Course Spotlight: Introduction to Green Real Estate

By: nicholasg

The Baker Program in Real Estate enjoys the vast resources of Cornell University, offering students the opportunity to take hundreds of elective courses in many areas of study. One cornerstone of this privilege is the longtime partnership between Baker and the City and Regional Planning Program (CRP). In the Fall 2014 semester, Baker students have been able to take advantage of CRP’s newest course: Introduction to Green Real Estate. In this course, students become acquainted with one of the fastest-growing, cutting-edge sectors of the industry.

One common trend in many areas of the economy is the push toward a more sustainable built environment.  Every year our society is adopting new, more environmentally ways to maintain homes, transport people and goods, and build things. It is with the latter aspect in mind that Visiting Lecturer Mark Vorreuter conceived the Introduction to Green Real Estate course. Despite what its title may suggest, the course is about much more than just sustainable real estate.

According to Vorreuter, there were several primary goals in mind when formulating the course. First, the need to focus equally on all sustainable strategies, placing into context all of the “green” real estate certification systems as well (LEED, Green Globes, Energy Star). This provides students with a framework by which they can properly evaluate what is “green” and what is “green wash.” Students are also introduced to the broader “green” trends within the economy, how those have made their way into real estate, and examine what institutional investors and portfolio owners are currently doing to “go green.”

Within the confines of that information, class discussions focus on the financial and social merits (or drawbacks) of green real estate measures and investments. By the end of the course, students will be able to determine which form of green certification(s) are appropriate for a building after examining a project’s financial structure, property type, and physical attributes. Since they will have a comprehensive knowledge of green strategies and systems, students will not find themselves picking one system at the outset and trying to tailor a building to it.

Student response to the course has been overwhelmingly positive. Jason Spencer (Baker ’16), said that “Green Real Estate presented a wide range of material on the financial benefits of greening a real estate portfolio, ranging from immediate, low-cost/no-cost changes to long-term capital projects. With my background as a LEED AP, I thought I should know a lot about green buildings. The class definitely exposed me to many new cost-effective ideas and strategies.”