Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Cradle to Cradle

Originally, most manufacturing operations didn't give much consideration to the harmful byproducts of the process through which their products were created, much less the fate of their products once they were done their intended life (as a blender, a car, a house, etc.). With rising awareness of the harm caused by unaccounted for costs in the production of these goods came "life cycle accountability", where manufacturers were forced to look at not only the cost of producing goods, but the costs of dealing with them after their usefulness had passed. This "cradle-to-grave" analysis takes into account the cost of disposing of lead and mercury in old television sets or dealing with vinyl siding once it is removed, and theoretically, should move manufacturers to create products which are less impactful on the environment over their entire lifespan.

Now however, spurred on by architects William McDonough and Michael Braungart, the "cradle-to-cradle" movement is gaining traction. The cradle-to-cradle philosophy is described by its authors as one "in which products and services are designed based on patterns found in nature, eliminating the concept of waste entirely and creating an abundance that is healthy and sustaining." Examples would include:

  • Buildings that, like trees, are net energy exporters, produce more energy than they consume, accrue and store solar energy, and purify their own waste water and release it slowly in a purer form.
  • Factory effluent water that is cleaner than the influent.
  • Products that, when their useful life is over, do not become useless waste, but can be tossed onto the ground to decompose and become food for plants and animals, rebuilding soil; or, alternately, return to industrial cycles to supply high quality raw materials for new products.

It's truly a revolutionary, yet decidely common sensical, way of looking at mass production and the way that we interact with the Earth. Recently, in Roanoke, VA, a cradle-to-cradle design competition for innovative home designs was held, and 8 winners were selected. You can read all about their projects here. Perhaps we'll see Koch or Ryan Homes building some of these in Anne Arundel in the next couple of years? Not likely.



Post a Comment

<< Home