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Jesse M. Keenan

Associate Professor of Real Estate

Jesse M. Keenan is an Associate Professor and social scientist within the faculty of the School of Architecture at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. Keenan leads courses and seminars advancing the interdisciplinary fields of sustainable real estate and urban development.

As a globally recognized thought leader, Keenan’s research focuses on the intersection of climate change adaptation and the built environment, including aspects of design, engineering, regulation, planning and financing.

Keenan has previously advised on matters concerning the built environment for agencies of the U.S. government, governors, mayors, Fortune 500 companies, technology ventures, community enterprises and international NGOs. Keenan formerly served as the Area Head for Real Estate and Built Environment on the faculty of the Harvard Graduate School of Design; Fellow of Science, Technology and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government; as the Research Director of the Center for Urban Real Estate on the faculty of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University; and, as Visiting Scholar at the Perry World House at the University of Pennsylvania.

Keenan is the author of NYC 2040: Housing the Next One Million New Yorkers (Columbia University Press, 2014) and Climate Adaptation Finance and Investment in California (Routledge, 2018), which was awarded Amazon's 'Best Of' Award for “The Best Business and Leadership Books of 2018" and is free in the public domain thanks to a generous investment by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Keenan is the co-editor of the books, Blue Dunes: Climate Change by Design (2nd Edition)(Columbia University Press, 2017) and North American Climate Adaptation: Fostering Resilience and a Regional Capacity to Adapt (Springer, 2017), which was published in both English and German. With colleagues from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Keenan is the co-editor of the book, COVID-19: Systemic Risk and Resilience (Springer, 2021), which documents the contributions of the editors and their colleagues to support the national pandemic response. Keenan is also the co-author of a variety of design research monographs, including, Mobility Oriented Design: The Case for Miami’s Metrorail (Office of Urbanization, Harvard Graduate School of Design, 2019); Adapting Miami (Harvard Graduate School of Design, 2020), and Multiple Miamis (Harvard Graduate School of Design, 2020).

Keenan’s research has been published in Science, Environmental Research Letters, Environmental Science and Policy, Environment Systems and Decisions, Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, Journal of Environmental Planning & Management, Natural Hazards Review, Climatic Change, Ocean & Coastal Management, Journal of Water and Climate Change, Journal of Sustainable Finance & Investment, Journal of the American Planning Association, Journal of Affordable Housing & Community Development Law, International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment, International Journal of Sustainable Urban Development, Journal of Extreme Events, Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, Architectural Science Review, Building Research & Information, the Wharton Real Estate Review, the Cornell Real Estate Review, and Projections: MIT Journal of Urban Planning, as well as popular essays in Reuters, Newsweek, Dezeen, Metropolis Magazine, and MoMA.org. Keenan has an Erdős number of 4.

Keenan currently writes an editorial column for Reuters (Thomson Reuters Foundation News) where he covers climate change adaptation in the United States. Keenan been cited as an authority by national and international media, including on-air on ABC News, Bloomberg TV, CBS News, CCTV (China), CNBC, CNN, Discovery Channel, DW-TV (Germany), Financial Times (U.K.), France 2 (France), KBS (Korea), NBC News, MSNBC, PBS, Reuters TV, The Weather Channel, TVO (Canada), and Univision. Keenan’s research has been widely covered in the global media, including The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The New Yorker, Time Magazine, CNN, Rolling Stone, Bloomberg News, Popular Science, MIT Technology Review, MSNBC, Businessweek, Fortune, BBC, Reuters, Associated Press, The Atlantic, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Financial Times, Vice News, NPR, Slate, The American Prospect, The Weather Channel, Washington Post, Fox News, NBC News, ABC News, Huffington Post, Salon, Grist, Dezeen, Mother Jones, Fast Company, Wired, PBS NOVA, Sierra Magazine, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Houston Chronicle, Miami Herald, Scientific American and the Discovery Network.

