Climate Change, Real Estate, and Public Policy [Module 1]

Climate change is increasingly affecting people and cities worldwide. The impacts of sea level rise, storms, heat waves, droughts, and wildfires are growing. Yet, while progress is being made, the world still remains on track to exceed global greenhouse gas emissions limits that could mitigate the damage. Today, buildings account for more than a third of total global greenhouse gas emissions. And in urban areas, where the majority of people live, buildings can account for as much as two-thirds of a city's greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, equitably tackling the climate crisis and adapting to climate change requires focusing on the policies and practices that will urgently improve public and private approaches to real estate and urban development.

In this interdisciplinary course, students will analyze development projects, portfolios, and policies in the United States and internationally, to develop and present their own recommendations for how the organizations they studied could have more effectively integrated climate change considerations into their work. Through assignments, lectures, discussions, and guest speakers, adaptation approaches such as building retrofits, strategic relocation, revised land use regulations and building codes, grey and green infrastructure, and regional climate governance are explored. Mitigation approaches such as building-scale emissions limits, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and building electrification will also be examined.

Additionally, students will participate in a facilitated multi-party negotiation simulation focused on understanding the competing interests, perspectives, and challenges of urban development in a changing climate. And students will have opportunities to hear directly from leaders in public housing, healthcare, affordable housing, and universities who work at the intersection of climate change, equity, and buildings. Lastly, after class each week, students are welcome to attend an optional brown bag lunch on campus to continue class conversations, discuss climate-focused careers, and network with guest speakers and other guests.  

This course will equip students with an overview of key themes and career pathways at the intersection of urban development, public policy, and community needs shaped by the climate crisis.