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Francisco Chacon

As both a Burns alumnus and instructor, Francisco Chacon’s passion for sustainability burns brightly

For Francisco Chacon, sustainability is as integral to the human condition as eating and breathing.

Not surprisingly, he also sees it as absolutely essential to the built environment.

Chacon (MS 2019) earned his Master’s in Real Estate and the Built Environment in May of 2019 and was delighted to have the opportunity to join the teaching faculty in an adjunct role the following fall. And as an adjunct professor at the Franklin L. Burns School of Real Estate and Construction Management, Chacon ties his rich life journey with the school’s core philosophy to convey this passion to his students.

“From orientation on, I have been impressed how sustainability permeates all three aspects of Burns’ model of the built environment life cycle,” Chacon said.

That translates into teaching responsible business practices and, in many cases, regenerative approaches in:

  • Real estate development
  • Project delivery, encompassing design and construction
  • Asset management, including operations and end of life decisions

“It’s truly advantageous how the school espouses sustainable principles for students, though coursework, contests and work opportunities,” Chacon said. “And it’s all delivered by a faculty that has incredible, hands-on experience in working with sustainable and regenerative projects.”

Previously, he’d received a graduate business certificate from the Daniels College of Business in April 2016, but shortly thereafter he stepped away to “get his hands dirty and work on building something.”

The inspiration to venture out came from a February 2016 stay in an Earthship located in his hometown of Taos, New Mexico Specifically, Chacon was struck by the warmth and comfort the home offered without a conventional heating system throughout the snowy night.

“It really changed my perception of what a home or house should be,” he said.

Later that year, Chacon volunteered for a humanitarian project to build an Earthship home in Canada and he was hooked. He subsequently participated in builds in Indonesia, Mexico and another in Canada.

In addition to sharpening his grasp of the technical aspects of construction and fostering an extensive international network, the fieldwork proved fundamental in forming Chacon’s instructional core, including:

  • A broad understanding of sustainable principles on every scale
  • The value of community engagement in making a positive impact with any project
  • The integral nature of passive solar in powering, heating and cooling a structure
  • The importance of incorporating sustainable design principles from Day One on new, renovation and revitalization projects alike

“For students who are going to be facility managers, those are some of the things they need to do to create healthier work environments and if they become developers, they need to understand as decision makers that their decisions have an impact on many lives,” Chacon said. “Although I hope they all learn that so much impacts sustainability, from buying a home to buying a vehicle to deciding what they’re going to eat for breakfast each day.”

Chacon first arrived at DU in 2012 to take a facilities role after holding similar jobs at a handful of other universities around the Western U.S. Although he already had an MBA from the University of New Mexico, enrollment specialist Candace Rusk encouraged him to attend Burns to round out his expertise.

Along with learning the principles of construction, Chacon found himself connecting the dots to his father, who built his own grocery store, and mother, an architectural drafter who was an early devotee of passive solar homes.

“I grew up with so much forward thinking and when I was learning about this I couldn’t help but think that I absorbed so much,” he said. “I thank them for the values and passion that they instilled in me.”

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