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Urban development will continue globally while the requirements for reducing its ecological footprint and carbon emissions in particular will be increasingly more aggressive. The Sustainable Critical Infrastructure (SCI) Program at Masdar Institute aims at advancing research and education in integrated sustainable infrastructure development. The program is addressed to architects, urban planners and civil engineers, as well as engineers, building scientists interested in infrastructure planning.    

The need for urban critical infrastructure development and maintenance will remain acute, as urbanization will be a continuing process well into the middle of the century to accommodate the growing global population and migration waves. Infrastructures can be defined as “network[s] of independent man-made systems and processes that function collaboratively and synergistically to produce and distribute a continuous flow of essential goods and services.”  

Typical critical infrastructure systems include:

  • transportation networks,
  • logistics systems (including waste processing and reverse logistics),
  • buildings and urban components
  • energy generation and distribution systems
  • water supply and wastewater treatments systems, 
  • information and communication technology (ICT) systems etc.

The efficiency and reliability of urban critical infrastructure affect many aspects of society that include the cost of food and consumer goods, health and safety of citizens, availability and reliability of power systems, reliability and speed of telecommunications, travel times. Critical infrastructures also affect the environment and natural resources.

The mission of the Sustainable Critical Infrastructure Program is to develop and deliver world-class education and research in areas associated with critical infrastructure development under a sustainability paradigm and its application into urban operations planning.

The vision of the Sustainable Critical Infrastructure Program is to be a leader and a globally-recognized graduate program in integrated sustainable infrastructure planning and development, with an initial focus on urban operations planning and transportation systems.

Program Goals
The MSc in Sustainable Critical Infrastructure has an overarching goal to educate its graduates professionally and ethically to be valuable professionals in the UAE and internationally with disciplinary preparation that imparts the following:

  • Ability to design integrated urban infrastructure systems for new or existing developments with careful examination of environmental, social and financial requirements.
  • Ability to apply planning, design and operations tools using multi-disciplinary inputs in order to effectively generate and assess solutions to urban infrastructure problems.
  • Understand the complex interactions between proposed infrastructure systems solutions and their impact on urban systems and their long-term sustainability.
  • Understand the value of technical and scientific scholarship, service to society, leadership and life-long learning required to further their career aspirations in support of the needs of the community.

Program Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of the program, graduates are expected to attain the following outcomes:

  • Successfully apply advanced concepts of planning, design, and engineering to identify, formulate and solve complex infrastructure planning problems, particularly as they pertain to sustainable urban infrastructure planning.
  • Successfully apply advanced skills of infrastructure projects management, using decision-making criteria, to meet societal needs with a long-term sustainability objective.
  • Develop a critical understanding of the theories applied in contemporary urbanism and identify design strategies based on an understanding of the complexity of urban infrastructure. 
  • Employ advanced techniques, skills, and modern scientific, engineering, and visual communication software tools for professionals in urban and infrastructure development.
  • Use an advanced approach to design and conduct qualitative and quantitative research, and to analyze and interpret data.
  • Demonstrate and present ideas and solutions effectively in written and oral form, both, individually and as a member of a multidisciplinary team, and thus to put forward the scientific findings at national and international levels successfully.

Objectives & Curriculum

The Sustainable Critical Infrastructure Program is based on a basic theory of infrastructure systems and self-contained application tracks. The track areas of focus initially offered will be: i) urban planning and design and ii) transport planning and systems. Together, these areas of study aim to “search” the transformation and performance of cities and “explore” context sensitive urbanization models, infrastructure innovations, and creative design and policy solutions involving elements such as transportation systems, urban design, ideal housing forms, technological solutions, and cultural integrity. This degree employs student’s ability in integrating engineering systems, design solutions, and behavioral and cultural relationships within a city context.  

