William McDonough

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William McDonough
William McDonough 2017 Preferred Headshot ©DuHun Photography (2).jpg
Born (1951-02-20) February 20, 1951 (age 70)[1][2][3]
NationalityUnited States
AwardsPresidential Award for Sustainable Development, National Design Award, Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award
PracticeMcDonough Innovation, William McDonough + Partners, McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry
BuildingsNASA Sustainability Base, 901 Cherry (for Gap Inc., now home to YouTube), Adam Joseph Lewis Center at Oberlin College, Ford Motor Company's River Rouge Plant

William Andrews McDonough is an American architect, designer and author. McDonough is founding principal of William McDonough + Partners, co-founder of McDonough MBDC as well as co-author of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things and The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability—Designing for Abundance.[4] McDonough's career is focused on creating a beneficial footprint. He espouses a message that we can design materials, systems, companies, products, buildings, and communities that continuously improve over time.


McDonough was born in Tokyo,[5] the son of an American Seagram's executive, and trained at Dartmouth College and Yale University. In 1981 McDonough founded his architectural practice,[6] and his first major commission was the 1984 Environmental Defense Fund Headquarters.[7] The EDF's requirement of good indoor air quality in the structure exposed McDonough to the need for sustainable development.[8]

McDonough's architecture practice, William McDonough + Partners, operates in Charlottesville, Virginia.[9] McDonough moved his practice from New York City to Charlottesville in 1994 when he was appointed as the Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia.[10] He served as Dean until 1999 and has since served as a professor of business administration and an alumni research professor.[11][12] He is chief executive of McDonough Innovation, which provides high-level consulting to global companies, organizations and governments and co-founded the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.[13][14] He is also co-founder of MBDC, based in Charlottesville, Virginia.[15]

A number of large corporate projects for The Gap, Nike, and Herman Miller,[16] led to his commission for a 20-year, US$2 billion environmental re-engineering of the Ford Motor Company's legendary River Rouge Plant in Dearborn, Michigan. The project included rolling out the world's largest "living roof" in October 2002. The roof of the 1.1 million square foot (100,000 m2) Dearborn truck assembly plant was covered with more than 10 acres (40,000 m2) of sedum, a low-growing ground cover.[17]

In 1996 McDonough became the first and only individual recipient of the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development.[18] In 1999 Time called him "Hero for the Planet".[19] In 2002 he co-authored Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. In 2004 he received a National Design Award for environmental design from the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.[20] He is also a Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council.[21]

McDonough was also a senior advisor and Venture Partner at VantagePoint Capital Partners,[22] one of the largest venture capital investors in clean technology.[23]

Design philosophy[edit]

William McDonough and his architecture and urban design firm, William McDonough + Partners, ground their work in Cradle to Cradle Design, a philosophy developed in the 2002 book, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. The goal is to frame design as "a beneficial, regenerative force—one that seeks to create ecological footprints to delight in, not lament."[24] The primary goal of Cradle to Cradle Design is to shift thinking from doing "less bad" to being "more good."[25] McDonough has also articulated the Cradle to Cradle Design framework as The Five Goods™[26] (Good Materials, Good Economy, Good Energy, Good Water, Good Lives) to help companies focus and evaluate their efforts on becoming "more good." The Five Goods were also designed to offer a streamlined method of addressing each of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

William McDonough + Partner's designed this office building at 901 Cherry Avenue, San Bruno, California. Completed in 1997, it is now home to YouTube.

The design of the firm is often categorized as green architecture or sustainable architecture. The concept, closely linked with green building, is not known for a distinctive visual style, but for minimizing the negative environmental impact of a building. McDonough, however, is often quoted as saying the aspiration is to design something like a tree, something that creates good, like oxygen, rather than minimizing negative impact.[27] McDonough's designs use solar and other passive energy efficiency techniques, as illustrated by the William McDonough + Partners' Flow House designed for the Make It Right Foundation New Orleans. The design incorporates deep overhangs, multiple connections with exterior areas allowing for much daylight and natural ventilation, roof mounted PV panels, water cisterns to harvest rainwater runoff and rain gardens to absorb any storm runoff.[28]

In 1984, McDonough and his colleagues designed the Environmental Defense Fund office in New York City. Since then, William McDonough + Partners has been responsible for other milestones in the movement, such as 901 Cherry Ave in San Bruno, California, completed in 1997 for Gap, Inc.; it is now home to Google's YouTube. The building features a 70,000-square-foot (6,500 m2) green roof[29] that helps to prevent water runoff, insulates the building from noise and provides a habitat for several species, and received the BusinessWeek/Architectural Record Design Award in 1998.[30] The Bernheim Arboretum Visitor Center for the Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, in Clermont, Kentucky, completed in 2005, blurs the line between outdoor and indoor space. This project, like others designed by William McDonough + Partners, draws heavily on the biophilia hypothesis - the study of the human desire and physiological need for contact with nature. The building was awarded the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum rating.

