INHABITAT INTERVIEW: Green Architect & Cradle to Cradle Founder William McDonough
Cradle to Cradle Certified Method Products
INHABITAT: Where do you see Cradle to Cradle headed? Ten years ago Herman Miller started developing their entire line as a Cradle to Cradle concept, and now they’re selling some of the best chairs in the world at fair price points. Ten years from now, how many of these booths do you see using this vernacular as a standard?
William McDonough: I think you would be quite surprised. We’re just at the beginning of something, even though we’ve been at it a long time, and it’s taken us a long time. We’ve integrated all of the different ideas that we’ve come up with and made it understandable in a robust and usable database. Ultimately we have positioned Cradle to Cradle for the public good through a not-for-profit institute. We’ll have it be reviewed by scientists and we’ll have Cradle to Cradle conferences every year for the institutes we expect to spring up all over the world. I recently signed a MOU or Memorandum of Understanding with the Israeli Standards Institute, and they are looking at Cradle to Cradle as a standard for Israel. So if you want to sell something in Israel, you’ll want to be Cradle to Cradle certified.
Howard Williams: Ten years from now, this may still be GreenBuild because it’s going to be the original name, but no one is going to be talking about green. The reality is that it’s going to be either good design or bad design. It’s not going to be green. Bad design will be broader than the visual, it’s going to be more than “It broke three weeks after I bought it.”
William McDonough: You know that’s a good way to put it because we see design as the first signal of intention. We have realized that we’re just designing from the top of the pyramid. If we want to design for everybody, we’ve got to be cost-effective and all of that. We can’t just single out attributes and certifications so that you’re not off gassing — while you’ve got a green stamp for all you know it could be all cancer. I mean what is that? It’s not okay — it’s not green, you’re still black. You know, you haven’t changed anything. All you have done is stir it up.
Virginia Beach House
INHABITAT: Is it true that sustainability not an adequate word? Are we looking for that next terminology or is sustainability still viable?
William McDonough: Sure, I think it’s a nice word because so many people can use it. But, nobody knows how to define it. That’s part of the issue, and that’s why we never use it. But, from our perspective, we’re not putting it down, we’re just saying it’s insufficient. For example, if I say what’s your relationship to your wife? Do you say just say sustainable? Don’t you want more than that? Don’t you want creativity and fun and all these things?
If we just sustain what we are doing now, then we’re all dead. This is carbon based silliness, a lot of this stuff, I mean we can’t sustain it. Even if you reduce your carbon, we’re still in trouble. We don’t have an energy problem – what a lot of people don’t realize is that we have a materials problem. The carbon in the air is in the wrong place, it belongs in the soil. You need a defined system and sustainability is not that.
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