Saving the world

Texas Monthly names Fisk, Vittori
among those shaping the future


Pliny Fisk III, associate professor in Texas A&M’s College of Architecture, has been named to Texas Monthly’s list of “35 People Who Will Shape Our Future” in its February 2008 issue.

Fisk and his wife, Gail Vittori, were on the list along with A&M faculty  members Bruce McCarl and Mark Westhusin. Texas Monthly compiled the list as part of the magazine’s look at the future commemorating its 35th anniversary.

“I heartily congratulate the honorees for this latest recognition of their stellar and innovative work in their respective fields — work that has had positive impact in Texas, nationally and globally,” said Texas A&M president Elsa Murano. “This honor reflects exceedingly well on Texas A&M University and underscores our commitment to faculty enhancement.”

Fisk, an expert in the field of sustainability, headed A&M’s entry in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2007 Solar Decathlon. In 1975, he co-founded the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, an independent, nonprofit research and educational organization; he and Vittori are the center’s co-directors.

Texas Monthly describes Fisk, Vittori and their fellow honorees as people who will “have a profound influence on our lives in the years to come” because of the hard work they’re doing today.

“Long before concepts like ‘green building’ and ‘sustainability’ were fashionable,” says the magazine, “this husband-and-wife team envisioned a future in which architectural design and renewable resources worked together.”

Texas Monthly cited Fisk’s role in creating AshCrete, “an innovative building material made from the fly ash generated by coal-fired power plants and the bottom ash from aluminum smelters.”

Vittori is lauded for her role in spearheading green building in the health care sector. She recently helped design the Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, one of the most environmentally friendly hospitals in the U.S.

Last October, Fisk led the Texas A&M Solar Decathlon team in the U.S. Department of Energy competition with 19 other universities who erected and ran solar-powered homes to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The innovative Aggie entry, called the groHome, also emphasized the importance in housing of an open-source concept well as sustainability, disaster prevention, technological integration and a  good old-fashioned do-it-yourself ethic.

The Aggie entry earned first place in the AIAS Student Choice Awards at the Solar Decathlon. The award was presented by the American Institute of Architecture Students and the American Institute of Architects’ Committee on the Environment.

“The intention, execution, materials, design and post-competition use makes a great example of what this competition is about,” said contest jury member Barrett Palmer of Howard University. In evaluating the entries for the award, the jury considered each entry’s process, development and intended use after the competition, placing particular emphasis on the social implications of the proposed solutions.

The groHome also won a Lifecycle Building Challenge award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the student-designed building category. The EPA recognized entries that included innovative strategies for creating buildings that can easily be disassembled, allowing their components to be reused rather than end up in a land fill, thus conserving resources and energy.

The center that Fisk and his wife direct undertakes projects based on their potential contribution to site, regional and global sustainability and human health. Fisk and Vittori also lend the center’s resources to partnerships with associate organizations, businesses and professional firms.

The Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, directed by Fisk and his wife, has received a number of national and international awards, such as the United Nations’ Earth Summit award, presented in 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. The award recognized the center’s work in creating the Green Builder Program with the city of Austin.

Other accolades for the center have come from the American Solar Energy Society and the U.S. Green Building Council.

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Pliny Fisk III

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