Winter 2024 Course Review: CEE 265


Course Title: Sustainable Engineering Principles

Trivia: this course shows up on my transcript as "Sus Engr Prin"

Rating: 3/5

Instructor (Seth Guikema)

As friendly an instructor as you get. Always stops every so often for questions. He once complimented my "This Machine Kills Homophobes" laptop sticker.

Course topics

  • Materials (mass balance)
  • Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
  • Air pollution
    • Airshed (mass balance)
    • Gaussian plume model
  • Risk
  • Water pollution (mass balance)
  • Energy
    • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Economics
    • Discounting

Math prerequisites

I expected this course to be chemistry-heavy, like balancing equations and equilibria and stuff, but instead it was mostly math. The chemistry was useful only for getting the molecular weight of gases and doing pV = nRT.

Math models

  • Exponential
  • Geometric series
  • Logistic growth
  • Gaussian

There was even a little bit of differential equations (the easy kind). However, the formulas were always in the slides. All we needed to know is how to use a calculator.

On the final exam there was a question about I thought required some integration, but it seemed ambiguous whether or not I need to do a division. I stepped out of the classroom to ask the GSI, but she pointed to the slides, which I apparently forgot existed because I missed that lecture (I was rehearsing a presentation for EECS 373). The formula for the very answer was there. Welp.


Out of the various models, the math was exceedingly linear. The most important concept is mass balance: the mass in an isolated system is conserved. If one gram of methane leaks out of the pipe, then there is one more gram of methane in the room. If you dump one ton of paint into a lake, then there will be one ton of paint in the lake.

On most occasions, we solved steady state conditions, which means one single equation where one side is zero. It was intuitive, just like the KCL (Kirchhoff's Current Law), but instead of electrons it was matter.

Another type of linear calculation is adding up things and multiplying things. Like, if a ton of steel requires one megajoule (fictional), and you need 1,000 tons, then you need 1,000 megajoules.

Even so, I've seen several students struggle with this kind of math. Like. How do you even fail at this. As long as the units match you're probably correct.

Unit conversion

The biggest challenge of this course was not math. It was unit conversion. Americans are notorious for their units like ft, ft², ft³, gal, mile, and mpg. But all the science-y numbers are in metric (phew).


Eight assignments in total. Not hard, just long. Standards were low. GSI didn't care how you typeset it. I've done LaTeX, LibreOffice Writer, and by hand, and as long as you get the answer and the key steps, you get the points.

There were no projects or presentations.


Not a challenge. Didn't end up saving the world or anything, but at least I learned how civil engineers gauge their environmental impact. Chill course.