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Prof D'Maris Coffman

Prof D'Maris Coffman

Professor in Economics and Finance of the Built Environment

Head of Department

The Bartlett Sch of Const & Proj Mgt

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
1st Sep 2014

Research summary

I have recently been appointed to a professorial chair in Economics and Finance of the Built Environment. My interests span infrastructure, construction, real estate and climate change.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure Economics

I am building a global research network 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. We need global comparisons and rigorous empirical studies. Also how should we measure the welfare costs of unmet demand for infrastructure? I have a research contract from the IGC/DFID to examine "Electricity Crises in Zambia: Estimating the costs of unreliability at the firm level." 

Infrastructure Finance 

I want 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. I explore how different types of fund managers think about infrastructure investments. I am also interested in studying how the flow of funds for infrastructure investment in emerging markets has changed since the Great Financial Crisis. 

Historical Infrastructure Finance 

I am interested in understanding what were the most important determinants of sovereign borrowing during the decade of nation-building before the introduction of the gold standard in 1873. How far are the econometric results in panel studies on the determinants of sovereign borrowing dependent on the frequency of the pricing data? What were the relative contributions of project risk, sovereign risk and liquidity risk to railway securities pricing in the late 19th century. What implications does this have for infrastructure finance in emerging markets today?

Construction

I am 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 we held in October 2017 on this theme, I am interested in how Brexit will affect the construction industry, particularly with respect to skills shortages. I also want to understand the problems of supply of  rare earths and other rare commodities in the construction supply chain, and the implications thereof for a transition to a low carbon economy. In this vein, I am a guest editor of a Virtual Special Issue on 'Sustainable Construction' for the Journal of Cleaner Production.

Real Estate 

Why did the London livery companies in the 17th and 18th century evolve from guilds which regulated trades to large-scale endowment asset managers with large property portfolios and significant financial assets, which they often spent on schools and hospitals? Can we use their rent rolls to build long-term rent series for the City of London and Westminster?

Climate Change

I am 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 we think about them?

Teaching summary

I teach infrastructure economics and finance, corporate finance, macroeconomics, some behavioural economics and finance, and economic and financial history to undergraduate and postgraduate students, and I supervise MPhils and PhDs in these and related areas.

At present, I primarily lecture IF3 (Infrastructure Economics) and IF5 (Agency and Transaction Costs in Infrastructure Projects), which in practice means introductory infrastructure economics (IF3) and applications of intermediate microeconomics to infrastructure projects (IF5). I used to teach Corporate Finance for IF1, but have since turned that over to a colleague.

In the past, I have taught Macroeconomics for Construction (second half of CM2) for the core curriculum of the MSc in Construction Economics and Management, and financial history and economic forecasting (CM3), which is an option module. On the undergraduate programme, I have 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, I had to give those modules up. 

My four doctoral students at UCL work on historical infrastructure finance (railways in colonial India), infrastructure economics and development policy (assessing the welfare outcomes of investments in rural electrification versus water and sanitation in Rwanda), infrastructure economics and policy (EU governance models for transnational gas projects), and construction economics (construction cost and price indices).  

Education

University College London
SFHEA, Teaching and Learning in Higher Education | 2017
University of Cambridge
MA, | 2011
University of Pennsylvania
PhD, History | 2008
University of Pennsylvania
AM, History | 2004
University of Pennsylvania
BSc(Econ), Economics | 1999

Biography

I joined UCL in September 2014 as a Senior Lecturer (equivalent to Associate Professor in the USA) in Economics and Finance of the Built Environment at CPM here at UCL Bartlett.  In February 2017, I was appointed Interim Director (Head of Department) of BSCPM. In late January 2018, I was appointed to a professorial chair in Economics and Finance of the Built Environment with effect from March 2018. 


Before coming to UCL, I spent six years as a fellow of Newnham College where I 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, I started the Centre for Financial History, which I 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.


I did my 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, my 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. I have lived in the UK more or less continuously since 2005 (with a brief nine-month stint back at Penn in 2007/8 to finish my PhD and teach as a departmental lecturer), and thus hold both American and British citizenship.

Publications