We live in a cradle to grave society. By cradle to grave the authors of Cradle to Cradle (William McDonough & Michael Braungart) mean that very little of our society is organized around truly sustainable practices. We take material from their natural state and (at best) reuse and re-purpose them until they are no longer of use to us and find their way to a landfill. In other words, most recycling efforts only prolong the trip to the landfill. Stop gap measures are better than doing nothing but, as a civilized society, we can and ought to demand more of ourselves.
With a cradle to cradle approach to our materials world the fundamental way in which we design and manufacture products would change. We would create all products so that their component parts could be easily recycled back into their native state and used again and again indefinitely. This would be truly sustainable and it is something that we can work towards now. After all, for how much longer can humanity afford to be “less bad.”
But how can this apply to architecture? Many of us already strive to make buildings as green as possible while still meeting our clients budget needs. For many designers this includes considering the life-cycle of products when selecting building materials. While we can’t directly control the process by which our building materials are made we can continue to educate the public so that demand for cradle to cradle materials increases; just as it has for naturals, organic, and local materials. We can also promote quality design that is intended to last rather than that which is only intended to last long enough to serve a single purpose. As a profession, architects have already made great strides towards environmentally responsible design and construction but there is still further to go.
How do you plan to ‘green’ your next project?