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Buildings from the institutional investor perspective

Center for Real Estate hosts architects and engineers from the National Association for Real Estate Investment Managers.
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Photo courtesy of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning.

Buildings should be green and energy-efficient. Vapor intrusion is the biggest risk to building decay. Engineering challenges in estimating construction and replacement costs remain elusive. And architects and engineers at the largest institutional banks, pension funds, and investment firms are eager to understand the inventions and innovations that will undergird a better-built environment.

These were the central takeaways from a recent meeting of the Architectural and Engineering Council of the National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers (NAREIM), hosted at the MIT Center for Real Estate (CRE).

NAREIM is a national organization dedicated to studying best practices for the built environment, reducing risk for stakeholders, and establishing effective and productive relationships with developers. The Architecture and Engineering session hosted at MIT focused on the technical and strategic details of development and redevelopment.

“This group is keenly focused on the future of the built environment. Bringing together NAREIM members with MIT researchers resulted in a fascinating and productive exchange,” said Andrea Chegut, the CRE research scientist who organized the conference for MIT. “The MIT academics learned from this group of architects and engineers responsible for active projects around the world, and participants gained a window into cutting-edge research at MIT with the potential to influence the industry.”

NAREIM members manage investment capital on behalf of third-party investors in commercial real estate assets such as office, retail, multi-family, industrial, and hotels. According to the NAREIM website, its members collectively manage over a trillion dollars of investments assets.

"There is a broad range of forces, ranging from global capital to new technologies and behaviors of millions of people who use, share, and invest in the built environment, that are pushing us to re-think what our industry can and should do,” said Gunnar Branson, president and CEO of NAREIM. “We have no choice but to challenge assumptions, understand potential future scenarios, and build better strategies. It would be difficult to imagine a more appropriate setting and better experts to help real estate leaders uncover the future of their industry than the MIT Center for Real Estate."

Meeting sessions focused on:

  • urban metabolism, or modeling the flow of materials and energy within built environments, with John Fernandez, the new director of the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative and a professor in the Building Technology Group in the School of Architecture and Planning;
  • advanced research into materials and technologies that could impact the future of construction and buildings, with Vladimir Bulović, the Fariborz Maseeh Chair in Emerging Technology and co-director of the MIT Innovation Initiative;
  • a review of MIT.nano, a new 200,000-square-foot center for nanoscience and nanotechnology currently under construction at the center of MIT’s campus, with project manager Travis Wanat;
  • providing incentives to contractors and developers to put up structures with integrity for a lifecycle strong resilient built environment, with CRE lecturer Christopher Gordon; and
  • the financial advantages of engineering resilient and sustainable structures, with Jeremy Gregory, the executive director of the Concrete Sustainability Hub.

“We tried to offer a program that showed how engineering, design, and finance partnerships can generate buildings that are more sustainable, cost-effective, and valuable over their full lifecycle,” Chegut said. “It was wonderful to offer this forum for NAREIM members to come together to discuss the future of the industry. We’d love to host NAREIM at MIT again.”

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