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Design for Life: Austin: Green and Red-Hot

When it comes to sustainable living, these Texans don’t mess around.

| January/February 2011

  • Gail Vittori and Pliny Fisk are green-building trailblazers who develop cutting-edge, eco-friendly housing solutions at the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, established in 1975.
    Photo By Carol Venolia
  • Every December the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center hosts a "Luminations" community celebration.
    Photo Courtesy Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Austin, Texas, isn’t just home to great food and music; it’s also a hotbed of green living. So when Design~Build~Live, an Austin sustainable learning center, invited me to give some presentations, I jumped on it. During the days between my talks on natural remodeling and life-centered design, DBL members took me on a whirlwind tour of some favorite spots.

I immediately felt at home at my hotel, Habitat Suites. Live plants grew in every room, lamps had compact fluorescent bulbs—and Natural Home graced the coffee table. Strolling the grounds, I enjoyed edible landscaping, herb spirals, native plants, rainwater barrels, photovoltaic panels, and a swimming pool treated with salt, not chlorine. The buffet featured fresh, healthy options and herbal tea. I was in heaven.

Go Native with Abandon 

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center—279 acres supporting 650 species of Texas native plants—was a top-priority visit. Regional vernacular styles came alive in buildings made of local stone, fountains and pools fed by rainwater, a stone aqueduct, and a dramatic lookout tower. We strolled from the entry courtyard to a shady woodland garden, then toured 23 theme gardens showcasing everything from medicinal herbs to deer-resistant plants. A ramble through the Homeowner Inspiration Gardens and butterfly garden led out along trails through expansive meadows and woodlands. I could have spent days there.



If you can’t get there in person, check out the Center’s website for images, articles, a national native plant database (including pictures) and information on topics from fire ecology to green roofs to seed saving.

Green Homes Come Alive 



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