Visionaries: William McDonough
1st April 2009
William McDonough highlights the wastefulness and environmental impacts of modern design and manufacturing and proposes a whole rethink of the process.
Imagine buildings that make oxygen, sequester carbon, distil water, change with the seasons, and are beautiful.
His vision, spelled out in the book Cradle to Cradle, written with chemist Michael Braungart, is a manifesto for ecologically intelligent design and requires nothing less than a paradigm shift.
While many attempts at ‘greening’ design aim only to substitute bad chemicals with less bad chemicals and to fulfil the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ mantra, McDonough argues such concepts only perpetuate the ‘cradle-to-grave’ manufacturing model in which waste and pollution are considered inevitable. The ‘cradle to cradle’ concept questions why industry must damage the natural world at all. Why stop at cleaner indoor air quality and not aim for homes that clean the air? Why not produce chemicals that make nutrients, not waste?
‘Imagine,’ he writes in Industry and Environment, a UNEP publication, ‘buildings that make oxygen, sequester carbon, fix nitrogen, distil water, provide habitat for… species, accrue solar energy as fuel, build soil, create microclimate, change with the seasons, and are beautiful.'
Good design, for McDonough, anticipates design evolution. ‘Designs today must anticipate change and constantly improve over...
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