By Damien Alexander Williamson | May 22, 2015 | People
Amory B. Lovins has been trying to build a greener world for nearly 40 years. The world has finally caught on.
Lovins atop his Snowmass residence. Completed in 1984 and named the Lovins GreenHome, it is so energyefficient that it actually places more energy back onto the grid than it uses.
Perched atop the roof of his Snowmass home—a three-decade-old marvel of eco-engineering that still sets the standard for sustainable design—Rocky Mountain Institute cofounder, chief scientist, and chairman emeritus Amory B. Lovins stands nestled between the solar panel arrays that help power the house below. It is a fitting setting in which to wax poetic about RMI’s new and nearly completed facility just downstream from Aspen, on the banks of the Roaring Fork River, in Basalt.
The 67-year-old bespectacled experimental physicist and MacArthur Fellow says the new net-zero-energy Innovation Center will generate as much or more energy than it uses, and will be one of the most efficient buildings in the world—a huge departure from the admittedly inefficient current site, in the former home of John Denver, on Snowmass’s 957-acre Windstar Land Conservancy. But the real benefit, and the one most befitting the 33-year-old RMI’s role as a think-and-do tank dedicated to driving the efficient and restorative use of resources, is that the new facility will serve as a replicable model of so-called deep green building around the country. “This building will create delight when entered, health and productivity when occupied, and regret when departed,” says Lovins.
The 15,610-square-foot Basalt campus—one of four RMI sites, along with New York City, Washington, DC, and Boulder—comes four years after Lovins and RMI published “Reinventing Fire,” a rigorous, data-driven analysis and action plan that maps a plan for managing the 2050 US economy (which is expected to grow 158 percent by that time) without the availability of oil, coal, or nuclear energy. In December 2014, RMI bolstered its commitment to action by merging with Sir Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room, another nonprofit creating market-based solutions to climate change.
All three initiatives—“Reinventing Fire,” the new campus, the merger—were planned as a response to increased national and international interest on curbing the planet’s use of fossil fuels. “Our job has certainly gotten more urgent,” says Marty Pickett, RMI’s managing director, who’s been with the nonprofit since 1998. “Amory is a true visionary, and like all true visionaries, he was well ahead of his time. Thankfully, the rest of the world is finally catching up.”
As is typical of Lovins’s forward-thinking nature, his focus has already extended well beyond his own country’s borders. “There is no discussion of energy efficiency or climate change without talking about the elephant in the room,” he says. “I’ve been focusing on China for 30-odd years. Now, we’re helping the people who will write China’s next five-year plan that will guide their development.” Now, on to the rest of the world….
PhotograPhy by Shawn o’Connor