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Greg Franta's Body Found

Posted March 11, 2009 12:07 PM by Nadav Malin
Related Categories: Miscellania, Op-Ed, The Industry
They found Greg, and his car, yesterday — a month after he mysteriously disappeared. According to the Denver Post, he had slipped off the road and rolled into a ravine. Daily Camera has a more detailed article. I was hoping that when we found out what happened to Greg, even if the news was bad, there would be relief in the closure. There is some of that relief, but it's overwhelmed by the suddenly concrete sense of loss. And of my own vulnerability. It's funny how my response to someone else's huge misfortune becomes about me and my fears, but that's how it's playing out right now. Greg exuded vitality and energy. He embraced and energized those around him, literally all over the world. If someone with that strong a presence in the world can die so unexpectedly, what does that mean for me? A reminder that we're all here on borrowed time — at least in our current form. An invitation to use this time well. For his family and friends, for everyone who is committed to green buildings and making a better world, Greg's sudden departure is a huge loss. There is some consolation, however, in recognizing how much great work he left behind, in his designs, his ideas, and the thousands of people he taught and inspired. Look to the great folks at the Rocky Mountain Institute to help channel grief into yet more positive action. — Nadav Malin

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1 This is a devastating loss. H posted by Hal Levin on 03/11/2009 at 11:08 am

This is a devastating loss. His contributions have been enormous, and he was on track for so much more. He was an "early adopter" of advanced concepts in environmentally responsible architecture. I got to know Greg while serving together on the Steering Group of the AIA Committee on the Environment which Bob Berkebile created back in 1990 and had the pleasure of collaborate on a few projects. He was always "on" -- present, engaged, and often hilarious. He will be sorely missed.

2 Remembering Greg Franta It se posted by Alex Wilson on 03/11/2009 at 10:03 am

Remembering Greg Franta

It seems so bizarre to be writing a remembrance of another close friend so soon after Gail Lindsey’s death. In fact, Greg’s accident was just a week after Gail succumbed to cancer.

Greg Franta, FAIA was a pioneering leader of the green building movement - and the solar movement before that. I first got to know him when he served on the board of the American Solar Energy Society and I was involved in an ASES chapter in New Mexico; that was in the late 1970s. Greg was pushing the envelope with passive solar energy back then, and he continued pushing the envelope throughout his distinguished career as an architect, teacher, and leader - including serving as one of the founders of the AIA Committee on the Environment twenty years ago. His position with the Rocky Mountain Institute’s green development program these past few years was a perfect fit for Greg - an opportunity for him to travel, contribute to many projects, and work with hundreds or thousands of people around the country and world.

In thinking about Greg over the years, it’s hard not to smile. I’ll relate a story that provides a glimpse of his fun-loving personality. We were at a design charrette at the Monsanto Corporation headquarters in St. Louis. Amory Lovins, with whom Greg often worked even before joining the institute full-time, was leading this charrette. Greg was the daylighting expert on the team. I was participating mostly as a scribe, trying to keep up enough to produce a report for Monsanto - not an easy task with the fire hydrant of ideas flying from Amory, Greg, and others.

Anyway, about twenty of us were in one of Monsanto’s laboratory buildings. We 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 Dilbertesque cubicles downstairs - it might even have been below-ground. We were looking for energy savings opportunities - of which there were many. A young woman looked up from her desk at this rag-tag group of nerdy energy experts with this incredibly quizzical look on her face, asking what’s going on. Without missing a beat, Greg, who was just ahead of me in this line of consultants, 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. And he was genuinely funny - which is one reason he was a great teacher. I saw how engaged he could be when he and I taught a workshop on green design for the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council in Gulfport, Mississippi. It was in one of those “floating” casinos that later ended up a half-mile inland with Hurricane Katrina. Greg was the star; I filled in some pieces around the edges on green materials. While pointing out the extreme irony of our place of learning - a mammoth structure, totally devoid of windows - Greg conveyed the principles of natural daylighting, integrated design, and energy. Over dinner, a few of us were treated to his Minnesotan jokes, told in his native accent.

As I struggle with the tragedy of Greg’s death, I can at least fall back on these memories. 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 many people whose lives and careers he touched.

Posted from NESEA’s Building Energy Conference in Boston.

3 I talked to Greg a couple of posted by Doug Seiter on 03/11/2009 at 10:06 am

I talked to Greg a couple of weeks before his disappearance. He went out of his way to track something down that I could not have found anywhere else. This was but one of the many wonderful traits that gathered together in this one being. Greg's time was well spent, too short.

4 Greg show me how to "live lig posted by Joao Prosdocimo - Curitiba, Brazil on 03/12/2009 at 10:22 am

Greg show me how to "live light". When in Curitiba, he jogged every morning. I would show him the city and he would say, "yeah, I´ve been here tthis mornig". We had great dinners together, and in one of his trips he brough Jana, Sara and Emily together. When I learned he was missing, I had him in my thoughts every single day. And now, I still have. And I will do it for a while. The image that sticks in my mind is his smile, his happiness, and high spirit. Greg was a great guy nad will be missed. We used to exchange e-mails often, sort of like "keepin´touch" kind of thing when you are (very) far away. The body is gone. The thoughts remain. And the "living light" thing, became a constant reflection in my life. Like I read, "a green light that fades out..."

5 RMI has established the Greg posted by Mark Piepkorn on 03/12/2009 at 10:44 am

RMI has established the Greg Franta Leadership Fund to honor and continue Greg's work and legacy.

In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to this fund. Please click to to contribute.

6 Greg was a man who was ahead posted by Debbie Hindman on 03/11/2009 at 07:57 pm

Greg was a man who was ahead of his time. He had a vision and probably knew that he was ahead of us all, but his patience mixed with humor was engaging and captured our attention. What I remember most is that he questioned the status quo - always. I have many fond memories of him through the years and above all respected his tenacity and loved his irreverance. My sincere condolences to his family.

7 I was fortunate to share an a posted by Don Tompane on 09/22/2009 at 02:22 pm

I was fortunate to share an apartment with Greg, during the period he was doing graduate work at ASU in Tempe, AZ. There were many humorous times and got to know many of his friends from his original hailing in Willmer,MN. What a great guy, and he had a impacting effect on my life and studies. The years trailed on, before communicating with him but found he had not lost any of the humor he shares. His encouraging input on my innovations was and proved to be useful. In talking with him, found he had a heightened critical thought process, and would have relished knowing him even better. My sincere condolences to his family and friends, who I am sure were encouraging to his too short life. Best wishes to all that knew him and who he touched.

8 A Memorial Mass will be held posted by Molly Halsey on 03/16/2009 at 09:12 am

A Memorial Mass will be held Monday, March 16, 2009, 4:00 pm at Sacred Heart of Jesus, 2312 14th Street, Boulder. A reception will follow.

9 Well said Nadav. Grief is com posted by Charles Brown on 03/24/2009 at 07:13 am

Well said Nadav. Grief is compassion and empathy for his loved ones, but often manifests as our personal loss. The tragedy of losing two joyous souls should remind us to let our love out as often as possible. "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" (C Colton).

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