Can ‘smart’ buildings improve our lives?

In this video, USC Viterbi Engineering Professor Burçin Becerik-Gerber looks back to the places that defined her — and how they influence what she is building today.

October 18, 2023 By Adam Smith, Illustrations by Yuta Onoda

The Autumn 2023 issue of USC Trojan Family Magazine was created in close collaboration with the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Viterbi Magazine. Its editor, Adam Smith, talks about how he conceived the feature, published in the print magazine as “The Places That Built Me”:

“One of the most popular features in USC Viterbi Magazine, according to our alumni, has been the illustrated story — a graphic novel approach to storytelling that highlights the Trojan engineers changing our world. The series allows readers to visualize technologies that don’t yet exist (but might in the future) or imagine things that most of us cannot (medicines smaller than a human cell or the farthest reaches of the universe).

“Burçin Becerik-Gerber, chair of the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, has a really compelling vision of the future: An AI-enabled vision where buildings are like our friends — friends that can help mitigate climate change, protect us against shooters or make our workplaces more joyful and inclusive. The idea here in ‘The Places That Built Me’ was to connect the personal with the professional. What exactly built Becerik-Gerber into the person she is today? And how, in turn, does this inform what she is building now?”