Conversation – Austin 2050 – Green Tech Futurist Dreams (4:15pm)

While hover boards may or may not be around in 2050, you can count on better transportation and cooler Green Tech. Learn what people in Austin are coming up with now, and what Austin could look like in 35 years.


Brandi Clark Burton, Senior Policy Advisor at City of Austin, Office of Mayor Steve Adler

Brandi Clark Burton grew up in Austin and has a passion for connecting people, information and resources to promote healthier individuals, families, communities, businesses and planet. As a social entrepreneur she has launched more than a dozen new companies, organizations and first-time city-wide events such as Austin EcoNetwork, Citizen Gardener, Austin CarShare, Food Shift Austin and It’s My Park! Day. An active civic leader, she has served as chair of the Urban Forestry Board and a member of numerous boards, commissions, and task forces, and has been a trusted green advisor to top City leaders for years. Brandi currently serves as a Senior Policy Advisor to the City of Austin, Mayor Steve Adler, handling many green topics such as water, renewable energy and conservation, resource recovery, climate, food and much more.

Brandi is a graduate of Westlake High School, Yale University and Leadership Austin. She has earned numerous accolades including being voted ‚ÄúBest Environmentalist‚Äù four times in the Austin Chronicle‚Äôs readers’ poll, winning the International Women’s Day Environmental Award, the 2011 Mayor’s Individual Achievement Award for Environmental Awareness and the Austin Under 40 Community Service Award, as well as awards from Keep Austin Beautiful, the Austin Business Journal, and others.

She belongs to Austin Families in Nature with her husband Scott and 2 young boys and together they regularly go camping as well as volunteer for tree plantings and park cleanups.

Pliny Fisk

Pliny Fisk, Co-Director, Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems

With a background in architecture, landscape architecture, and the systems sciences, Pliny has made pivotal contributions to the sustainability movement for more than four decades by developing replicable prototypes, protocols and policy initiatives.¬† His prototypes challenge conventional wisdom about building design, engineering, materials, economic development, and landscape and regional planning. Pliny‚Äôs seminal life cycle-based protocols helped shape the first green building program, and influenced many more. He has collaborated on federal demonstration greening efforts, including the Greening of the White House and Greening of the Grand Canyon, and on scores of other pivotal projects such as the EpiCenter building in Montana, the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, and the Seattle Justice Center, and on Solar Decathlon entries with the University of Texas (2002) and Texas A&M University (2007). His policy initiatives, including the Austin Green Building Program, the AIA‚Äôs Environmental Resource Guide, and greening the Texas Architecture + Engineering Guidelines, have established new protocols with broad implementation. Pliny‚Äôs has received several national and international recognitions including the Lewis Mumford Award, the 1992 Earth Summit Award (with the City of Austin), the U.S. Green Building Council‚Äôs Sacred Tree Award, and The Passive Solar Pioneer Award. In 2006, Metropolis Magazine recognized Pliny as one of 14 Visionaries; in 2008, Texas Monthly called him one of “35 People Who Will Shape Our Future”; his work has appeared in numerous media. Pliny was on the faculty at Ball State University, The University of Texas at Austin, and Texas A&M University, and held teaching positions at the University of Oklahoma and Mississippi State University.¬† He also served as an advisor to the MacArthur, Gates, and Enterprise Foundations and served as a Peer Professional for the GSA. He is an inventor, as well as CEO and founder of two proactive private sector technology companies: Sustainable Earth Technologies and the EcoInventorium.


Talia McCray, Assistant Professor, Community and Regional Planning Program, University of Texas at Austin

2012-2013 Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award: U.K.-Scotland Visiting Distinguished Professor at Glasgow Urban Laboratory, Mackintosh School of Architecture. Dr. McCray specializes in transportation planning for the transportation disadvantaged population. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in the Urban Technological and Environmental Planning Program. During her time as a graduate student, she was an Eisenhower and Eno Fellow. Her dissertation work modeled prenatal care and transportation access challenges in rural South Africa. Dr. McCray began her career as an electrical engineer and worked several years with AT&T Bell Laboratories in digital signal processing. She is a proud graduate of Bennett College (B.S. in mathematics) and North Carolina A&T State University (B.S. in electrical engineering), and continues to be connected to her alma mater by serving on the Board of Trustees at Bennett College. She also holds a M.S. degree in electrical engineering from Northwestern University. In September of 2003, Dr. McCray won a Ford Foundation Post-doctoral Fellowship at the University of Laval in Quebec City, where she directed a study on the accessibility needs of low-income women, primarily dependent on public transportation. From June 2006 – September 2007, Dr. McCray directed a large interdisciplinary research and outreach project, funded by the University of Rhode Island Transportation Center, that addressed the activity and travel patterns of low-income teenagers in Providence, RI. Dr. McCray has written several articles and papers addressing perceptions of violence and the use of space by urban youth, developing methodology to address the transportation needs of disadvantaged populations, and analyzing the effects of culture on healthcare access.


Kathy Zarsky, Systems Director at HOLOS Collaborative

Kathy is the Systems Director at HOLOS Collaborative, a sustainability consultancy whose core tenet is systems thinking and collective intelligence. Kathy graduated from UT at Austin with a degree in architecture in 1994 and went on to spend 14 years providing construction management and integrated design/build services within the commercial building sector before launching HOLOS. She is a sustainable & regenerative building advisor, process mapper, biomimicry and biophilia practitioner, educator, and speaker. As a systems and strategy designer, Kathy’s work has primarily focused on the dynamic relationship between people and the built environment at multiple scales. Her goal is to enable solutions that lead to a greater natural ecology through exploration of design and systems using biomimicry and biophilia. She is versed with multiple LEED rating systems, SITES, the Living Building and Community Challenge, and the Well Building Standard.

In 2011, Kathy became one of the world’s first Biomimicry Specialists, bringing unique perspective and innovative thinking to design challenges. Kathy founded BiomimicryTX, one of a growing number of global network affiliates of the Biomimicry Institute, that same year. Since that time, she has led partnership efforts with SXSW Eco, organized a biomimicry design challenge focused on water with SMU, spoken at conferences around the country, led training workshops for an international market research firm, written education curricula, and led camp programs. She is currently exploring biomimicry and biophilia applications with a global technology company. She is part of a newly minted collaboration within the global biomimicry community negotiating services as a Platform Partner for the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Initiative.