Meet Rebecca Buntrock, PE, LEED AP BD+C, a Senior Associate at Silman, A TYLin Company, in New York, New York. As a studio leader, Rebecca has managed projects for all types of building construction, with special expertise in historic preservation and existing buildings.
What inspired you to become an engineer?
As someone who has always loved math and problem-solving, civil engineering felt like a natural fit. I learned about preservation engineering in my first job performing façade evaluations. This area of interest ultimately led me to Silman. It was exciting to find a career path that combined traditional structural analysis with history and research.
What's one thing the engineering industry can do to encourage more women into its ranks?
Retaining women in the industry is critical as they advance in their careers. We must prioritize providing the right opportunities and mentorship. Having more women in leadership roles will help inspire future generations to stay in the industry as they can see a path forward for themselves.
What technical skills have helped you advance in your career?
My technical skills were honed by working on a variety of new construction and existing building projects. There is a lot to learn, from a seemingly simple project to the most complicated one. And working on both types of construction can really complement one another. Studying for professional licensure exams was also critical to solidifying my technical foundation early in my career. This included passing the Structural Engineering (SE) exam, which is recognized in the state of New York, where I took it as a registered Professional Engineer (PE).
What personal traits or characteristics have helped you succeed in this position?
I try to approach projects and challenges with a positive attitude and a focus on teamwork and collaboration. There is a very human aspect to what we do, and such a large percentage of our job is how we communicate, be it written, verbally, or through drawings, graphics, and models. The new virtual world has added another element of challenge to all this. As I progress in my career, I continuously strive to improve how I communicate internally with peers and collaborators and externally with clients, architects, and contractors.
Who have been mentors and advisors in your career?
Bob Silman was an important mentor to me when I started at Silman. In addition to being a brilliant engineer, he was a natural presence who showed by example how to bring out the best in people. I have also been fortunate to work with many of the female leaders at Silman, who have set a great example for me and advocated for me as I progressed in my own career. Another source of inspiration is the next generation of engineers in our office, who bring so much to the team in terms of their ideas, energy, and creativity.
What are two of the most memorable projects you have worked on?
One of my favorite projects has been the Menokin Glass House Project in Warsaw, Virginia. This “jewel box” of a building combines cutting-edge new design (glass and steel structure) with historic preservation (restoring and stabilizing the existing ruin to act as shear walls). Each detail is unique, no corner of the building is orthogonal, and the materials are used to tell the history of the site. I started on this project as a Project Engineer in 2012 and now lead the first phase of construction as a Senior Associate.
Another memorable project was the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory Palm Dome Restoration at the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. It was a unique preservation challenge to perform a hands-on investigation, analysis, and repair of the immense 95-foot diameter, 90-foot-tall dome in an active museum filled with palm trees. Construction and design challenges included temporary shoring of the compression ring during repairs and fortifying the existing structure in zones of deterioration. The project taught me how to lead a multi-disciplinary team, with Silman as the prime, and to face my fear of heights.
What advice would you give young engineers interested in a position like yours?
Seek mentors early on, do not be afraid to ask questions, and advocate for the right kind of support. Always consider yourself an important part of the team from day one — because you are.