10 for '20: Victor Olgyay

Submit A Comment | View Comments

Victor Olgyay, Rocky Mountain Institute

In this month’s column (“10 for ‘20”), I list 10 possibilities for the green building industry over the next decade. To supplement my own list, I asked a number of people, including the entire listserv of the AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE), to suggest their own, and I’m featuring some of these responses here this month. The simple question I put to them was this: “What do you feel could or should be the most important developments in the practice and pursuit of ‘sustainable design’ in coming years?"


Victor Olgyay is a principal architect with the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Built Environment Team. He sees future buildings as “Green Machines,” factories for the production of ecological infrastructures.


1. Retrofits! (No, not your father’s version!) Deep (50 percent or better) energy savings in existing buildings will become a booming industry.


2. Zero-energy new building construction will become the standard over the next decade, residential and commercial. Laboratories will remain energy pigs.


3. The distributed electrical building / transportation / utility network becomes a reality. First, buildings with grid tied photovoltaics (PVs), then the smart grid (with smart buildings that have "social networking" features), then buildings with plug-ins for electric vehicles, then load shedding with storage in networked automobile batteries, and eventually, enough distributed storage and generation is developed to shut down coal plants. (Ok, maybe 15 years out.)


4. PVs on everything.


5. Ecological Footprinting of buildings, or capacity analysis, becomes the standard for measuring building performance.


6. Remediation / Restoration / generation of ecosystem services as a building program element. Buildings produce more clean water than they use, harvest nutrients from sewers, absorb atmospheric CO2 and generate biofuels, provide habitat for pollinators, and become a net-positive impact on the environment. As our environment gets more crowded and polluted, ecosystem services become a fungible commodity, making the generation of ecosystem services economically viable.


7. Believable embodied energy data becomes available in a form usable by architects.


8. Widespread application of Life-Cycle cost analysis methods will make the business case for energy efficiency ubiquitous.


9. The growth of urban agriculture. Buildings and landscapes finally merge, green walls, residential scale hydroponics, greenhouse kits and rooftop farms become the new black. Growing cheap desirable local organic produce becomes the smart “cool” thing to do.


10. All of the above leads to the flowering of our new green economy. Jobs, localized economics, reduced dependence on transportation, greater social equity, cleaner living with less waste, more composting and recycling, happy healthy children and world peace. (OK, maybe 20 years out.)



Comments (4 Total)

  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 5:36 AM Wednesday, October 06, 2010

    Great thinking, Viktor. I very much agree on points 7 and 8. We are campaigning for all the product manufacturers in the building industry to provide Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) so architects could at last have transparent information about embodied impacts in products. That's the only way they can make the right choices. In Europe, our company, InterfaceFLOR, have committed to have all our products with an EPD by 2012.

    Report this as offensive

  • Posted by: jasmith4 | Time: 12:08 PM Tuesday, August 31, 2010

    Here are a few ideas I have about getting us off of oil and helping to solve a few other pressing issues as well. What do you think, and to whom should I direct these? Thanks. 1. Hook up every machine at every Bally's, Lucille Roberts, Curves, etc., gyms to electric turbines, and pay people tax-free to use them. Especially in America this would help obesity! 2a. Cover -- I mean cover! -- Tornado Alley with wind turbines that can not just withstand tornadoes but will get more power from them than from just a windy day. 2b. Cover large swaths of desert with solar panels -- this will also cool the planet. 3. Cancel and eliminate all car, boat and motorcycle racing, all demolition-derby and monster-truck orgies, all air shows, etc., etc., which burn up huge amounts of fuel for nothing more than our jollies. 4. We have Cash for Clunkers, so set up similar programs to encourage people to buy mopeds, motorcycles, Segue's, etc. 5. Desalinate lots of sea water -- our oceans are rising, so there's plenty of supply. 5a. Give the seas' salt, which has lower sodium, to junk-food companies, etc., so we won't have to mine it. 5b. Purify some sea water for people who have none to drink. 5c. Use the rest of the seas' water to irrigate the Earth's deserts, all of which have been expanding for decades -- if we can get oil down from Alaska, we can get water anywhere. But leave large sections of desert for solar panels as well as the wildlife that likes the desert. 5d. In those irrigated deserts grow ethanol-producing plants to help energy and global warming, and golden rice, etc., to help hunger too. We could also grow... 6. Dare I mention it? Industrial hemp! Why not replace half our tobacco crop with that? Isn't the government already growing *acres* of THC-laden hemp for the -- what is it, ten? -- people who have government approval to use it? Hemp oil burns cleanly and very hot, so it would help the energy crisis too.

    Report this as offensive

  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 4:46 PM Monday, July 12, 2010

    Yes, education of the "working class folks" is necessary, but it is also necessary to educate the "upper class folks". Many people who are well off and don't have to worry about paying their utility bills fail to think about the impact their huge houses and huge SUVs have on energy consumption. We need to make the change to a sustainable energy system affordable for middle and lower economic brackets but please don't assume that the rich will make the change even if they can afford it.

    Report this as offensive

  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 10:35 AM Wednesday, June 16, 2010

    The transition is obviously necessary to the survival of our planet. To make this possible, education of working class folks, the lower and middle economic class, that these things are important to their future and are possible for them. That means, for these people, the things you recommend must be economically available. I rarely read nor hear advocates of these important changes take on the challenges of making them economically feasible for the working class and poor. Tax credits are useless for folks working at minimum wage jobs, at poverty level. As poverty increases in our country and the world, this economic class will become an ever important segment of our societies that will need to be a part of these changes. Helping these folks to become realistically involved in the process should be a key focus of architects, designers, manufacturers, local and national governments and communities in genereal. At this time it is not.

    Report this as offensive

Comment on this Post

Post your comment below. If you wish, enter a username and password though they are not required. Please read our Content Guidelines before posting.


Enter the code shown in the image

Username is optional


Enter a password if you want a username


About the Blogger

Lance Hosey

thumbnail image Contributing editor and author of ARCHITECT’s monthly Eco column, Lance Hosey, AIA, LEED AP, Hon. FIGP, is president and CEO of GreenBlue, a nonprofit and consultancy dedicated to environmental innovation and the creative redesign of industry. A registered architect, he is a former director at William McDonough + Partners. With Kira Gould, he is the co-author of Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design (2007). His forthcoming book, The Shape of Green: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Design, studies how form and image can enhance conservation, comfort, and community at every scale of design, from products to cities.