"I have grown a lot as a person through my MBArch experience, and I now have “the little bug of innovation and entrepreneurship” in my veins."
Jennifer Lizbeth Durand Labán
Jennifer Lizbeth Durand Labán, Lima (Perú)
Founder at OVA (Office of Versatile Architecture) in Lima
- Program studied
Jennifer Lizbeth Durand Labán is ambitious. After finishing her undergraduate degree, she set out to gain experience in the architecture industry. Without even two years under her belt, she was already teaching design workshops at Ricardo Palma University in Lima, Peru, while also writing her thesis to become a certified architect. But Jennifer was never one to shy away from a new challenge, which led her to move halfway across the world to pursue a master’s degree at IE School of Architecture and Design.
Jennifer chose the Master in Business for Architecture and Design because she knew she wanted to run her own architecture studio, but needed to learn “how to balance the business side in a creative company.” She was also curious about disruptive technologies in design, such as 3D printing, virtual reality, and augmented reality. Since graduating, she’s gone for the gold and opened her own studio in Lima called OVA (Office of Versatile Architecture), where she applies the managerial and technological skills she honed at IE School of Architecture and Design.
But that’s not all Jennifer learned in the program. Students in the MBArch are challenged to deliver the Venture Lab, where they can develop their entrepreneurial skills and turn their ideas into reality.
Jennifer’s lab, called SAVE (“Social Architecture Versatile and Efficient”), was near and dear to her heart. As she explains, “It is a social company which seeks to create awareness about frost [in Peru] and find ways to combat it from the field of architecture, through the commercialization of thermal insulation panels made from totora (a native plant of the area) that are easy to install and allow the houses to be thermally insulated.”
Each year, more than 488,000 Peruvians—particularly those living in Puno—are affected by wintry frost, as their houses were built using materials that do not provide thermal insulation.
SAVE uses a business model that Jennifer calls “agents of change,” in which there are beneficiaries (low-income residents of the area) and paying customers (those with more economic power, as well as entities like hotels and restaurants). “Our beneficiaries can get their insulation panels of totora if they and three of their family members work for us for just ten days, rather than paying in cash. The paying customers, like hotels and restaurants, help cover the cost of manufacturing the panels,” Jennifer explains.
“We are a concept. And more than a product, we are an action.”
This business model allows for the development of high-quality products that make a high impact in the community. “Because more than a brand,” she tells us, “we are a concept. And more than a product, we are an action.” And while she hasn’t turned her Venture Lab into a company just yet, she “doesn’t rule out doing so in the future.”
For now, Jennifer plans to continue growing her architecture studio in Peru, though “part of her heart is now in 17 different countries.” She admits she has grown a lot as a person through this experience, and she now has “the little bug of innovation and entrepreneurship” in her veins.
As for her advice to future students, Jennifer says to keep an open mind, “because the program does not give you a specific recipe—what it does is prepare you to solve complex situations in changing contexts.”