History of the Center

The Center was originally conceived by Pliny Fisk III and Daria Bolton Fisk through the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture as the Laboratory for Maximum Potential Building Systems, one of the first design-build studios in the country.  In 1975, an independent parallel effort, the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, was granted 501(c)3 status (known colloquially as “Max’s Pot”).  Houston art collector and philanthropist Dominique de Menil was an early benefactor to the fledgling non-profit, which has since received generous support from many grant organizations including the Meadows Foundation, Kendeda Fund, Merck Family Fund, and Still Water Foundation.

Led by current Co-Directors Fisk and Gail Vittori, The Center has championed decades of groundbreaking projects, manifested through the organization’s cultivation of protocols, policies, and prototypes.  The Center served as design lead for the Laredo Blueprint Farm and was instrumental in developing the original conceptual framework and early phase implementation of the Austin Greenbuilder Program, the first evaluation method of its kind and a precursor to the AIA Committee on the Environment’s Environmental Resource Guide and the USGBC’s LEED rating systems.  Texas Monthly listed Fisk and Vittori among its “35 People Who Will Shape Our Future.”

In 1998, The Center completed its Advanced Green Builder Demonstration Building, now serving as its primary office and studio space, with State and Federal grants as well as funding from private foundations and corporate donations.  The Demonstration building features open building systems, regionally-sourced low carbon materials, and a series of life-cycle based on-site water collection and wastewater treatment exhibits. The building is open to the public monthly during The Center’s Open House.

As a USGBC LEED Fellow, Vittori has been an integral voice in the development of sustainable design within the Healthcare sector.  Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas in Austin, for which The Center served as consultant, is the first LEED Platinum-certified hospital in the world; its leadership continued with the completion of the South Bed Tower in 2013, which became the first LEED for Healthcare Platinum-certified building in the world.

The Center continues to sponsor an internship program that has fostered more than 100 interns in an environment of theory and practice.  Many Center “alums” have gone on to pursue graduate studies in architecture, public health, engineering, and landscape architecture, and to work in some of the nation’s most renowned sustainable design firms and forward-thinking public sector organizations.

Over the past 38 years, The Center has overseen and collaborated on award-winning public and private sector projects in Austin, throughout the U.S., and internationally.  In 2013, Ecotone Press released Creating a Maximum Potential Future, a biography of Fisk, as part of their Green Masters series of publications.  The Center continues to inspire ecologically balanced environments, steward natural resources, and elevate community resilience and economic vitality through such projects as the Island Nations Initiative (“Village in a Box”), the Ecology Action Circle Acres Ecobalance Masterplan, and LEED and sustainability consulting for Austin’s Block 21, Mueller Redevelopment, and Seaholm EcoDistrict.