The Real Estate Master’s Degree That Prepares CEOs For A Sustainable, Urban Future
City leaders, developers and planners around the world are facing some tough challenges in 2022. How can cities address climate change? How can real estate address inequality and social deprivation? And how can global leaders tackle the population growth that is increasingly causing infrastructures to creak under the pressure?
These questions are being tackled by the IE School of Architecture and Design’s Global Master’s Degree in Real Estate Development.
“We’re working to define what sustainability really is,” said Margarita Chiclana Actis, program director of the Global Master’s Degree in Real Estate Development at IE School of Architecture and Design. “We’re finding the real estate leaders of the future. They’re going to have to develop cities for climate change, sustainability and society, integrating difference uses, types of rent, flexibility, communities and so on. By bringing together different ideas about people living together, we can solve problems for a city.”
A Global Perspective
The master’s course is aimed at those already immersed in the global real estate industry. Generally, students have at least eight years of professional experience, which means the classes bring together the views of people with a wide range of experiences and backgrounds, Chiclana Actis said. Students currently enrolled in the class come from countries that include Fiji, the Philippines, Dubai, the U.S., Spain, Latin America and Lebanon.
In 2020, IE School of Architecture and Design became the first university to partner with the global C40 network’s global competition Reinventing Cities, which aims to find “innovative, zero carbon and resilient urban projects,” backed by city leaders including Michael Bloomberg. This partnership gives students the opportunity to work at the competition’s winning projects around the world, such as in Montreal, Reykjavik, Singapore, Milan, Houston or Madrid, where directors from IE School were involved.
The global reach of the course is one of the key draws for students, said Gonzalo Aldea, a current student from Bogotá, Colombia, who manages a high-end residential and commercial development firm. While students spend two weeks at the beginning and end of the 15-month program on campus in Madrid, a week in the middle is spent in Mexico and the rest is delivered virtually through video conferences and forums. This allows students to participate from around the world.
“In developing countries, such as the one I work in, it is common that we are 10 or 20 years behind the trends of real estate markets that usually appear first in the U.S. and Europe,” Aldea said. “This master's lets me see what the future of real estate looks like, and have a head start in the market I work in.”
A second key appeal of the program is how it addresses sustainability by working it into all elements of real estate, from planning and design to finance. Reinventing Cities looks to transform underutilized sites through sustainable and community-focused projects, which involves many CRE project stakeholders and perspectives. This holistic approach is what brought student Barak Alberro, an experienced architect from Spain who lives in New York, to the course.
“This master is an accelerated journey into investors’ and developers' minds and their way of thinking and seeing projects,” he said. “It is the perfect balance between architecture, urban planning and sustainability within legal and financial frameworks.”
Student Roberto Huerta, an architect working for JLL in Madrid, was drawn to the course as a way to understand what other career paths might open up for him within the sector.
"Once I completed my undergraduate degree, I realized there was a huge world surrounding this industry beyond the traditional role of an architect," Huerta said. "The different points of view provided by all the different subjects covered by the master's program makes you understand the industry from a 360-degree perspective. I think this is the only way to gain a deep knowledge and understanding of the sector."
The Greatest Challenge
In the last decade, the challenges facing real estate have become far more pronounced, Chiclana Actis said. While city leaders’ understanding of climate change has been developing, cities continue to grow. The UN predicts that 68% of the world’s population is projected to live in urban areas by 2050.
Master student Ayman El Baitam, who is general manager of real estate development and investment at Al Qattara Investments in Abu Dhabi, said that all those who select the master program witness these challenges in their everyday work lives.
“Global warming and pollution are causing our cities the most harm,” he said. “No matter where your city is, you must have come across at least one challenge caused by one of those two in the recent past. Whilst the issue is known, agreeing to a global solution to the issue has proven challenging for several reasons.”
Alberro said the time to act is now, and students in the program have an opportunity to bring together skills from across the real estate sector to effect change.
“Investors and developers have been too worried about returns and profit, not necessarily worrying about environmental, social and governance matters,” he said. “This master's focus on sustainability and cities is what sets it apart from other programs — uniting the environment and finances under the same umbrella. Now more than ever, looking into circular real estate development solutions is crucial and I want to be at the forefront and ahead of the curve.”
The solutions explored by students on IE’s Global Master in Real Estate will continue to evolve as innovation changes what is possible, Chiclana Actis said. However, she highlighted one aspect that will remain consistent; only through global collaboration and a desire to learn from each other will cities around the world create the communities and built environment that will be effective years from now.
“As populations grow and climate change has a greater impact, it’s easy for inequality to grow,” she said. “If you focus on sustainability, the social impact and governance, that is how you change the world.”
This article was produced in collaboration between IE Schools of Architecture and Design and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.
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