I'm standing outside Pliny Fisk and Gail Vittori's home, a thoroughly modern amalgamation of rebar, earthen walls, and galvanized-steel roof terraces that pierce the big Texas sky, listening to Fisk explain the workings of seven huge cisterns that collect rainwater. "Uh-oh" he jokes as a police car pulls into the gravel driveway and its occupants hop out. The cops, having a slow day, have stopped by strictly out of curiosity.
For months they've been driving by this place, and they can't figure out what it's all about. Fisk's eyes light up. No need to ask twice. He launches into an explanation of his demonstration home for the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems (CMPBS), which incorporates local, environmentally sound building materials that can be dismantled and returned to the earth, plus solar energy, rainwater harvesting, and a closed-loop waste treatment system.
He's in the midst of describing the structural steel rebar, made locally from crushed cars, when the officers' radio dispatch interrupts. They look a bit relieved. The visitors probably weren't aware that they had just encountered the Daddy-O of sustainable living. It's an experience that can leave your head reeling, as Fisk, at a frantic pace, unravels ideas, statistics, and devastating truths about the way we live. An afternoon at the CMPBS makes it difficult to flush the toilet without guilt ever again.
Check out the May/June 2000 issue of
for more details about the construction and philosophy of the CMPBS.