Real Estate Redefined
Center's New Tagline Reflects Science, Innovation, MIT
by Michael Mack
November 6, 2009
Kicking off its yearlong 25th anniversary celebration, the Center for Real Estate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has launched a new tagline – one emphasizing the Center's connection with MIT as a springboard for redefining the nature of real estate. The tagline – Leveraging Science, Developing Innovation – echoes MIT's purpose of improving the world through excellence in science and engineering, and puts real estate development squarely within that purpose.
The built environment comprises the single largest sector of the world's wealth. As environmental, social, and population concerns increase in scale and complexity, real estate is becoming a key avenue for solutions. The Center's new tagline asserts the importance of science and innovation as vital to overcoming these challenges.
"Innovation is central to MIT," said the Center's Chairman Tony Ciochetti, "and our new tagline reflects that spirit. We're redefining the nature of real estate. As we make new connections between scientific disciplines, we're shaping real estate's future with the tools that science offers. Ever since the Center was founded, we've sought to foster innovation by linking with other research done at MIT. That's even truer today," he said.
This integration not only connects the Center with the Institute, but also serves the development community by providing developers with multidisciplinary expertise. "A developer is a conductor of a variety of skills and disciplines," Ciochetti said. "We provide knowledge that developers can't get anywhere else – doing it through collaborations across campus and around the world."
Ciochetti offered as examples the valuing flexibility and real options work that the Center is doing with MIT's Engineering Systems Division. This research considers how flexibility can be built into a structure's design to allow for future changes and adaptations. "We took research rooted in mechanical and systems engineering and asked how it could apply to real estate," he said. "We're constantly looking for ways to integrate other work into our curriculum and research. Our new tagline reflects that 're-vision' of the future of real estate."
He also cited the "1K House," a project the Center recently began in collaboration with the MIT School of Architecture. Like MIT's "$100 laptop" program, the 1K House project seeks to engineer housing that is both reliable and inexpensive (ideally, $1000) by using novel materials and designs. Project prototyping is scheduled for China, the Philippines, and the U.S., with other countries close behind. "Imagine the impact we could make on emerging markets by solving the housing needs of people who make a dollar a day," Ciochetti said. "It's huge. We're looking to improve the world by improving the built environment – and science is a key component."
Ciochetti pointed out that the Center itself was an MIT innovation. MIT founded its Center for Real Estate in 1984, launching the first degree program of its kind anywhere in the world. Called the Master of Science in Real Estate Development (MSRED), it was the first one-year program devoted solely to teaching real estate development.
Since then, dozens of university-based real estate programs have sprung up, but none offer the kind of rigorous, quantitatively-based degree that distinguishes the MSRED. The difference, in a word, is science. "It's not a word that would go down well in a business school," he said. "But this is MIT."
The close relationship between the Institute and the Center suggested by the new tagline will soon be reflected physically. The Center has begun preparations to move its headquarters from the periphery of the MIT campus to its very heart. The move will take another year or two to fully realize, but when complete, the Center will be fully and physically integrated into the Institute.
The new tagline replaces Our Graduates Build the Future first introduced in 2001. According to Marion Cunningham, MIT/CRE's Managing Director, the earlier tagline "… served us well up to a point, but it largely emphasized our education program. The MSRED is an important element of what we offer, but we're much bigger than that."
This larger purpose is reflected in the Center's vision of the future. "When most people think of real estate," Cunningham said, "they think about their house, their broker, their agent…. We really want to take the concept of real estate to an entirely different place in the popular imagination. A place where innovations in science and technology transform the idea of what real estate is."
Cunningham said that in comparison with other sectors of the market, the real estate industry has not had a strong reputation for using advanced technologies. "As the MIT Center for Real Estate, it's important for us to articulate our unique vision for the world of development," she said. "We want to assert and embrace our MIT connection, have fun with it, and in the MIT way, bring others with us."