Amory B. Lovins, an American Physicist, receives the 2009 Design Mind Award
By Adam Zoltowski
Last week was National Design Week and, in New York City, there was much to see and do. It seems as though design is being discussed more now than ever before, as we look for new solutions to many of the complex problems that are rearing their ugly heads.
A leader in these solutions is Amory B. Lovins, an American Physicist from Colorado, co-founder of The Rocky Mountain Institute, 1993 McArthur Fellow and a leading authority on energy and its role in sustainability. In 1999 Amory B. Lovins co-authored, with Paul Hawken and Hunter Lovins, Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, a book that challenged us to re-evaluate how we view our economy and urged us to place a higher value on human intelligence and natural resources. He was also listed as Time Magazine 100 most influential people of 2009.
Photo of Amory B. Lovins by Colin McCullough.
Lovins and The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) have been developing solutions and technologies for the private and pubic sector with the tenets of Natural Capitalism in mind, ensuring economic and environmental sustainability since 1982. They recognized the scarcity of materials much earlier than most as well as the need to shift the paradigm towards a new way of doing business that ensures competitive advantage while not being a drain on the environment. In many ways, they paved the way for triple bottom line thinking before the term was even coined.
Of all of their innovations, the one I found most interesting and possibly ground-breaking is the Hypercar, an alternative car that reduces our dependency on foreign oil, reduces fuel costs and efficiency and does not sacrifice design aesthetics. The car was in development at RMI from 1991 to 1999 and uses forged fibers to create a lightweight vehicle with an incredibly aerodynamic body that would improve energy efficiency up to five-fold over current fuel standards.
In addition to the Hypercar, RMI and Lovins have also developed amazing breakthroughs in energy efficiency and pioneered many energy technologies such as solar, wind and bio-fuel developments. Their work in energy efficiency became the groundwork for Natural Capitalism and hopes to change how we view energy resources and our approach to harnessing energy. RMI’s system utilizes systems thinking and stresses that by solving financial problems in the design we can then solve larger global problems such as international competition, which then reduces political turmoil with other countries. If the design is cost-effective up-front, we then avoid other seemingly un-related problems down the road. It is design thinking in action.
In my previous post, I discussed the Design Revolution and how the design of things can change people’s lives and make the world a better place. Lovins has been doing this outside of the design community as a scientist for nearly 40 years. Him being awarded the Design Mind Award is an affirmation of the value of approaching large problems in a way that keeps in mind the environment, human beings and the profitability potential of design solutions.
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