Keenan formerly served as the Chair and Vice-Chair for the U.S. Community Resilience Panel for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems, a federal interagency initiative formerly under the Obama White House Climate Action Plan. Keenan formerly served as a Research Advisor for Climate Adaptation for Governor Jerry Brown’s Office of Planning and Research for the State of California and as a Research Advisor to Governor Charlie Baker's Executive Office for Energy and the Environment for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Keenan previously served as an appointed member of Mayor Bloomberg’s NYC Task Force for Building Resiliency and on the Climate Change Working Group for the 4th Regional Plan for NYC. Keenan formerly served as Chair of Climate Adaptation Finance for IPCC Cities and as a Review Editor (Built Environment and Transportation chapters) of the 4th U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA4). Keenan currently represents the United States as a Review Editor (Buildings) for WG III (AR 6) for the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

From 2018-2020, Keenan served as a Visiting Scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (FRBSF) where he led the bank’s first major research initiative in climate adaptation and community development. This research culminated in the edited volume, Strategies to Address Climate Change Risk in Low- and Moderate-Income Communities (FRBSF, 2019), which The New York Times described “one of the most specific and dire accountings of the dangers posed to businesses and communities in the United States —a threat so significant that the nation’s central bank seems increasingly compelled to address it”(October 17, 2019). From 2019-2021, Keenan served as a Special Government Employee Advisor to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) where he co-led research efforts evaluating the impacts of climate change on financial stability. In this capacity, he served as an elected co-editor of the landmark publication, Managing Climate Risk in the U.S. Financial System (CFTC, 2020), which, according to The Wall Street Journal, “[was] the first of its kind from a federal financial regulator”(September 9, 2020).

Keenan has completed regional economic planning research in Brazil in collaboration with UN-Habitat; housing research in NYC for the Carnegie Corporation of New York; urban technology research sponsored by Google, CISCO and Airbnb; zoning research with the NYC Department of City Planning; public resilience planning research for the Rockefeller Foundation; real estate research with Goldman Sachs; adaptive building design research in Tokyo for Hulic Co., Ltd.; international housing finance research sponsored by the Open Society Foundation; resilience research with the National Security Council; mobility and real estate research for the Lennar Foundation; urban development research in Miami supported by the Knight Foundation; climate planning research for the Regional Plan Association; urban systems research in NYC for the Audi Urban Future Initiative; infrastructure resilience with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; resilience, infrastructure and demography research for the RAND Corporation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; and, socioeconomic indicator development for climate adaptation with the EPA, supported by the National Science Foundation. Keenan is one of the founding researchers of Kohn Pedersen Fox’s Urban Interface Laboratory and he began his research career working for the late Professor Charles Haar of Harvard Law School.

Keenan was among the first scholars to study the relationship between climate change and real estate and was among the first to publish peer reviewed evidence of the existence of a climate change signal in a real estate market and in a mortgage market. Among other contributions, Keenan coined the term 'Climate Gentrification.' Keenan’s theory of Climate Gentrification has gone on to shape a global discourse on the relationship between climate change, social equity and applied economics. Keenan also developed the theory of “Bluelining,” which has framed an active domestic policy conversation concerning the roll of mortgage and insurance markets in driving the allocation of capital in local housing, real estate and mortgage markets.

Keenan currently serves as the Executive Producer of the globally recognized climate change podcast America Adapts, which was nominated for Best “Green” Podcast at the 2021 iHeart Radio Podcast Awards. Keenan formerly chaired the Keeping Currents climate change initiative of the Van Alen Institute and served on the Advisory Board of the Mori Foundation’s Global City Power Index; the Advisory Committee of the Design First initiative of The Municipal Art Society; the Steering Committee of the Resilience Infrastructure Initiative at Stanford University; the Advisory Board of the Center for Hydro-Generated Urbanism at the University of Florida, and, as a juror for Architizer’s A+ Awards.

Keenan’s work bridging the art and science of the built environment includes contributions to exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA), including Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream (Community Growth REIT (2012)) and Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanism and Expanded Megacities (Community Growth Corporation (2014)). Keenan has the distinction of being the first person to exhibit an excel spreadsheet at MoMA.

Keenan is a Fellow of the Forum + Institute for Urban Design and was previously a Pension Real Estate Association (PREA) Scholar and a Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. Keenan serves as an advisor to Silicon Valley technology firm of Jupiter Intelligence and the climate services technology firm Forerunner based on New York City. Keenan holds degrees in the law (J.D., LL.M.) and science (M.Sc.) of real estate and the built environment, including a Ph.D. from the Delft University of Technology.

For speaking engagements, please contact the Leigh Bureau:
In the Americas: Eric Myers (eam@leighbureau.com)
In Europe, Middle East & Africa: Louise Dunn-Cahill (louised@leighbureau.com)
In Asia: Cecilia Lee (zy@leighbureau.com)