Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Q&A with George Blumberg

As things quieten down a bit over the summer I thought it would be a good time for you to get to know the staff better. Here's how George Blumberg (Senior Lecturer in Construction Management) answered my questions...

At Graduation (on the left)

Having a laugh with the final year students (on the right)

1. When you were at school what did you want to be when you grew up?
I don't remember having a definitive idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up, except that I liked designing, building and making things. We lived in an inner-city neighbourhood and there was a great deal of
cultural and intellectual activity around our house. Our neighbourhood had a large number of artists and craftsmen and I learned a great deal from them about making things. Despite our lack of space, I managed to have a decent wood shop and darkroom tucked away in our house. I started designing and building furniture at that time. To this day, I have never bought a piece of furniture (we have inherited some, however). Instead of buying a beach house like many of our friends, my father bought an worn-out, abandoned farm on the edge of Appalachian Mountains. It had no running water or central heat, but had an outhouse where the photographs of our presidents hung. We spent our weekends and summers there building sheds, barns and taking care of cattle. In the winters we would hunt. It was a good antidote from city life, which was quite full-on. I got very good at making "pole barns", a form of cheap, vernacular architecture that are common throughout rural US. When we eventually did go to the sea, it was to the windswept beaches of Cape Cod, that hook-like peninsula sticking out into the Atlantic Ocean near Boston. I loved boats and the sea and would design racing boats, that were sadly, never built. Sailing was the only sport that I ever won a trophy,
claiming the Skippers Cup as well as the Sunfish class for a few glorious summers.

2. What did you study at university or college?
I studied mechanical engineering at university at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. It is a city campus about halfway between the White House and the Watergate. Our buildings were intermingled with those of the government and the local community. It was a great place to study, but could be very distracting at times. On several occasions, we heard explosions, including the one that ended the life of Orlando Letelier, a Chilean political figure. I saw Jimmy Carter's walk down Pennsylvania Avenue in his presidential inauguration and four years later, Ronald Regan take the same route, at high speed, and in a huge limousine. Upon graduation I got a job in the Marine Seismic Instrumentation Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I eventually got a masters degree in earth sciences and
later obtained a doctorate in environmental statistics with a study on extreme climates.

3. How did you find your way into construction management?
I became interested in the built environment through my work on global climate change. It seemed a natural link between engineering, earth science and climate change science.

4. What interests you most about the subject?
I like some of the more technical aspects of the industry, such as impacts of climate change and economics. I also like dealing with students' independent study and dissertation. It's the most challenging work that both student and advisor will do during their university careers.

5. What is your favourite building and why?
My house, mainly because it's mine and I can do what I want there.

6. What is going to be the next big thing in construction?
Lean construction and off site manufacturing.

7. Outside of work, how do you relax?
I like to work in my woodshop, putter around the garden, travel and cook.

8. What is your favourite word?
Sorry, I haven't really got one.....but will think about it more.....(I think George likes lots of words and he's also a fantastic source of interesting information - Ed).

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