William McDonough

Earth Hour: Remaking the things we make

“We realize that design is a signal of intention, but it also has to occur within a world, and we have to understand that world in order to imbue our designs with inherent intelligence, and so we look back at the basic state of affairs in which we design, we, in a way need to go to the primordial condition to understand the operating system and the frame conditions of a planet, and I think the exciting part of that is the good news that’s there, because the news is the news of abundance, and not the news of limits, and I think as our culture tortures itself now, with tyrannies and concerns over limits and fear, we can add this other dimension of abundance that is coherent, driven by the sun, and start to imagine what that would be like to share.” — Bill McDonough, “The Monticello Dialogues”

All this renewed talk on environmentalism and Earth hour, reminded me of this TED video from William McDonough. He posits that we can be environmentally friendly if we remake things we make. We can remake everything from our clothes to our vehicles to our factories, and even our cities. Can the Philippine government apply Cradle-to-Cradle design in its for poor housing?

McDonough for example rebuilt Ford Motor Company’s Ford Rouge Center. What they did was to turn 10-acres of industrial plant into a “living roof.” According to Architectural record, the new roof has reduced the building’s energy cost by 7 percent, and improved air quality by as much as 40 percent. It was estimated that the environmentally friendly plant now cleans 76 million cubic meters of rainwater annually.

McDonough’s next project was to work with China. He worked with Deng Nan, daughter of former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping to promote an economically sustainable China. They used the village of Huangbaiyu. They sought to transform the village into an eco-friendly one and how to help improve village energy costs. The theory looks good, and yet results from China say, the new eco-friendly town is a hard sell.

Environmentalists are saying that we should begin to move towards a more eco-friendly environment. If history is to be our judge then to do so requires that it also has to be economically sound, as well as technologically sustainable. McDonough’s theory of remaking the things we make is a good idea. My question is: can this good idea be turned into a reality? People are asking what do you do beyond Earth Hour? Can we as a nation, perhaps through public-private partnerships, study and consider remaking the things we make, or is Earth Hour just about making feel good statements? McDonough said that Design is a signal of intension. So how are we to design our tomorrow?

Here’s a video of McDonough explaining what Cradle-to-Cradle is all about: