Course content

Students: Course content Smart Sustainable Cities

The heart of this course consists of real life, multidisciplinary projects, commissioned by municipalities (Finland -Turku, Spain – Alcoy and the Netherlands – Utrecht). Six course modules give you the information needed to learn how to realize sustainable cities and techniques that are essential for this type of project work.

You will learn about

1. What are sustainable cities and how can we understand them (Introductory Module)
2. How to find creative solutions to realize sustainable cities (Methodology Module)
3. What is the social design of a Sustainable City and how can we help develop an optimal social city climate. (Social Design Module)
4. How to realize the physical transition towards a sustainable city – and which knowledge is needed for that (Physical Transition Module)
5. What entrepreneurial and innovation skills are needed to make a city function in a sustainable way (Entrepreneurship Module)
6. How to combine all this information to improve the city of your choice by doing field research in that city: find solutions for the real problems (Project Module)


The course modules:

This course is a Minor program (30 ECTS) about realizing sustainable cities.

Smart Sustainable Cities Introductory (2,5 ECTS Module 1)  Martijn Rietbergen HU  & Tessa Taefi HAW
Achieving a ‘smart’ or ‘sustainable’ city is a goal perused by various disciplines, such as urban planning, economy, social sciences and engineering. In order to enable students to cooperate interdisciplinary, this course will create a common understanding of the definitions, state of the art, needs, challenges and disciplines interlinked in smart and sustainable cities.

Methodology (2,5 ECTS Module 2) Jens Gijbels HU & Tarmo Karhu TUAS
In the context of sustainable cities, we see more and more complex challenges. With a large number of stakeholders and influencers, it can be very difficult to solve the issues addressed. In order to come up with innovative solutions for these complex challenges we need a more creative and fundamental approach. This course will focus on knowing and applying the design process, including: reframing the initial question (challenge the task given), using generative techniques to come up with a variety of ideas (come up with new, fresh, and different ideas), and using co-design techniques to involve the user early in the design process (learn from their experiences, help validate your concepts).

Social Design (5 ECTS Module 3:) Rien van Stigt HU & Claire Pattison MMU
This course is about the social building blocks of sustainable cities: what is needed to make sustainable communities prosper and how can people be involved in new sustainable initiatives? Not only on the city scale, but also from a global perspective.

Physical Transition (5 ECTS Module 4:) Liza Looijen HU & Javier Orozco UPV
This course integrates all the city stocks and flows related to the making, management and renovation of smart sustainable cities into a simulation model for evaluating the overall sustainable performance of the future smart city which will provide the basic criteria for the decision making processes.

Entrepreneurship (5 ECTS Module 5:) Arie van Scheepen HU & David Heffer MMU
Achieving a ‘smart’ or ‘sustainable’ city demands innovative contributions from the public and private sectors and the social economy. This module is about new forms of entrepreneurship and innovation to contribute to realizing a Smart Sustainable City. The overall aim is to improve the level of skills in students for employability and new business creation in a sustainability context. At the end there will be a five day intensive “boot camp” and start-up competition.

The project (10 ECTS Module 6:) Ellen van Keeken HU & Henna Knuutila TUAS
The needs and the competencies needed in the working life are in a continuous change. In addition to substance, customer-based thinking, creativity, co-operation skills and tolerating dissimilarity and uncertainty is needed. Also networking, innovation and business skills will be emphasized in the future. During this course the students will be competing in multidisciplinary and multicultural groups in the International Smart Sustainable City (SSC) Competition. Municipalities will provide the real life assignments related on SSC. The project includes 3 weeks of fieldwork in the city of your choice.

The final week will be the Competition on Smart Sustainable Cities in the Netherlands.



The project assignments


Ajuntament-dAlcoiAlcoi, Alicante –  Spain:

Alcoi is a city and municipality with 70.000 residents in the autonomous region of Valencia, in the province of Alicante. The Serpis river crosses the municipal boundary of Alcoi. Alcoi has an important industry related to textile, paper, food and metal. Furthermore, it has many factories that manufacture matches. Alcoi is the financial, commercial and cultural center in the surrounding area. The city of Alcoi is nestled between two natural parks, and its inhabitants have always had a very close contact with those beautiful places. For future city development and economic growth, the rural activities and sustainable tourism are seen as a huge opportunity. In Alcoi the city council is realizing a General Plan of effective Urban Arrangements in respect to sustainable city environment.


Alcoi-1: To get the city of Alcoi more Smart, the introduction and implementation of e-payment in a small and medium business by smartphone. We ask students to analyze, propose and experiment platforms and systems to facilitate payment by smartphone. For that it is needed to choose the most appropriate payment platform. To build a database of retail partners and the creation of an electronic payment day.

Alcoi-2: We need to expand and grow the use of electric and non-polluting vehicles.  To improve mobility in the city while reducing the use of vehicles and CO2 emissions, it is needed to detect the movements and trends of electric and non-polluting vehicles in the city and its environment. We like you to develop a city plan in which the routes of electric vehicles, electric scooters and bicycles are detected, with the help of volunteer users, and the implementation of sensors in vehicles

Alcoi-3:  Alcoi wants to facilitate and make easy, the connection and access to computer data on protected natural areas. For that it is necessary to search technologically innovative ways to provide access to the web as well as a network of healthy ICT users. You are expected to design a wireless network to know the movements of citizens in the various natural areas and inform them, through geo- location, about relevant themes, such as cultural, sports or health interest. The data collected will be linked, sharing information gathered with the databases of public health department of the City of Alcoi.



