William McDonough: Designing for Abundance
Architect and author William McDonough has been recognized by Time magazine as “Hero for the Planet,” and his best-selling 2002 book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things broke ground and became a seminal guide for the sustainability movement. His career is filled with such firsts: While a student at Yale University, he designed and built the very first solar-heated home. The first green office in the US—for the Environmental Defense Fund—was designed in 1985 by McDonough. Along with Professor Dr. Michael Braungart, he co-authored the now-famous The Hannover Principles: Design for Sustainability, commissioned by the City of Hannover (Germany); these were the official design guidelines for the 2000 World’s Fair, and were presented by the city at the 1992 UN Earth Summit. He is the recipient of three US Presidential Awards: Award for Sustainable Development (1996), Green Chemistry Challenge Award (2003), and the National Design Award (2004).
Although his career path began and remains primarily in architecture, McDonough’s work goes far beyond designing buildings—into manufacturing, lifestyles, and even into the very ground itself. His philosophy of self-renewing and contributive structures and processes extends well past “zero impact.” “Aiming for ‘lower’ or ‘zero’ is not inspirational to me,” McDonough told Organic Connections. “It seems like a subtle shift from the strategy of tragedy that we’ve been pursuing for way too long. I have always believed that a strategy of hope was possible instead. This is why the subtitle of my latest book, The Upcycle, is Beyond Sustainability—Designing for Abundance. Do you want a sustainable life or one filled with joy and abundance?”
Cradle to Cradle
In Cradle to Cradle McDonough and co-author Michael Braungart examine the history of modern production, beginning with the Industrial Revolution. From the Industrial Revolution forward, the modus operandi has been “cradle-to-grave” building, manufacturing and even agriculture. The cradle-to-cradle model brings about drastic and vital change to these areas. Materials utilized in industrial processes fall into one of two categories: “technical” or “biological” nutrients. Technical nutrients are, by default, not harmful to humans or the environment in any way and can be used continuously without loss of integrity or quality; they never become waste. Biological nutrients are those that, once used, biodegrade back into the soil. They actually provide life and have no negative impact on the natural environment.