Given the climatic and environmental challenges, aggressive targets have been or will be set for reduction of urban ecological footprint. Such targets are reaching close to zero direct carbon emissions for cities of the developed world by 2050. To achieve such drastic reductions concerted efforts on system integration, technology development, and planning are needed both for new developments and for retrofitting existing built environments that are faced with aging infrastructure. In addition, developing world countries face pressing problems of requirements for rapid infrastructure expansion with limited financial resources.
In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and UAE in particular, urban development is poised to continue its growth trend for the coming decades as evidenced by plans like the Abu Dhabi 2030 economic vision. Urban development in the GCC regions needs to address the harsh desert conditions and provide a comfortable living urban environment while significantly reducing unsustainable practices. The development of applied urban system integration planning tools to support these aggressive goals under regional characteristics and constraints will be an increasingly active area of research.

The Sustainable Critical Infrastructure Program is based on a core developing a basic theory of urban infrastructure systems and two self-contained tracks. The track areas of concentration are: (i) Sustainable Urban Planning and Design; and (ii) Transport Planning and Systems.
The Sustainable Urban Planning and Design track combines the advanced studies necessary to effectively address planning issues, while also providing students with an opportunity to supplement their planning degree with additional expertise in urban infrastructure and physical planning and the design of urban areas. The Transport Planning and Systems track is designed to provide students with an understanding of theories, methods and techniques for integrated land use, transportation and infrastructure planning and policy-making.
The program consists of eight courses with one required university core course (UCC501), three infrastructure planning and engineering core courses (SCI501, SCI502, and SCI503), and four electives from within the program two concentration areas; one of these four electives can be from other programs within the Masdar Institute.

Program Core courses

  • SCI 501 Transportation Systems Analysis: Demand and Economics
  • SCI 502 Urban Design for Sustainability: Theory and Practice
  • SCI 503 Management of Infrastructure Systems


SCI 501  Transportation Systems Analysis: Demand and Economics – 3 credits
This course offers an overview of the fundamental principles of transportation systems analysis and modeling, emphasizing the theory and applications of the demand and economics of these systems. It will cover topics such as pricing, regulation, and the evaluation of transportation services. We will draw upon examples from the public transit, road, freight, maritime, and airline industries. 
Prerequisites: Undergraduate course in statistics and microeconomics

SCI 502  Urban Design for Sustainability: Theory and Practice – 3 credits    
This course is a graduate seminar focusing on the body of knowledge and history that informs historical and modern theories in urban design. The course materials will address the major urban design debates, positions, theories, paradigmatic shifts, and unanswered questions. One important agenda will be stressing a series of major debates and models of urban form, its significance and impacts, and proposals to establish healthy and sustainable new communities. The course is ultimately structured to assess and synthesize the classical and contemporary urban design theories related to the intersection of urban form and sustainability.
Prerequisites: Instructor permission

SCI 503  Management of Infrastructure Systems – 3 credits
Infrastructure systems, such as transportation systems (air, ground, and rail), telecommunication systems (such as the Internet), and electric power systems, have become a crucial component of modern society. This course will investigate the application of fundamental techniques from control theory and optimization that help develop and manage these systems. Although each of these systems has unique features and peculiarities that need to be understood and modeled, we will see how the tools have general applicability. The course will also study concepts such as system stability, resilience, robustness to uncertainty, resource allocation, equitable treatment of multiple stakeholder objectives, and arguments for centralization and decentralization of components that arise in these different systems.
Prerequisites: Undergraduate course in statistics, SCI501 Transportation Systems Analysis: Demand and Economics

SCI 504  Infrastructure Finance – 3 credits
This course focuses on the application of financial theory and risk analysis to the financing of infrastructures projects. It discusses various sources of financing for infrastructure development. It also evaluates the cost and risk, both from the investors and the project perspective. A number of issues such as public and private financing, limited and full recourse financing, valuation of projects from the perspective of investors, and refinancing are discussed. This course takes a global perspective by analysis financing of international infrastructure projects, with focus on sovereign and exchange rate risk.
Prerequisites: An undergraduate course in microeconomics, SCI501 Transportation System Analysis: Demand and Economics

