Fisk and Vittori co-direct the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, which works to design holistic systems that identify and utilize the full life cycle of products, buildings, and regions. While most modern building materials are not designed with multi-functional objectives in mind, the Center’s procedures seek out methods that create or reinforce cyclical regeneration at multiple levels. For example, processing saline water from brine can create magnesium oxide-based cement, while producing fresh water and hydrogen energy as by-products.
The center has developed a four-pronged approach, emphasizing design, master planning, policy and education, and tools (which include educational games and the creation and testing of building materials). Fisk and Vittori have set up solar hot water heater production for poor towns in South Texas, planned sustainable villages in Nicaragua and China, and created several dozen building materials. In the early 1990s, the pair also helped to create Austin’s city-sponsored green building ratings program—the first of its kind in the world and a model for the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system.
Other projects of Fisk and Vittori have ranged from collaborating on an eco-friendly renovation of the Pentagon to groundbreaking planning and design approaches for healthcare facilities, integrating a health-based design approach into green buildings, and designing adaptable building systems for disaster relief and ecovillages based on a re-design and re-engineering of the ubiquitous shipping pallet (conceived as manufactured from hemp).
In 2006, Metropolis Magazine recognized Fisk as one of 14 Visionaries and in 2008, Texas Monthly called him one of “35 People Who Will Shape Our Future.” In 2015, Vittori took home the Hanley Award for Vision and Leadership in Sustainability, and in November 2020, she received USGBC’s Kate Hurst Leadership Award, which recognizes inspiring women for their outstanding commitment to advancing green building.
We had an opportunity to speak with Pliny and Gail at a special live episode of our podcast, Social Design Insights, where they shared with us and the audience some of their strategies for global change. Listen to the episodes below.