Estimating the Social and Environmental Impacts of Large-Scale Real Estate Development

PI: Lawrence Susskind  (Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT) 


Many real estate developers, in various parts of the world, underestimate the likely social and environmental impacts of the large-scale mixed-use projects they seek to build (especially in coastal areas). Their failure to forecast these impacts correctly often leads to missed value-creating opportunities. By studying one of the world’s largest mixed-use coastal development projects, undertaken by a Chinese real estate developer operating outside of China, we seek to document the difficulties involved in applying environmental (EIA) and social impact assessment (SIA) methods along with ways of overcoming them. More specifically, we will analyze the costs to Country Gardens Holdings Ltd. of failing to undertake adequate social and environmental impact assessments when they began their 30-year, 3,400-acre construction project on four man-made islands off the coast of Johor, Malaysia, directly opposite Singapore. We will use our findings to show how developers, operating outside their own countries, can use EIA and SIA to define the goals of socially-responsible real estate development. While there are many books, reports and articles about EIA and SIA methods, few if any document the actual cost and benefits of not using these methods effectively. The project will be undertaken by the MIT Science Impact Collaborative in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning.