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Changing the World

Libby Stehr has a vision of a greener, more sustainable future. The civil engineering graduate is determined to change our perception of the buildings in which we live, work, and study.
“I think that engineers haven’t been looking toward the future enough. We need a big change in how we approach buildings, and we should set ambitious goals for sustainability.”

“When engineers, architects, and planners design a built environment, they have to ask themselves if that environment is a place future generations will want to live in, or if it will be regretted,” Stehr says. “I don’t want to participate in designing anything my children would regret, and that calls for a willingness to create radical change in how we view the structures around us.”

Skyscrapers are an artifact of the 20th century, Stehr says, and instead of height and capacity, the next century of design and architecture will focus on energy efficiency, curbing supply chain energy costs, and smart planning.

“I think that engineers haven’t been looking toward the future enough,” she says. “We need a big change in how we approach buildings, and as part of that change we should set really ambitious goals for sustainability.”

Partially prompted by a natural scientific curiosity, and fostered by her parents’ passion for preserving historic homes, Stehr took quickly to architecture and design. In high school, however, she gravitated toward mathematics and engineering.

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At Rensselaer, Stehr joined the research group of Civil and Environmental Engineering Associate Professor Michael Symans. Her undergraduate research program involved the collecting and analyzing of data related to wooden structures in earthquake-prone locations, and will be used as the basis for a study to develop a new system for testing and assessing the performance of earthquake-proofing technologies for wood buildings.

Stehr will join MIT in the fall as a graduate student. Looking beyond her academic career, she is interested in participating in Engineers Without Borders, an international nonprofit group that sends engineers around the world to help solve a spectrum of challenges.

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Rensselaer (ISSN 0898-1442) is published in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter by the Office of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180-3590. Opinions expressed in these pages do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors or the policies of the Institute. ©2008 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.