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Head Of UNLV Architecture Program Preaches Sustainable Desert Design

UNLV Creative Services/Josh Hawkins
UNLV Creative Services/Josh Hawkins

Steffen Lehmann came from England to lead the architecture program at UNLV.

It was anything but a straight line that brought the new head of UNLV’s School of Architecture to campus.

Steffen Lehmann started as a professional architect in his native Germany. There he had a major role in the “New Berlin” urban renewal effort that followed the country’s reunification.

He then embarked on a teaching career that took him to Australia, across Europe, to Great Britain, and, last fall, to Las Vegas.

Lehmann, an expert on sustainable development, said he was attracted to UNLV because it could be on the vanguard of smart design, including more environmentally friendly resorts.

“The potential here is to lead the world in what the integrated resort of the future looks like, and it could be totally off grid, driven by renewable energy,” he told State of Nevada. “What we could do here in Nevada, in the middle of the desert, is just mind-blowing.”

He said right now the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip are huge energy consumers with no windows that people can disappear into and struggle to get out of but the casino of the future could be vastly different.

But it's not just the Strip, Lehmann sees a future in the rest of the city where smart design creates a more compact, high density, walkable city. He said moving the city in that direction means less car pollution and healthier people.

“It sounds like something that could not be achieved immediately but we have to have a vision and a long-term strategy and then we have work incrementally towards this goal," he said.

Helping students understand their role in shaping the future is fundamental to the school of architecture, Lehmann said. Architects are decision makers in how homes and officers are going to be built.

“We have to make it clear that we can influence the future and the future is what we make it,” he said.

Lehmann said the school is always focused on making sure students understand the needs of the future like how climate change will impact home design.

The latest of Lehmann’s 20 books is about to be published. It deals with how cities can adapt to a changing climate.

Steffen Lehmann, director, UNLV architecture program

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With deep experience in journalism, politics, and the nonprofit sector, news producer Doug Puppel has built strong connections statewide that benefit the Nevada Public Radio audience.