How the Rocky Mountain Institute Works

Rocky Mountain Institute Consulting Services

The Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) separates its consulting services into three groups. These groups work with governments, private citizens, entire communities, corporations and more to help them combine environmental responsibility with competitive advantage.

The Built Environment Team works to transform the building industry. It collaborates with designers, engineers and architects to integrate energy conservation and resource efficiency into their projects. The Built Environment Team's "whole system" approach analyzes the impact of every component on the entire building, ensuring the structure is not only environmentally sustainable but also aesthetically pleasing with reduced operating costs. The Built Environment Team also offers workshops, analysis, speaking engagements and green building specifications [source: RMI Built Environment Team]. It has worked with such clients as Morgan Creek, University of Denver, Starbucks and Adobe [source: RMI Built Environment Team].

The Energy and Resources Team (ERT) works with various industry clients to discover ways to conserve, produce, buy or sell energy. By staying at the forefront of energy industry trends, this team is able to provide valuable advice and solutions to its customers. Its services fall into three general categories:

  • Facility design/renovation -- applying innovative design techniques to buildings, lighting and other issues
  • Processes and products -- enhancing efficiency through short-term measures (such as motor replacement and thermal integration) and long-term strategic shifts (such as process, product, and organizational redesign)
  • Demand-side management -- establishing programs that leverage the advantages of energy-efficiency (for example, many power companies are beginning to realize it is more cost-efficient to show their customers how to save electricity, rather than try to sell them more of it)

The ERT works with clients like the California Public Utilities Commission, Google, and the Nevada Power Company [source: RMI].

The third consulting arm of the Rocky Mountain Institute is the Mobility and Vehicle Efficiency (MVE) team. MVE focuses on improving transportation practices -- radical reduction of carbon emissions and oil use. The transportation sector uses 70 percent of America's oil. MVE works toward vehicle efficiency rather than alternative energy sources. Amory Lovins first joined the conservation movement by asking, "How can we use less energy?" rather than, "Where can we find new energy?" That principle continues in MVE's research [source: RMI].

For example, MVE works with companies such as Alcoa and FiberForge on the development and adoption of lightweight materials for vehicles -- a lighter weight vehicle equals less mass to move, which equals better fuel efficiency. FiberForge in particular is a for-profit venture that grew out of RMI's Hypercar concept. Engineers envision the Hypercar as a vehicle with ultra-light construction, a hybrid-electric drive with consumer safety features and affordability [source: RMI]. RMI hopes that one day these 100 miles-per-gallon cars will be the norm.

Next, we'll look at some of the Rocky Mountain Institute's biggest achievements.