Sustainable Cities: Urbanization, Infrastructure, and Finance

Jointly Listed at Harvard Business School as HBS 1485
This course is about creating value in sustainable cities. Around the globe, the migration of hundreds of millions of people from countryside to cities will be a major force shaping societies and businesses for decades to come. At the same time, important resources like energy, clean water, clean air, and land are becoming increasingly scarce and costly. Governments have decreasing capability to directly fund infrastructure and urban development. Private sector entrepreneurs – and designers – must respond. The confluence of these three trends means extensive opportunity for private sector investment. Both US and non-US situations are studied.

Career Focus and Educational Objectives

This course will benefit students who intend to be managers, capital providers, or advisors to organizations which look ahead to compete in a context of urbanization and resource scarcity. There is particular emphasis on financial tools and design practices relating directly or indirectly to the built environment (urban areas, buildings within them, and large systems like energy, ground transportation, and water).

Course Content and Organization

The course is organized into several modules. The modules are intended to share the context of the issues, advance a number of models, and share best practices.

: Demand, demographics, shortages of supply, funding problems. The political leverage of cities (as compared to federal governments).


  • Finance: Public private partnerships, large project finance, municipal finance, FBOT (Finance-Build-Operate-Transfer)
  • Transit: Rail, bus, metro, roads
  • Water: City and Regional Scale


  • Smart Cities and Eco-Cities
  • Structured finance, large scale promoters, long view of economic competitiveness and resource efficiency
  • Design and Implementation of Livable Cities

General Notes:

Schedule. This course has an irregular schedule: Tuesday January 29 then most Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays on HBS calendar, 1:20 – 2:40 pm, ending on March 7, 2011. Please refer to the Y schedule:
The course meets in Harvard Business School Aldrich Hall 208

Registration and Grading. GSD students should register for this course as GSD 7309. The course GSD 7409, \”Real Estate Development, Design, and Construction\” continues in the same time block through the end of April. Together the two courses constitute a full 4 credits. This course is taught by the HBS Case Study method. Grading is by a combination of class participation and a final exam following the GSD scale. Students registered into GSD 7309M3 receive a GSD format grade, not an HBS grade.

Prerequisites. This is primarily a finance course, with significant aspects of urban planning and design woven in. Students must have successfully completed:
HBS Finance 1 and Finance 2 or equivalent OR
GSD 05204, “Real Estate Finance and Development” OR GSD 07411, “Design and Development” OR GSD 05492 “Real Estate Finance and Development Fundamentals”
OR equivalent content including discounted cash flow analysis (with written permission of instructor).