SCI 505  Urban Planning Theory, Practice, and Ethics – 3 credits
Planning is an ill-defined field. Feinstein and Campbell give four reasons for the difficulty in defining the field, and thus, planning theory: the apparent overlap between the concerns of planning and those of many other social science disciplines; the fuzzy boundaries between planning and other related professions; disagreement as to whether the field should be defined by its object or by its method; and, finally, the fact that planning borrows methodologies from other fields. Given these characteristics of the field, this course is structured to discuss planning theory and its evolution and influence on practice. This course provides you in-depth understanding of the intellectual history, paradigmatic structure, and contemporary debates in the field of planning theory. 
Prerequisites: SCI502 Urban Design for Sustainability: Theory and Practice

SCI 506  Geographic Information Systems – 3 credits
This course teaches Geographic Information System (GIS) techniques and basic database management. Students will concentrate on more open-ended planning questions that invite spatial analysis but will require judgment and exploration to select relevant data and mapping techniques; involve mixing and matching new, local data with extracts from official records (such as census data, parcel data and regional employment and population forecasts); utilize spatial analysis techniques such as buffering, address matching, overlays; use other modeling and visualization techniques beyond thematic mapping; and raise questions about the skills, strategy, and organizational support needed to sustain such analytic capability within a variety of local and regional planning settings.
Prerequisites: An undergraduate course in statistics

SCI 507  Infrastructure and Development – 3 credits
What is the relationship between infrastructure and economic growth and development? How does energy security affect geopolitical relations among nations as well as socioeconomic relations within nations? This seminar will cover some of these timely and complex questions linking infrastructure, energy, and their technologies.  We will examine efforts in economically developing and developed nations to build, finance, and regulate infrastructure systems, technologies, and services, particularly those affecting energy security. We will explore how infrastructure is defined, financed, and delivered; how infrastructure, technologies, and innovations are intertwined; how infrastructure supports the energy system and its technologies; and how different countries face the challenges of energy security. Students will think about how the current worldwide economic and energy crises can be an opportunity for making fundamental changes to improve collapsing infrastructure networks and technologies and to attain energy sustainability.
Prerequisites: UCC501 Transportation Systems Analysis, and SCI502 Infrastructure Finance

SCI 508  Urban Planning and Design Studio – 3 credits
This is a challenging urban design and planning studio expecting an advanced level of work, and full participation in all activities of the studio: seminars, discussions, field visits, research, group projects, and individual work. Full participation and strong urban visual communication skills are expected in developing a supportive and attractive urban environment. This lab is an advanced level studio envisioned as a synthesis of knowledge gained in the supportive courses.
Prerequisites: SCI502 Urban Design for Sustainability, SCI505 Planning Theory, Practice, and Ethics, and instructor permission  

SCI 509  Comparative Land Use and Transportation Planning – 3 credits
This course focuses on the land use-transportation "interaction space" in metropolitan settings. The course aims to develop an understanding of relevant theories and analytical techniques, through the exploration of various cases drawn from different parts of the world.
Prerequisites: SCI501 Transportation Systems Analysis and SCI502 Urban Design for Sustainability

SCI 510  Public Transportation Systems – 3 credits
This course will focus on evolution and role of urban public transportation modes, systems, and services, focusing on bus and rail. It includes a description of technological characteristics and their impacts on capacity, service quality, and cost. Current practice and new methods for data collection and analysis, performance monitoring, route design, frequency determination, and vehicle and crew scheduling will be studied. The effect of pricing policy and service quality on ridership will be examined. Students will learn methods for estimating costs associated with proposed service changes as well as organizational models for delivering public transportation service including finance and operations. Discussions will focus on select transit management topics including labor relations, fare policy/technology, marketing and operations management.
Prerequisites: SCI501 Transportation System Analysis