About the Course

Course Description (HBS public site) here:  Sustainable Cities

Course Overview excerpt  (from Course Overview) – passworded

Objectives

This course is about creating value by investing in sustainable, competitive cities. This is a large and poorly understood decision space, and the words mean different things to different people. The path of the course includes defining terms, selecting a few core attributes of cities, looking in particular at a handful of elements of physical infrastructure, and in particular seeking ways in which the private sector can influence cities (and profit by investing in sustainable cities) through targeted investing, well considered entrepreneurship, and high impact planning and design.

The goals of the course are to provide frameworks for looking at action in cities with respect to infrastructure, environment, and social issues; to help to identify reality from within the buzz; to offer a toolkit of the primary techniques for making a difference in city infrastructure efficiency at scale; and to help students and their future organizations organize their approaches toward the very large and complex issues and solutions suggested by the concept of “sustainable cities.”

Approach

The course is organized to look at issues resulting from three major trends of your lifetimes and careers: First, there is massive urbanization throughout the world as people migrate to cities seeking better lives. Second, there is existing and increasing pressure on resources including not enough fresh water, not enough clean air, not enough energy, not enough land, not enough place to put the garbage, and too much carbon, too much traffic, and too many particulates in the air. Urbanization will only exacerbate these trends. Third, for the most part governments are stuck. It appears that governments will not (or cannot) design, fund, and invest in infrastructure for efficiency that would appear appropriate to an outsider. It would be nice to look at the first two trends and say, “All we need is better policies and more political will,” wipe our hands, and walk away. The premise of this course is that that path will not work. The private sector needs to engage and help. There are obligations…and opportunities to do so. But what are the frameworks and how does an investor, planner, designer, entrepreneur, or large company executive even start to plan the approach? We will propose and examine these opportunities.

In this context, a “sustainable, competitive city” is one where key resources like electricity  water, and transit are used particularly effectively, where business and citizens can function productively, where the business model is durable in the long term, and profitable conservation can be enacted at scale.

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