Carnegie Mellon's Khee Poh Lam, a professor in the School of Architecture, described the horror of China's Sichuan province following the devastating earthquake of 2008.
"As we drove around the region, it was mind boggling to see the extent of the devastation ... when you are physically there it is just overwhelming, the scale of destruction and impact it has on people's lives."
As a consultant to The Energy Foundation, Lam was recently in China to assist with environmentally sustainable building practices. The experience is part of the latest LabA6 podcast from the College of Fine Arts.
Lam was struck with the positive attitudes surrounding him, despite the fact that millions of people must live in emergency shelters doubling as schools and hospitals.
"The Chinese people are tremendously resilient and hardworking ... that's the first thing that impressed me," he said. "The leaders are positive and optimistic. They are making every effort ... to maximize all the environmentally sustainable features in their buildings."
Ironically, Lam noted that the Chinese focus on growth can be a hindrance, as green design is often viewed by some real estate developers as a profitable option only for the wealthy.
"There needs to be education and explanation that...sustainability is for everyone...because everybody has a part to play," he explained. "The ability to invest in their future is something that I hope the Chinese people, and everybody around the world, will embrace, and not just think short-term business gains."
Lam's many projects include helping the Chinese create a national IT network for Green Building codes and standards.
"The country is huge and communication amongst the central government and the provinces is going to be a major critical resource," he added.
Consistency is something Lam stresses as a critical goal.
"We must create a good infrastructure, good material, reliable content ... and then use it consistently in the whole training and education process through the industry," he said.
Lam's goal, however, far exceeds the restoration of China.
"We are all in the same [mission] of trying to promote sustainability for the betterment of the planet," he said. "Whatever language one operates in, the meaning and the technology and the methodology should be consistent. That's what we're aiming to do through this process."
In recognition of Lam's contribution, the Energy Foundation has just appointed him to their Board of Directors.