He is adjunct faculty at the Georgetown Law Center and affiliated faculty with the Georgetown Earth Commons, the Science, Technology, and International Affairs program at the Walsh School of Foreign Service. He serves as chair of the District of Columbia Commission on Climate Change & Resiliency.
Brandes is a scholar-practitioner in the field of urban design and sustainable urban development, with more than 25 years of experience in the planning, design, and development of new buildings, the public realm, and community development partnerships. As a practitioner, he has prepared urban development plans in New York City, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Berlin, Buenos Aires, Panama City as well as in China and the Republic of Korea. Projects completed under his direction have received national awards from the American Planning Association, the American Institute of Architects, the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Urban Land Institute.
As a public official in Washington, D.C., he managed the creation of the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative (AWI), the award-winning urban partnership to re-imagine and transform the most polluted river in the Chesapeake Bay into a model of socially inclusive sustainable urban development. The AWI invented a new civic paradigm for 21st Century urban development which embraced participatory planning, environmental restoration, innovative intergovernmental collaboration and catalyzed over $10 billion of public and private investment, producing new civic landmarks in the nation's capital including the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Yards Park, Canal Park, Diamond Teague Park, Arena Stage, the Wharf and the Nationals ballpark. Brandes facilitated the negotiation of the Federal and District of Columbia Government Real Property Act of 2005, the largest exchange of public lands in Washington DC since the advent of Home Rule. As a consultant to the District of Columbia, Brandes facilitated the aesthetic design of the New Frederick Douglass Bridge.
As senior vice president for global initiatives at the Urban Land Institute (ULI), Brandes created and directed ULI’s climate change program and co-authored research publications celebrating ULI’s 75th anniversary, including The City in 2050: Creating Blueprints for Change (ULI, 2008) and What's Next? Real Estate in the New Economy (ULI, 2012).
Brandes has been quoted by the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post among other publications. He has testified before Congress and he has been honored by the U.S. State Department as citizen diplomat to the Federal Republic of Germany and to the Republic of India.
Brandes holds a Master of Architecture from Harvard University and A.B. in Engineering Science from Dartmouth College Thayer School of Engineering. He completed urban planning fellowships at the Technical University Dortmund's Institute of Spatial Planning and Tsinghua University's Institute of Urbanism in Beijing, China.