Cradle to Cradle authors William McDonough and Michael Braungart performed a double act at the RIBA last night for a youthful audience in a packed Jarvis Hall. I had heard them speak separately before - in smaller venues to non-architects - so I was curious to see how they would present to an architectural audience. Braungart charmed the crowd by passing around an edible t-shirt and a highly toxic toy.
McDonough and Braungart plan to make public the data and criteria of their cradle to cradle certification process within the next year. This may be in response to recent mounting criticism about its transparency and the potential conflict of interest with clients who pay to have their products certified. They encourage one and all to trial it in different projects and contexts so that it will become a dynamic tool. This is an important development and one to be applauded.
It’s virtually impossible not to be taken by the cradle to cradle argument. It all makes great sense, as many corporate board rooms are finding. Their ‘growth is good’ message obviously appeals and it contrasts with most sustainability experts who talk about tightening belts. McDonough’s view is that public and private sector alike will ‘go renewable’ as soon it becomes affordable because they will then have a fiduciary responsibility to do so.
But how do you do it? Here the duo provided disappointingly few answers. Question after question was graciously side-stepped. McDonough himself acknowledged that he has clients who are converts, just waiting for marching orders. He spoke about identifying ‘five key messages and ten stories’ for each project - a kaleidoscope of innovation. ‘Sustainability checklists are stultifying to innovation,’ McDonough says. I totally agree, but this all came across as a bit vague. Yet we know it’s not, because Braungart is a materials scientist who deals with ppm of toxic elements in materials.
It’s clear that these two men have moved the debate forward in boardrooms across the globe. No wonder they find it difficult to address the nitty gritty of embodied carbon in concrete.
Filed under: People