A team of UC Berkeley graduate students called the “Housing Haasies,” consisting of 3 full-time MBA Haas students and the College of Environmental Design’s very own Bhavesh Shahani, a current Master of Real Estate Development + Design student, has won Ivory Innovations’ Hack-A-House contest in the category of “Construction & Design.”
Hack-A-House is a 24-hour competition asking student teams from across the country to come up with innovative affordable housing solutions. This year's prompt asked teams to take into account issues such as housing inequality and instability due to the COVID-19 pandemic, sustainability, and racial and social equity, and that bonus points would be given for working with existing structures rather than doing ground-up development.
That last point was the key to the “Housing Haasies’” innovative idea: repurpose a luxury cruise ship into 325 affordable apartments docked at San Francisco’s Pier 38.
The team’s 3 MBA members – Hannah Gable, Danny Gorczyka, and Grace Olechowski – asked Shahani, as their resident “real estate guy,” to identify where they could best reduce costs for their housing solution. For Shahani, the answer was clear after a month in the MRED+D program: land costs, often the most expensive part of development. One team member who had served in the Navy led them to hit the ground running on an innovative idea—boat housing. With the cruise ship business declining, companies were selling cruising vessels online, making them a cost-effective vessel to refurbish—eliminating land costs completely.
“It was out-of-the-box thinking,” says Shahani of the idea. “If you are in this 24-hour competition, you actually get your juices flowing. You think in ways you wouldn’t when you are in your comfort zone.”
Although all three of his teammates were full-time MBA students, lone MRED+D Shahani was entrusted with the financial portion of the presentation. He was able to speak confidently on the finances as they developed their plan, and he was able to chart out the cost difference between ground-up development of 325 units and developing the same number of units on a docked ship.
Back in India just a couple of months earlier, Shahani had absolutely no finance knowledge, but he credits the MRED+D program for giving him the confidence and skills to put together the financial part of his team’s winning presentation. “These things are all because of Ric [Capretta, who teaches Real Estate Development Finance in the MRED+D program] and Rafa [Urquiza, Shahani’s MRED+D classmate and the course’s Graduate Student Instructor]. They helped me during the lectures to understand what goes into development, how to follow the money…So I just followed the money.”
Shahani believes the MRED+D program and the interdisciplinary team were the two main factors in his Hack-A-House success. “The program helped me in a way that I didn’t realize in just one month, which has flown by in a jiffy,” he says. “The way it is designed and the professors that are teaching here, they actually understand that you come from nowhere in the finance or any background and they teach you the basics and then build up how it is connected to the industry and reality. I didn’t realize I had gained so much knowledge and I can actually talk in equal terms with the MBA candidates in Haas. And pairing up with people from different programs helps you to think in a different angle, to understand their perspectives as well.”
The team won $3000 and will also be flown to the University of Utah in January to further workshop their idea in a bootcamp alongside other winners. They also plan to pitch their idea to San Francisco Mayor London Breed. Shahani intends to use his prize money on a gift for his parents, and he looks forward to participating in additional real estate competitions in the Spring. The “Housing Haasies” have even considered sticking together for future competitions, having seen the value in their differing perspectives.
Shahani earned the nickname “Finance Guru” from his teammates, something that seemed impossible before he started at CED. “There’s a lot to learn,” he says, “but what I’ve learned so far in the program I’ve put to good use, and I’m proud of that.”