Building Cities: Infrastructure and Sustainability - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Building Cities: Infrastructure and Sustainability

Course Number 1485

Senior Lecturer John D. Macomber
Winter; Q4; 1.5 credits
14 Sessions

Jointly-listed at Harvard Design School

Career Focus

Students who are interested in business opportunities and societal issues relating to rapid urbanization, increasing resource scarcity, and apparent inability of federal governments to respond to these challenges are the target audience for this course. The class takes the point of view of managers and investors, although students following other job descriptions will also find the course to be valuable.

Educational Objectives

This course is designed for students who would like to understand issues and opportunities related to three very large challenges of our times: 1) rapid urbanization as hundreds of millions of people around the world move to cities; 2) existing global scarcity of basics like clean water, clean air, food and land plus excesses of traffic and waste, each of which gets exacerbated by rapid urbanization; and 3) the apparent inability of federal governments to invest in advance of these phenomena to anticipate the issues. Accordingly, business has a wide range of obligations- and opportunities - to intervene.

Cases are drawn from both emerging economies and developed economies, and from both new cities and existing cities ranging from New York and London to Ho Chi Minh City, Mumbai, Lagos, and Bogota. Real estate, project finance, infrastructure finance, and the delivery and operation of these elements of cities play prominent roles in each module.

This course does not go deeply into soft infrastructure elements including schools, hospitals, security, governance, or job creation. The premise is that a) hard infrastructure like water, power, transit, and ICT are necessary predecessors to the provision of soft infrastructure and b) small firms, multinationals, and investors have more and better defined investment opportunities in the hard infrastructure realm.

Course Content and Organization

The course uses the lenses of urban design, infrastructure finance, and the microeconomics of competitiveness. Models and frameworks are developed for contributing to positive urbanization, notably through the hard assets of property, water, power, transit, and telecommunications. These factors play a major role in determining the economic competitiveness, the environmental impact, and the human opportunities in cities. They also are the components of cities most appropriate for private investment and entrepreneurship.

There are three modules to the course:

  • The Lifeblood of Cities: Transit, Water, Power, and ICT
    • Infrastructure finance
    • Public-Private Partnerships
    • PE in Infrastructure
  • Global Challenges and Opportunities
    • Smart Cities and Eco Cities
    • Sea level rise; resilience and adaptation; weather derivatives
    • Revitalizing American cities
  • New Cities: Design and Delivery
    • Urban design
    • The Microeconomics of Competiveness
    • Purpose, master plans, phasing

Course Administration

Final exam. Cross-registrants are welcome, with advance permission. HBS Finance 1 or Real Property, or equivalent, are required of cross registrants.

Complementary Offerings

Real Estate in Frontier Markets
Innovation in Business, Energy, and Environment
Real Property
Real Estate Development Design, and Construction