Accelerating Growth in the Design and Construction Industry

Michael Koehler’s EMDC experience allowed him to speed up his career advancement and put him in a position to oversee the construction of the country’s soon-to-be first carbon-positive hotel.

Michael Koehler

Michael Koehler (EMDC ‘18) decided he needed a change when he was 10 years into his career as a project manager in the built environment. 

He enjoyed the work he was doing, but he wanted to do more. To make that happen, he turned to Northwestern Engineering’s Master of Science in Executive Management for Design and Construction (EMDC) program. 

Going through a program like EMDC gives you an accelerated learning experience,” he said. 

Thanks to that acceleration, Koehler is now a senior project manager at The Beck Group, an architecture and construction company known for designing and building progressive and innovative structures across the country. Koehler oversees the construction of the Populus Hotel in Denver, which will be the first carbon-positive hotel in the United States.  

Being carbon-positive means the building will create negative carbon emissions by removing more carbon dioxide from the air than it emits.

The hotel, which was designed by Studio Gang and is scheduled to open this summer, is already receiving rave reviews for its progressive design and eco-friendliness. Koehler’s role is to manage and provide leadership for the entire project. He said the EMDC program prepared him for the opportunity.

“EMDC gives you an immediate differentiator in the market, whether it’s with your current employer or with future employers,” he said. “This industry is overwhelmingly small. You're only one or two connections away from almost everybody.”

That small and specialized world is part of the reason Koehler chose the EMDC program to further his education. He was considering a traditional MBA program, but his thoughts changed after a mentor asked him if he planned to stay in the design and build industry.

Koehler definitely wanted to stay in the industry, and he saw the EMDC program as having everything an MBA did, with the added benefit of a focus on the field he loved.

“It just makes sense to parlay that experience with the advanced knowledge specific to this industry,” he said. “The teaching staff, they are all from the business, and I think that's helpful.”

Koehler’s EMDC experience allows him to be forward-thinking in a field needing to adapt to the future.

The industry is being forced to accelerate its pace of change as it confronts a growing housing shortage in America. The National Association of Realtors estimates the United States is experiencing a housing shortage of up to 6.8 million units this year. It anticipates that the gap will grow in the coming decade.

Koehler said that makes EMDC graduates, who can help accelerate the pace of change, a valuable commodity in the industry.

“The construction world is changing at a pace that's probably never been seen, and it's only the beginning,” he said. “Our business is an old business that’s been delivered in the same way for a long time, and we are starting to see bits and pieces of that evolving. It’s super important to be aware of what’s changing.”

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