Architect William McDonough believes green design can prevent environmental disaster and drive economic growth. He champions “cradle to cradle” design, which considers a product's full life cycle — from creation with sustainable materials to a recycled afterlife.

Why you should listen

Architect William McDonough practices green architecture on a massive scale. In a 20-year project, he is redesigning Ford's city-sized River Rouge truck plant and turning it into the Rust Belt's eco-poster child, with the world's largest "living roof" for reclaiming storm runoff. He has created buildings that produce more energy and clean water than they use. He is building the future of design on the site of the future of exploration: the NASA Sustainability Base. Oh, and he's designing seven entirely new and entirely green cities in China.

Bottom-line economic benefits are another specialty of McDonough's practice. A tireless proponent of the idea that absolute sustainability and economic success can go hand-in-hand, he's designed buildings for the Gap, Nike and Frito-Lay that have lowered corporate utility bills by capturing daylight for lighting, using natural ventilation instead of AC, and heating with solar or geothermal energy. They're also simply nicer places to work, surrounded by natural landscaping that gives back to the biosphere.

In 2002 he co-wrote Cradle to Cradle, which proposes that designers think as much about what happens at the end of a product's life cycle as they do about its beginning. (The book itself is printed on recyclable plastic.) From this, he is developing the Cradle to Cradle community, where like-minded designers and businesspeople can grow the idea. He has been awarded three times by the US governemt, and Time magazine called him a Hero of the Planet in 1999.

What others say

"His utopianism is grounded in a unified philosophy that -- in demonstrable and practical ways -- is changing the design of the world." — Time

William McDonough’s TED talks

William McDonough on the TED Blog

Web-based ways to make a difference

January 1, 2008

To help those of us making resolutions this week, here is a sampling of web tools for making a difference, inspired by TEDTalks speakers: + Share Ron Eglash‘s cool math tools, for studying math via breakdancing, Latin beats and cornrow braids + Dive into Richard Baraniuk‘s Connexions, a massive repository of open-source class materials + […]

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Architecture

William McDonough on TED.com

April 20, 2007

Green-minded architect and designer William McDonough asks what our buildings and products would look like if designers took into account “all children, all species, for all time.”

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Architecture

How green is your roof?

November 16, 2005

At TED2005, William McDonough dropped jaws with imagery from the world's largest "living roof," which he designed for the Ford Motor Company. This week, World Changing assesses the state-of-the-art in green roof technology.

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Quotes from William McDonough

If anybody here has trouble with the concept of design humility, reflect on this: It took us 5,000 years to put wheels on our luggage.
William McDonough
TED2005 • 1.1M views Apr 2007
Persuasive, Inspiring