Managing innovation for a better return on investment

An Introduction to the Panelists

Ralph DiNola – Principal, Green Building Services, Portland, Oregon

Kasper Guldager Jorgensen – Partner, 3XN; Director of GXN, Denmark

Eric Lesueur – Principal, VEOLIA, France

Joakim Larsson – Vice Mayor, Stockholm, Sweden

Meg Forbes – Global Real Estate Director, Mastercard, USA


Dr. Norm Miller – Professor, University of San Diego


Mapping the Landscape

Dr. Miller began the discussion by describing the current state of economy as it relates to the real estate industry and innovation:



  • Low interest rates dominate in most countries, fueling an appetite for real estate investment.
  • An enormous amount of cash is sitting on the sidelines.
  • Corporations have become leaner at a rapid rate; governments have followed at a slower pace.


  • Office space per worker is declining due in large part to changes in productivity related technology but also a growing understanding by designers and principals about the behavioral patterns that stimulate productivity. The power of spontaneous interaction in fostering good ideas has true value and is increasingly addressed in office space design.

Economically, future values in real estate will depend on a race between interest rates and rental growth rate.



  • PPP’s (Public-Private Partnerships) will gain in importance.
  • Need for data centers and other technology infrastructure will continue to increase.
  • Green/Clean technologies and practices will become increasingly important.
  • Innovation will occur most vigorously in “connected” cities – those that embrace the connective power of information technologies to created smarter more responsive live-work-play environments.
  • Retrofits of existing stock will become an increasingly important practice to master as space for new build declines in certain hubs and densification takes further root.
  • Commercial real estate values will shift from a correlation to space-size over to space-productivity.



What Makes a More Productive/Efficient Individual → Firm → City → Region


Joakim Larsson

Earnest investment in a green path for Stockholm has created an efficient, clean city that many people enjoy living in despite a harsh climate.

Stockholm has been rewarded with an increasingly diverse population and has experienced increased immigration in recent times.

Meg Forbes

The important question is not only how to create an economic environment that rewards innovation and green technologies but how to spur these investments based on principles of social responsibility.

Ralph DiNola

Focusing on passive solutions first is an excellent way to spur momentum for more dramatic investments in efficiency technologies and practices. These solutions represent the low-hanging fruit in the innovation investment market.

Honing skills and techniques in retrofits in order to create green products from existing stock will pay higher dividends than new build green structures.

Eric Lesueur

City-scale innovations have the greatest power to affect change. Improvements in quality of life through innovative solutions to problems of pollution, congestion, crime within an urban core have impacts at the level of individual citizens that are compounded as these citizens interact with each other.

Kasper Jorgensen

Exploration of what is possible through greater understanding of our various connected systems (people, buildings, cities, regions, global resources) is critical.

Understanding human behaviors and responses is fundamental to realizing returns on the investments that are made towards innovation or green technology. Creating spaces with high return potential are less successful if the critical elements of interactivity with the people occupying the space are not fun or intuitive or advantageous.

Tony Konstant is currently receiving his master of Science in Real Estate at University of San Diego. He is also a guest curator for the MIPIM sustainability and innovation category on behalf of the University of San Diego, Burnham-Moores Centre for Real Estate.

Image: Flickr-MIPIM_World

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