Elizabeth Hausler Strand delivering the 2015 CEE Distinguished Lecture. (Photo by Noah Berger)

Build Change founder delivers CEE Distinguished Lecture

On October 8, the college hosted the 2015 Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Distinguished Lecture, presented by Elizabeth Hausler Strand (M.S.’98, Ph.D.’02 CEE), the founder and CEO of Build Change, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to building earthquake-resistant housing around the world.

Hausler Strand became interested in construction while working summer jobs with her father, a brick mason. “It takes finesse to lay bricks, it’s not just about strength,” Hausler Strand says. “And at the end of the day, you could see what you accomplished.” Her father encouraged both of his daughters to study engineering.

Once at Berkeley, Hausler Strand began studying earthquakes and structural issues, particularly liquefaction. Her geotechnical research led to a Ph.D. from Berkeley and a Fulbright Fellowship at the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, India.

After a devastating earthquake in India in 2001, Hausler Strand began thinking about research that is more connected to the end user. That led her, in 2004, to found Build Change, an organization that designs earthquake-resistant houses and schools and trains local engineers and builders in best practices.

“When I started Build Change, it was an engineering challenge, but also a social justice issue, because I think everyone deserves the right to a safe house, regardless of their income,” Hausler Strand says.

“Now it’s 11 years later, and almost a quarter of a million people are living in safer buildings because of our work,” she says. “We’ve trained about 24,000 people worldwide in the basics of safe construction and have created about 11,000 jobs. We are now operating in six countries: Indonesia (since shortly after the tsunami of 2004), the Philippines, Nepal, Haiti, Colombia and Guatemala.”

This year’s CEE Distinguished Lecture was supported by the Warren A. and Marjorie C. Minner Endowment and was co-sponsored by the college, the CEE department and the Cal Seismic Design Team.