Remembering Greg Franta

Greg Franta, FAIA

Photo: Rocky Mountain Institute
We were shocked when we learned, just a week after Gail Lindsey’s death, that Greg Franta was missing. Four weeks later, Greg’s car and body were discovered in a ravine along U.S. Route 93 between Boulder and Golden, Colorado. His car had tumbled off the road in the early morning hours of Monday, February 9, and rolled 375 feet, obscuring it from view.

Greg Franta, FAIA, 58, was a pioneer of the green building movement—and the solar energy movement before that. I first got to know him in the late 1970s, when he was on the board of the American Solar Energy Society and I was working for the New Mexico chapter. Greg was also a member of the American Institute of Architects Energy Committee during this period and helped push that organization into a proactive role in improving the energy performance of buildings; he later became AIA’s youngest-ever board member.

Greg was one of the founders of the AIA Committee on the Environment in 1990 and served as national chair in 1994. He was also active in the U.S. Green Building Council and received that organization’s Leadership Award for Education in 2006. His publications on passive solar design, glazings, daylighting, and integrated design over the years, and his extensive teaching, helped to make these principles of energy design accessible to the mainstream design community.

After many years of collaborating with the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), he joined the institute full-time in August 2005, when his firm ENSAR merged with RMI. Greg was named a senior vice president of RMI and leader of the Built Environment Team. Through ENSAR and RMI, Greg was involved with more than 500 building projects.

In thinking about Greg, it’s hard not to smile. In the summer of 1996, we were at a design charrette at the Monsanto Corporation headquarters in St. Louis. About twenty of us had just been through a greenhouse area where genetically modified potatoes were being grown under giant 1,000-watt metal halide lamps and were walking through a maze of cubicles downstairs looking for energy-saving opportunities. A young woman looked up from her desk at this group of nerdy energy experts with a highly puzzled look on her face, asking, “What’s going on?” Without missing a beat, Greg replied, “We’re from headquarters; we’ve noticed some irregularities on your timesheet.” The color momentarily drained from the young woman’s face before Greg put a reassuring hand on her shoulder and said with a bright smile, “Just kidding,” then explained what we were up to.

Greg loved to make people laugh—which is one reason he was a great teacher. Greg’s leadership in green design will be missed by so many. Our hearts go out to his family, his close friends and associates at RMI, and the many people whose lives and careers he touched. Visit www.rmi.org for more on Greg or to post a tribute.

Published March 26, 2009

Wilson, A. (2009, March 26). Remembering Greg Franta. Retrieved from https://www.buildinggreen.com/op-ed/remembering-greg-franta

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