Carnegie Mellon University

photoJeremy Michalek

Mechanical Engineering

The decisions made by designers and engineers have tremendous downstream social, economic, and environmental impact. Too often decision-makers fail to consider these effects during design because they lack the tools and knowledge to anticipate effects, because the corporate culture lacks needed structures and incentives, or because in a situation of limited time and resources these long term goals take a back seat to short term profit and return to shareholders. Design decisions are driven by preferences in the marketplace; however, they tend to favor our preferences for private benefit over our preferences for public benefit because shared benefits and costs are not adequately captured in the marketplace. These externalities can be partially accounted for through increased consumer demand for green products, increased designer awareness of environmental impact and mitigation options, and regulatory policy producing constraints and incentives to drive design toward more desirable and responsible choices. As a researcher and educator, I work to study, model, understand, and influence these factors and their impact on design decisions.