This concentration encompasses the broad field of environmental planning that includes range of professional activities employing a variety of skills. Students may go on to work in the public or private sectors. Typical environmental planning projects focus on achieving the “triple bottom-line” in planning activities by reconciling conflicts between economic development, social equity, and ecological protection and restoration through sustainable development. Planning work may include community organizing and workforce development; sustainable transportation and urban food systems; and the design of ecological infrastructure and preparing environmental impact statements.
The breadth of environmental courses available at the GSD and other Harvard schools, especially the Kennedy School, Law School, and School of Public Health, reflect the multiple dimensions of sustainability in the context of planning practice and research. The Harvard Center on the Environment (HUCE) has prepared an excellent overview.
Area of Concentration Requirements
Students interested in the environmental planning area of concentration must choose at least two pre-approved courses from the GSD and one from outside the GSD, or suggest an alternate program of three courses for approval by the concentration advisor. Please note that courses may require permission of the instructor and/or the department, especially outside the GSD.
For an up-to-date list of pre-approved courses, download the Environmental Planning Concentration Memo.
History and Theory
This concentration is intended for students who have a strong interest in theoretical questions related to cities, urbanization, urbanism and urban planning, whether in historical or contemporary contexts. It may also be of particular interest to those considering a future doctorate in urban planning or an associated discipline. The concentration is designed to foster critical thinking regarding the social, economic, political and spatial processes that have produced urbanized built environments, and their consequences for everyday life, social reproduction, politics, and environmental conditions. The courses also explore the ways in which planners and policy-makers attempt to influence such processes and their consequences at various spatial scales.
For an up-to-date list of pre-approved courses, download the History and Theory Concentration Memo.
Housing and Neighborhood Development
This Area of Concentration is for those students who are interested in the planning, development and regulation of housing resources and their surrounding neighborhoods. Planners who choose this concentration may envision themselves working in the public sector as policy makers, program administrators or development facilitators or in the non-profit or for-profit sector as developers, community activists or consultants. These students are interested in shaping the part of the built environment that provides the setting for the residential and closely related functions of the city.
Because housing is a vital social as well as economic element of the city, a wide range of courses is relevant to this work. Concentrators may choose to focus on aspects of the work as diverse as housing policy, market analysis, physical design and planning, real estate finance, the development process, community engagement, implementation strategies and regulatory regimens. Neighborhoods are complex parts of the metropolitan environment, requiring a wide range of skills. This element of the concentration may include work on many of the topics listed above as well as land use regulation, urban design, demographic and economic analysis, local politics and related disciplines such as transportation, infrastructure, retail and social networks.
For an up-to-date list of pre-approved courses, download the Housing and Neighborhood Development Concentration Memo.
This concentration is intended to provide students with a solid professional and academic preparation in international planning. The concentration responds to three global concerns. The first is the increasing prominence of urbanization as a major political, economic and social force in world affairs. The second concern is the rapid growth of cities in the developing world, where most growth in the planet’s urban population is taking place. Finally, the concentration reflects the recognition that planners can draw profound lessons from a comparative perspective on urban phenomena, looking at different countries and diverse urban environments.
Within the concentration, students can focus broadly on international planning or concentrate on a number of subthemes. These include topics such as international development planning, planning in a world region of interest (such as South Asia, the Middle East, or Africa, to name just a few) and comparative planning.
For an up-to-date list of pre-approved courses, download the International Planning Concentration Memo.
Real Estate and Urban Development
The Area of Concentration courses for Real Estate and Urban Development may be divided into four main parts: development analysis; physical planning, design and construction; finance and deal structuring; and implementation. Students may choose to study real estate and urban development more broadly or focus on a subarea such as public-private partnerships, negotiations, or the physical site planning of a project. Students may envision working in the public sector focused on physical planning or implementation or in the private or nonprofit sectors possibly as developers or consultants.
For an up-to-date list of pre-approved courses, download the Real Estate and Urban Development Concentration Memo.
Transportation and Infrastructure
This area of concentration covers any form of infrastructure that is an important shaper of the built environment, including transportation, storm water, drinking water and sewage. Students are encouraged to take courses that examine infrastructure from a variety of perspectives, including: planning practice and policy, analytic methods applied to infrastructure planning and operations, physical design of infrastructure, relationship between infrastructure and land use, private infrastructure providers and their regulation, and specialized courses on particular modes of transportation or types of infrastructure.
For an up-to-date list of pre-approved courses, download the Transportation and Infrastructure Concentration Memo.
Other Concentration Faculty
The Urban Analytics concentration introduces students to describing, analyzing and prescribing solutions to urban planning problems using spatial data and analysis methods. An increasing share of urban planning work today addresses spatial interactions between numerous geographically bound actors and processes that are too complex to visualize and analyze without computational tools. Geographic Information Systems, spatial statistics and algorithmic approaches to spatial data analysis are used in public and private planning practices at the local, regional and international scales to describe urban challenges, to evaluate the impacts of alternative solutions and to visualize complex information.
For an up-to-date list of pre-approved courses, download the Urban Analytics Concentration Memo.
The Urban Design concentration requires students to dedicate twelve credit hours within their required course load to courses that focus on the physical form of the built environment. Eight of these credit hours must be fulfilled with an option studio taught by urban design faculty or visitors. The remaining four credit hours can be satisfied with an urban design related course approved by the concentration advisor.
For an up-to-date list of pre-approved courses, download the Urban Design Concentration Memo.