Interview with Eric Maribojoc, Executive Director, Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship, School of Business
Q- What is the Background of the Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship, the mission and the latest initiatives?
A-The Center was established about ten years ago and was backed by private and public companies that wanted to support education around real estate development topics at George Mason. We have three missions. The first is to support real estate education programs offered through the university. These currently include executive education and a Master’s program in Real Estate Development (MRED) where the center supports students with scholarships, trade group memberships, internships, networking events; and extra-curricular educational opportunities. One unique program we’ve recently organized for the students is a student-managed investment fund which gives students a rare real-world opportunity to underwrite and place equity investments in real estate projects in the DC area.
The second mission is to produce educational programs for the real estate industry and the general community. We host two to three such events per month with speakers, half-day to all-day panels and conferences, case study tours, and multi-day skills training events. The third mission is to connect the industry and the university through joint collaboration and research activities.
Q- What are some recent Innovations in real estate?
A- Some of the innovations in real estate that we are watching include the impact of changing mobility, the growing emphasis on health and wellness of employees, and urbanization. We’ve hosted expert speakers on the potential impact of autonomous vehicles on the built environment. We’ve supported research by professors on changes in public policy to enable autonomous vehicle use and on logistics of automated warehouse and delivery platforms.
With respect to health, wellness, and aging, we held a case study tour last October to learn about one of the first commercial buildings in Virginia designed to optimize employee wellness to maintain high productivity. This property in Reston adopted the WELL Building Standard®, which is a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and well-being, such as air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, and comfort.
On urbanization and smart buildings, we’ve hosted talks and tours of smart homes, smart spaces, and the sensors/Internet of Things that gather information about building systems and their surroundings.
Q—What are some research themes that your Center in involved in and what are the hottest things in real estate now?
A- One of the most pressing issues today for the Washington DC area is how to produce more affordable housing. Since last year, we’ve been hosting forums on solutions to this critical issue with audiences ranging from developers to designers to policy makers. To continue these efforts, on February 20, 2020, we are co-hosting a conference with the American Association of Architects DC called “Demystifying Density” which aims to discuss new housing designs to increase density within established neighborhoods. On March 11, 2020, we will be working with Fairfax County on an event called “Housing Challenge 2020” which is an idea pitch competition to solve three problems facing affordable housing projects: neighborhood opposition, lack of private sector roles, and difficulty in sourcing project sites. In the summer, we are planning case study tours on pre-fabricated and modular housing and on conversions of office buildings to housing.
Q- What have you seen regarding new construction materials?
A- We are interested in new building materials that make buildings more energy efficient or less costly to build. For example, last October, we put together a case study tour and lecture of the first commercial building in Virginia to use mass timber. It generated a lot of interest. Mass timber is a modern engineered wood product with strength comparable to that of cement or steel but is a lighter and more environmentally sustainable product.
Q–What do you do that would be Interesting to faculty? How would you like to engage faculty research?
A-We welcome the opportunity to work with faculty members with research interests involving impacts on the built environment. This can include a broad range of topics. We’ve engaged with faculty on topics ranging from smart cities, senior housing, Amazon fulfillment centers, infrastructure, to employee surveys of design firms. We encourage faculty to reach out, talk to us, and find out how we can make an impact in improving our built environment.
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