ruminations about architecture and design

Friday, December 17, 2010

william mcdonough

This is Mcdonough and Partners NASA research laboratory, which is under construction at the moment.

McDonough is an architect I'm still trying to come to terms with. His book
Cradle to Cradle lays out a philosophy
that doesn't allow for compromise. "Being less bad is no good" is a statement that forces a thorough evaluation of every design strategy.

I'm worried that architecture is the wrong profession to lead the movement towards sustainability. Building stock turnover is incredibly slow, even in places like China, and renovations that are "less bad" tend to be the rule because of the resources available to a client. If renovation and/or new construction costs are raised too high it limits the incentive to do anything at all, or do things under the table.

In the meantime, I'll keep my compost heap going because I'm into that "waste as a nutrient" concept.

1 comment:

  1. One of my students wrote a reasoned, respectful critique of McDonough's "less bad is no good" argument last semester. Some of his main points were:
    -slow, moderate change over time has been proven to create better, more lasting results than radical change
    -humans need to receive some kind of feedback/reward for their efforts. We can't just expect people to change because of guilt or altruism: the only way to motivate them to be more sustainable is to get them to see the benefits to them.
    -Telling people that "less bad isn't good enough" will discourage them and prevent them from making any kind of change at all, because they can't see the hope of reaching the goal or how to get there, nor how making small steps toward the goal will improve anything
    -Every small step toward improving the energy efficiency, etc, can be a step toward McDonough's "cradle to cradle" dreams, and in the mean while, it's better than nothing. If we win people's buy-in at this stage, it'll be easier to get to the next stage.

    He actually put it all better, but it was a good argument. That we can't be all-or-nothing...we need to let people get there in stages and understand why each stage was good, not just impose it on them.