Utrecht, The Netherlands:

The City of Utrecht is the fourth city in size of the Netherlands (approximately 330.000 inhabitants) and forms part of the larger metropolitan Randstad area in the Netherlands. As Utrecht is a city with approximately 70.000 students, strategic partnerships with educational organizations have formed over the years. Utrecht aims to be a carbon neutral city in 2040. For this different studies in sustainable planning and energy renovation have been executed. But more needs to be done.



Utrecht – 1: The city of Utrecht main focus is on household waste collection and increasing the recycling rate for different household fractions (bio-waste, glass, paper, plastics and large sized waste). A next step would be to move to a circular economy in which refurbishment/ remanufacturing, re-use and maintenance of the materials should be a main focus. A strategy for the circular economy has been developed. What possibilities has the area to offer for a circular economy and how can we bring the parties together? Investigate chances for a circular economy from one of the local ‘waste separating stations’ within the near surroundings, which happens to be an area designated (i.a.) for creative industries.

Utrecht – 2: The ambition of Utrecht is be climate neutral in 2030. Most households are heated by gas boilers. Several districts of the city are connected to district heating. Investments in energy distribution network (gas and district heating) are done for 30-50 years and are rolled out as we speak. The municipality has only limited influence in the investments in the energy distribution network. Create an energy strategy for a neighborhood to investigate the possibilities on anticipating the energy transition which is needed (neighborhood can be selected later, depending on the current needs in 2016) including which parties should be brought together

Utrecht – 3: At the moment only 1% of the CO2 emission reduction is through renewable energy production (mostly solar panels and heat cold acquifers), but the amount of solar energy is growing in the city. If the renewable energy production in neighbourhoods is relatively high, problems may occur in the local energy network (congestion and inbalance of the voltage). A more flexible energy system could avoid large investments in the local energy network. Demand side management and increased energy storage in the neighbourhood could provide solutions for a more flexible energy system. Find out which solutions for increasing the flexibility of the local energy network in a specific neighborhood are possible?

Utrecht – 4: The ambition of utrecht is to climate neutral in 2030. As Utrecht doesn’t have large industries, the focus is on improving the energy efficiency in the built environment. Upscaling and speeding up deep energy renovation in housing is the biggest challenge. To stimulate market uptake Utrecht collaborates in a regional ambition to retrofit 50.0000 existing buildings for net-zero energy housing by the year 2020. Today 200 subsidized housing units have been retrofitted to significantly improve energy performance. Design a plan to transform an existing neighbourhood (can be selected later, depending on the current needs in 2016) into a zero energy net residential area within 15 years from now.

Valonia TUrku


Turku, Finland:


City of Turku is situated in the southwest coast of Finland. It has 180 000 inhabitants and is the leading city of the region. The city of Turku has made a great effort on sustainable city planning and sustainability in different city processes and decision making processes. The City of Turku is committed to be a carbon neutral city in 2040. One major step is a new city district Skanssi, which will be a sustainable and energy efficient. Skanssi is going to be good platform of different solutions for sustainable practices. The first and second assignment handle about Skanssi area. The third assignment is about the gardening district of Turku.

Turku – 1: The new city district Skanssi could have a car or bike sharing system. Turku needs solutions to fulfill this need. Create plans for vehicle sharing. What different possibilities is to build a car or bike sharing system in the area?

Turku – 2: There could be different communal spaces, for example in the school building that is going to be built. Turku needs solutions to fulfill this need. Create plans for communal spaces. (How and where could be the communal spaces? How they can be available for the citizens in the Skanssi district? How the communal spaces could help SMEs or remote workers? How the local school building or other buildings in the area should be designed to serve the idea of communal spaces

Turku – 3: Turku has an old “gardening” district, where people have their small gardens with small summer cottages. This district needs a new plan. City gardens and cultivation needs innovative approaches. Create plans for green city, concerning old districts and new Skanssi district. By presenting a concrete model that takes in to account timetable and costs (f.ex. report, visualization and presentation).


Team work and – formation during the program

In each module students will work in different teams. However, the teams for the project will be formed already at the end of the introductory course (end of 2nd week). The composition of the project team, will be based on students preference next to background, nationality, academic and professional strengths, students’ constraints.


Modern approach & learning style

A digital learning environment, containing learning material developed together within 6 universities of Applied Sciences over Europe in the Essence project, offers all the content necessary to study this program. Next to that you can consult international experts on subjects and work together with students from UK, Germany, Finland, Spain and The Netherlands. The ideal mix to learn is Blended: a combination from face-to-face education with online-learning. During the course a coach will guide you through the program.


Learning Schedule

For students from abroad the Netherlands, the international office of the HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht offers a student introduction program on the HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht and on the city of Utrecht. This program will start in week 35.


essence course learning schedule

In the last week will take place a student- competition, between the teams presenting their work on the projects in Alcoi, Turku and Utrecht.

Download document: COURSE OUTLINE
This document shows all the information about competences, ECTS, content and learning objectives.

Course on Smart Sustainable Cities_Version 2