Jesse M. Keenan is a social scientist and a member of the faculty of the Graduate School of Design (GSD) at Harvard University, with a joint appointment at the John F. Kennedy School of Government in Science, Technology and Public Policy, where he teaches courses and conducts research in the fields of urban development and climate adaptation science. Keenan formerly served as the Area Head for Real Estate and Built Environment at the GSD and as the Research Director of the Center for Urban Real Estate, as a member of the faculty at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University. 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 is currently a Visiting Scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
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." Keenan is the co-editor of the books, Blue Dunes: Climate Change by Design (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. Keenan has had works published by Science, Environmental Research Letters, Environmental Science and Policy, Environment Systems and Decisions, Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, Natural Hazards Review, Ocean & Coastal Management, Journal of Water and Climate Change, Architectural Science Review, Building Research & Information, Enquiry: Journal of Architectural Research, Journal of the American Planning Association, Journal of Affordable Housing & Community Development Law, Social Research: an International Quarterly, International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment, International Journal of Sustainable Urban Development, Journal of Legal History, Journal of Extreme Events, the Wharton Real Estate Review, the Cornell Real Estate Review, the Pace Environmental Law Review, Projections: MIT Journal of Urban Planning, the American Bar Association, Cambridge University Press, Reuters, Newsweek, Dezeen, Metropolis Magazine, John Wiley & Sons, Springer Nature, MoMA.org, and has been cited as a authority by national and international media, including on-air on Bloomberg TV, CBS News, CCTV (China), CNBC, DW-TV (Germany), Financial Times (U.K.), France 2 (France), KBS (Korea), NBC News, PBS, Reuters TV, TEDx, TVO (Canada), and Univision. Keenan’s research has been covered by global media, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, CNN, Rolling Stone, Bloomberg News, Popular Science, MIT Technology Review, Businessweek, Fortune, BBC, Reuters, Associated Press, The Atlantic, The Guardian, 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, Miami Herald, Scientific American and the Discovery Network.
Keenan formerly served as the Chair and Vice-Chair for the Community Resilience Panel for Buildings and Infrastructure Systems, a federal interagency initiative formerly under the White House Climate Action Plan, and as editorial team co-lead for the Built Environment at the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit at climate.gov. Keenan previously served as a member of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Regional Disaster Sheltering and Housing Recovery Planning Team and as a member of Mayor Bloomberg’s NYC Task Force for Building Resiliency. Keenan served on the Climate Change Working Group for the 4th Regional Plan for NYC where he developed the Regional Resilience Trust Fund and co-authored the climate change section of the plan. Keenan also served as a climate change advisor to the national organizations of the American Institute for Architects (AIA) and the America Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Keenan serves as Associate Editor (Built Environment) for the Encyclopedia of Climate Resilience (Nature Springer), as an Associate Editor of the International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management (Emerald) and as a member of the Editorial Board for The Handbook of Climate Change Resilience (Nature Springer) and the International Journal of Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment (Emerald). Keenan advised the Rebuild By Design and the National Disaster Resilience Competitions and previously served as co-chair for the 2016 North American Symposium on Climate Change Adaptation. Keenan serves as a Review Editor (buildings) for WG III (AR 6) for the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 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 formerly served as a Research Advisor for Secretary Bill Richardson; 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 has completed regional 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; adaptive capacity 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 research for the Lennar Foundation; climate planning research for the Regional Plan Association; urban systems research in NYC for the Audi Urban Future Initiative; resilience design and decision-support with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and, socioeconomic indicator development for climate adaptation with the EPA and supported by the National Science Foundation. Keenan currently co-leads the Future of the American City Initiative in Miami supported by the Knight Foundation. Keenan is one of the founding researchers of Kohn Pedersen Fox’s Urban Interface Laboratory and previously served as visiting faculty at the Bauhaus Academy in Dessau, Germany and at the Universiteit van Amsterdam. Keenan formerly served as Managing Editor to Silicon Valley’s first online housing and mortgage data service providers (formerly, housing.com) and began his research career working for the late Professor Charles Haar of Harvard Law School.
Keenan was the first to publish evidence of the existence of a climate change signal in a real estate market. While prior research had modeled anticipated economic impacts, no prior peer reviewed publications had identified historic discounting behavior under conditions scientifically attributable to climate change impacts. Among other contributions, Keenan first coined the term 'Climate Gentrification' at a public lecture to the New York City Bar Association on January 27, 2014. 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 currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Center for Center for Hydro-Generated Urbanism at the University of Florida and the Board of Directors at America Adapts Media--the producers of the world's most popular climate change podcast. Keenan formerly chaired the Keeping Currents 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 and the Hoover Institution; and, as a juror for Architizer’s A+ Awards. Keenan was selected in 2012 as a ‘Thought Leader’ by the Journal of International Affairs.
Keenan’s work bridging the art and science of the built environment includes contributions to exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York: Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream (Community Growth REIT) in 2012; Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanism and Expanded Megacities (Community Growth Corporation) in 2014; Hong Kong Biennale (Archigram on the Margins: A Reinterpretation in the Face of Climate Change) in 2014, and the Southern California Institute of Architecture (Locavore Agritech) in 2010. Keenan has the distinction of being the first person to have exhibited an excel spreadsheet at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
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 Of Counsel to the law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson, LLP and 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.