Meet the Initiator: Michael Braungart

Meet the initiator Michael Braungart

In our quest for efficient, high-performing buildings, we have also, unfortunately, sealed ourselves off from the world. By tightly sealing buildings for heating and cooling efficiency, we have trapped deleterious chemicals in our workplaces. Products used indoors are not necessarily designed to be used indoors. Today, we are heavily focused on efficiency, and we have sadly forgotten who are exactly living and working in these buildings. In fact, most people spend around 90% of their time indoors. At the same time, we ask ourselves with driving determination how to do things in a shorter time, with cheaper materials, and our buildings have suffered for it. Even though, we and our natural environment are suffering most.

Combining traditional buildings with the intention of being beneficial

Instead of becoming less bad or reducing our footprint, it is possible to make buildings beneficial for humans and our environment. Building Sense Now emphasize the possibility to transform conventional architecture into buildings with a beneficial footprint. The built environment is our created habitat and an expression of our culture and the values of our society. Many great intentions are embodied in traditional buildings, and it’s time to include the intention of being beneficial, in terms of our longer term impact.
The Cradle to Cradle (C2C) design concept integrates economic, ecological and social benefits in products and buildings. The starting point is that everything is designed to be a nutrient for something else. Buildings are able to function as healthy material banks, where materials maintain their status as resources which can be used over and over again. A Cradle to Cradle building celebrates innovation by defining materials as part of biological and technical cycles to actively improve the quality of biodiversity, air, and water, all while being energy positive and perform multiple practical functions for occupants.

Buildings are the urban mines of the future

In nature, the processes of every organism involved in a living system contribute to the health of the whole. The blossoms of a tree fall to the ground where they are degraded and become food for other organisms. The creation of nutrient cycles for the industrialized world, in which garbage is no longer present, is an integral part of the Cradle to Cradle design concept. Many positive beneficial characteristics of trees can be translated into the design of buildings, increasing the quality of life for humans and our environment. With this approach we can transform today’s universal architecture into a far better quality for buildings.

We need buildings that use materials locally in a globally beneficial way. As a matter of fact, buildings are the urban mines of the future. Materials lose much of their value after they are used in buildings, because there is usually no way to reuse them at the same level of quality. However, materials can be redesigned so buildings are assets instead of liabilities. Buildings are like banks but instead of banking money they bank materials. The quality of materials can be improved at every stage; planning, construction, maintenance, and for products that move through a building during operations and maintenance. Key is to improve the value of materials used in buildings by digitalisation and engaging all stakeholders to enhance knowledge about design methods and specified products. It should be all about design for disassembly and recyclability, which eases maintenance and modernization processes to support the capture and repurposing of all materials.

In all these ways, architecture can make a difference and is able to improve our quality of life. With buildings that are useful for people and nature, we can truly celebrate our positive human footprint.

Michael Braungart is professor at the Leuphana University Lüneburg and CEO of EPEA, Environmental Protection and Encouragement Agency in Hamburg (Germany), ‘The cradle of Cradle to Cradle’. He is also co-founder of McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) in Charlottesville, Virginia and founder of the Hamburger Environmental Institute (HUI). For decades, Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart has pioneered the Cradle to Cradle design concept. He has worked with a number of organizations and companies across a range of industries, and has developed tools for designing eco-effective products, business systems and intelligent materials pooling.

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