William McDonough: The Original Green Man

Virginia's dean of green architecture talks about eco-efficiency, a multi-disciplinary approach, and the need for a new platform of thought

William McDonough, FAIA, the dean of green architecture, foresees what he calls “the next industrial revolution,” in which environmentally driven new product design and manufacturing processes would usher in an era of good design and abundance. McDonough argues that reducing the use of natural resources will only slow the rate of pollution and depletion, so what’s needed are new industrial production strategies that eliminate waste altogether, an imitation of nature. He sees a future in which manufacturers, who now equate profitability with disposability and waste, create products that can be repeatedly recycled and upgraded (“upcycled,” he calls it) with each reuse. This kind of environmentalism, McDonough argues, will be good for business and job retention. McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC), a partnership McDonough formed with German chemist Michael Braungart, helps clients develop eco-efficient strategies and products. In their book Cradle to Cradle (2002), McDonough and Braungart make a hard-headed pitch for improving productivity by designing for reuse at every step of the manufacturing process. In 2005, the partners launched a product certification program.

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