Prof D'Maris Coffman
Professor in Economics and Finance of the Built Environment
The Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction
Faculty of the Built Environment
- Joined UCL
- 1st Sep 2014
Professor Coffman's current interests span infrastructure, construction, and climate change. She works at the interstices of economic geography, economic history and infrastructure economics.
Professor Coffman wants to understand what kinds of infrastructure investment (by sector and in terms of scale) promote sustainable growth, reduce inequality and maximise welfare gains to society. She believes that we need global comparisons and rigorous empirical studies. How should we measure the welfare costs of unmet demand for infrastructure?
Professor Coffman wants to understand the extent to which infrastructure should be thought of as a separate asset class. This question arose with alternative investments (hedge funds and private equity mainly) ten years ago. She is interested in studying how the flow of funds for infrastructure investment in emerging markets has changed since the Great Financial Crisis and will change following the COVID-19 pandemic.
She is interested in construction labour markets, embedded carbon in the construction industry, and the origins of the heavy reliance on trade credit in the construction industry. As a follow-up on a conference held at the school in October 2017 on this theme, she is interested in how Brexit will affect the construction industry, particularly with respect to skills shortages and in how the industry will respond to the new Construction Industry Playbook. Professor Coffman is also interested in construction supply chains, and especially wants to understand the problems of supply of rare earths and other rare commodities in the construction supply chain for digital construction technologies, and the implications thereof for a transition to a low carbon economy.
Professor Coffman is motivated by three interrelated questions. What does empirical analysis of international flows of embedded carbon and methane tell us about the political economy of GHG emissions? How should carbon trading and CDR futures markets be designed to promote allocative efficiency, equity and financial stability? Will Negative Emissions Technologies as anticipated by the Paris Agreements be the locus of a major asset-price bubble? As these are mega-projects that require transformative technologies, how should they be funded and financed.
Professor Coffman teaches infrastructure economics and finance, environmental economics, macroeconomics, some behavioural economics and finance, and economic and financial history to undergraduate and postgraduate students, and she supervises MPhils and PhDs in these and related areas. At present, she primarily lectures BCPM0020 (Agency and Transaction Costs in Infrastructure Projects), which in practice means she teaches applications of intermediate microeconomics to infrastructure projects. This is a core module on the MSc in Infrastructure Investment and Finance (IIF). She also teaches an option module for the MSc in Construction Economics and Management (CEM) called 'Construction Booms and Slumps' (BCPM0003), which is a mix of economic analysis, behavioural finance, financial history and economic forecasting.
In the past, she has taught Introductory Infrastructure Economics and the corporate finance component of the Introduction to Infrastructure Finance for IIF. She has lectured Macroeconomics for Construction for the CEM core curriculum. On the undergraduate programme, she taught introductory macroeconomics to undergraduates (first year), introduction to corporate finance for undergrads (second year), and financial management of construction projects (third year), but after becoming Head of Department, she had to give those modules up.
Her five doctoral students at UCL work on historical infrastructure finance (railways in colonial India), and climate change economics (the role of the sharing economy in promoting sustainable societies, environmentally extended input-output analysis, and integrated assessment modelling). Her first UCL PhD student, Dr Roberto Cardinale (infrastructure economics and policy, i.e. EU governance models for transnational gas projects) passed his viva without corrections in July 2019. Her second student, Dr Imad Uddin Ahmed, finished his PhD in January 2021. He works at the intersection of infrastructure economics, environmental economics and development policy.
- University College London
- Other Postgraduate qualification (including professional), ATQ04 - Recognised by the HEA as a Senior Fellow | 2017
- University of Cambridge
- Other higher degree, Master of Arts | 2011
- University of Pennsylvania
- Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 2008
- University of Pennsylvania
- Other higher degree, Master of Arts | 2004
- University of Pennsylvania
- First Degree, Bachelor of Science (Economics) | 1999
Professor Coffman is the Director (Head of Department) of BSSC (formerly BSCPM) and the Professor in Economics and Finance of the Built Environment at the Bartlett. She is Editor-in-Chief and Coordinating Editor of Elsevier's Structural Change and Economic Dynamics and on the honorary editorial boards of The Journal of Cleaner Production, Economia Politica, and the editorial boards of Frontiers of Engineering Management and the Chinese Journal of Population, Resources and Environment. She is a Fellow of Goodenough College, where several of the school's doctoral students are residential members. In 2020-21, she is a Visiting Professor at the University of Milan (Statale). She is also a Guest Professor at Beijing Institute of Technology and a Visiting Professor of Renmin University of China.
Before coming to UCL in 2014, she spent six years as a fellow of Newnham College where she variously held a junior research fellowship (Mary Bateson Research Fellowship), a post as a college lecturer and teaching fellow, and a Leverhulme ECF. In July 2009, she started the Centre for Financial History, which she directed through December 2014. It is still going strong, but has moved from Newnham College to Darwin College in line with the affiliation of its new director.
Professor Coffman did her undergraduate training at the Wharton School in managerial and financial economics and my PhD in the School of Arts & Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. While at Penn, her doctoral research in the UK was funded in part by the Mellon Foundation under the guise of an IHR pre-doctoral fellowship and an SSRC international dissertation fellowship. She holds both American and British citizenship.