Cradle2Cradle and its importance in Architecture

The RIBA recently hosted a debate: Treading softly: #Cradle2Cradle, the best way to achieving a zero carbon footprint. We sent Emma McDermott to join the debate.

About Cradle2Cradle

Cradle2Cradle is a concept for sustainable development based on the idea of doing things right the first time rather than compensating for damage done later on. Its innovative, integral and positive approach is based on the principle of unlimited reuse of materials.

The RIBA event explored how the construction industry can embrace the Cradle2Cradle concept to achieve a carbon neutral future, and ways in which practices can embed Cradle2Cradle principles in their business models. 

Crade2Cradle: Remaking the way we make things

Dr. Michael Braungart, environmental thinker and author of international bestseller ‘Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the way we make things’, was the main speaker for the day. As a chemist, he shared his insight into the design of materials and how Cradle2Cradle thinking is critical if we are going to have a safe, healthy and prosperous future.

He broke down the fundamental principles of Cradle2Cradle; it’s about: 

  • Using materials in continuing cycles, rather than in a linear ‘cradle to grave’ design paradigm
  • Using renewable energy sources
  • Celebrating diversity

Cradle2Cradle is based on the conviction that innovative science and design can move industry beyond a simple ‘cutting of this’ or ‘saving of that’, towards a new pattern where growth is good. Along with re-using existing materials, this eco-effectiveness is achieved by using:

  • Safe materials
  • Continuous reclamation
  • Clean water
  • Renewable energy
  • Social fairness
The philosophy of Cradle2Cradle is about always ensuring that quality is good. It is our responsibility as architects to design good quality buildings; buildings that have a sense of place, which can also withstand the rigours of everyday use, that are safe and sustainable, both for our clients and our planet.
— Emma McDermott

Opportunities for Industry

Nitesh Magdani,  Sustainability Director at BAM Construction, took us though some of the opportunities that Cradle2Cradle offers the built environment and the construction industry.

The construction industry currently uses a linear model, where too much industrial waste ends up in landfill.

Cradle2Cradle presents a new performance model by:

  • Designing for deconstruction
  • Encouraging asset value transparency
  • Creating long term relationships 

If we specify safe, good quality materials at the outset we ensure that during deconstruction we can continuously reclaim and reuse those materials.

By using BIM (Building Information Modelling) we can also create ‘material passports’ that store information about the materials and products used, encouraging asset value transparency. By creating maintenance relationships with manufacturers and reconsidering ownership and performance needs, Cradle2Cradle ensures materials end up in the hands of the manufacturers who are best placed to re-use them. 

I left the event feeling enriched and inspired not just to do less bad, but to really strive for 100% good.
— Emma McDermott

We will be continuing a mini-series about Cradle2Cradle over the coming weeks, so check our blog again, and follow us on Twitter.


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