                                  60%                             Throughout

Assignment 2 – Paper related to seminar session       20%                              11 December

Required texts

  • D. Danny Harvey (2010) Energy Efficiency and the Demand for Energy Services London & Washington, DC: Earthscan Press
  • LEAP Long-range Energy Alternative Planning System Training Exercises, Stockholm Environment Institute, 2016 (in pdf on Courseworks).
  • LEAP Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Screening Exercise, For LEAP and EXCEL


Office hours and classroom policies

I am available for discussion most Thursdays.   I do not, however, have an office here on campus, so we will meet in common spaces at Columbia.  Note that while I respond to email as promptly as possible, if you send me an email late on Friday I may not respond until Monday.  

During class time, please turn off your phones and do not bring/use earphones.

Academic integrity

Columbia University regards acts of academic dishonesty (e.g., plagiarism, cheating on examinations, obtaining unfair advantage, and falsification of records and official documents) as serious offenses against the values of intellectual honesty. The University is committed to enforcing its Policy on Academic Integrity and will pursue cases of academic dishonesty according to the Academic Integrity Procedures.  Plagiarism, dishonesty, or cheating in any portion of the work required for this course will be punished to the full extent allowed according to Columbia University College regulations.

Essential class policies

There are no incompletes given for the course with the exception of a proven medical emergency. No late exams are accepted.  You will receive a grade of “0” on any exam not taken if you do not have a documented medical excuse for missing the exam. I take attendance as I believe that class participation is an important part of your grades.  If you email me during the week, you can expect a return email within 36 hours. I may not answer during the weekends.  Please do not bring iPods or earphones to class and do not use your cell phones or laptop computers except to take notes.   Please do not bring food to class. 

Course Schedule (tentative)

The course will follow the textbook as outlined by the chapter plan below.  Each chapter in the main text (Energy Efficiency and the Demand for Energy Services) will be covered within approximately one week by two lectures (with some exceptions).    


Week of                                   Lecture focus and readings

6 September                            Welcome

13 September                         Chapter 1 Prospective climatic change

                                                          Exercise 1: Introduction to LEAP (Training Exercises)

20 September                         Chapter 2 Energy basics, usage patterns and trends

                                                          Exercise 2: Demand (Training Exercises)

27 September                         Chapter 3 Generation of electricity from fossil fuels

                                                          Exercise 3: Transformation (Training Exercises)

4 October                                Chapter 4 Energy use in buildings

                                                         Exercise 4: Cost-Benefit Analysis (Training Exercises)          

11 October                              Chapter 5 Transportation energy use

                                                         Exercise 5: Transportation Study (Training Exercises)

18 October                              Chapter 6 Industrial energy use

                                                         Exercise 6: Least-cost electric generation (Training Exercises)

25 October                              Chapter 7 Agricultural and food systems energy use

                                                         Exercise 1: Mitigation Screening Exercise (GHG mitigation)

1 November                            Chapter 8 Municipal services

                                                         Exercise 2: Creating a Mitigation Scenario in LEAP (GHG mitigation)

8 November                            Chapter 9 Community-Integrated energy systems

                                                         Exercise 3: The Costs and Benefits of the mitigation scenario   (GHG mitigation)

15 November                          Chapter 10 Energy demand scenarios

22 November                          Chapter 11 Policies to reduce the demand for energy

29 November                          Thanksgiving

6 December                             Paper presentations   


Course Summary:

Date Details