Together with his architecture firm, McDonough developed a master plan for the design of Park 20|20, the first large-scale urban development in the Netherlands that adopts the Cradle to Cradle philosophy.[31]

William McDonough co-founded the Make It Right Foundation New Orleans with Brad Pitt. This is an effort to rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans.[32]

Dedicated in 2012, the NASA Ames Research Center's Sustainability Base is designed to harvest more energy than it needs to operate and to cleanse its own water. It was designed to meet a conventional budget and tight timeline, be a test bed for NASA technologies, and it exceeds LEED Platinum metrics.[33] The facility is designed to "learn"—and continuously improve—over time.

McDonough addressed the Arctic Circle China Forum in Shanghai and laid out a framework for how to "bring back breathing cities" in May 2019.[34] This system seeks to avoid focusing on releasing less carbon and fewer toxic chemicals into the air and instead shifts to integrating renewable energy such as geothermal as a transformative solution to air pollution and climate change. This vision encourages cities to break out of the urban linear flow of, “take, make, waste,” and embrace a circular flow of "take, make, retake, remake, restore" to implement a Circular Carbon Economy.[35]

In June 2019 William McDonough delivered a keynote address at Sustainable Brands on "A Bold New Vision for the Collection, Processing, Circularity and Productivity of Plastic Waste".[36] As a step toward solving the plastics crisis, McDonough directed the audience to "refuse refuse", or reject plastics which are not reusable, recyclable, compostable and recoverable.[37]

Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Products Program[edit]

On May 20, 2010, at Google Corporate Headquarters, the Googleplex, McDonough announced the launch of the Green Products Innovation Institute, which was later renamed the "Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute." The Institute builds on the 2008 California state law that establishes the nation's first green chemistry program.[38] The non-profit public/private Institute has received the Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Products Program on an exclusive, worldwide basis to accelerate the transition to safe material use and increased material reutilization.[39] Executives from Google, Walmart, YouTube, Shaw Inc. and Herman Miller Inc. joined McDonough for the announcement.[40]

The Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Products Program is based on five attributes, Material Health, Circular Economy, Renewable Energy, Water Stewardship and Social Fairness.[41] On June 18, 2019, McDonough delivered a plenary at GreenBiz's inaugural Circularity '19 conference, where he spoke about the program encouraging a safe then circular economy to prevent recirculating harmful chemicals, which he refers to as retox.[42]

World Economic Forum[edit]

At the January 2014 World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting held in Davos, Switzerland, William McDonough led the first CEO workshop that was centered around sustainable design, with an added focus on Cradle and Cradle, The Upcycle, and the circular economy.[43][44] Prior to the 2014 meeting, McDonough participated in the organizing process in Geneva, when the WEF partnered with the United Nations to review the issue of climate change. It was later determined that climate change and the circular economy would be the main focus of the 2014 WEF meeting.[45]

McDonough was appointed as Chair of the Forum's Meta-Council on Circular Economy in July 2014.[46]


In May 2008, Vanity Fair magazine offered an extensive profile of McDonough, which included a close look at several of his clients and projects, in the piece "Industrial Revolution, Take Two."[47] Similar profiles about McDonough and his work have been published by the San Francisco Chronicle,[48] Discover Magazine,[49] and Time Magazine.[5]

In 2013, Stanford University Libraries began the William McDonough “Living Archive". Stanford University Libraries will also host the William A. McDonough Archive (WAMA).[50] This will be a first of a kind real-time "Living Archive".[50]

He was recognized at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland as the recipient of the Fortune Award for Circular Economy Leadership for outstanding contribution to the development of a prosperous and sustainable economy.[51][52]

McDonough was named as one of Fortune Magazine's World's 50 Greatest Leaders in 2019 at number 24 in recognition of his contributions to the green building movement, being a leading proponent of the circular economy and his efforts to redesign plastics.[53]

Completed works[edit]

Published works[edit]

  • Braungart, Michael; & McDonough, William (2002). Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. North Point Press. ISBN 0-86547-587-3
  • Braungart, Michael; & McDonough, William (2013). The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability - Designing for Abundance. North Point Press. ISBN 9780865477483
  • William McDonough (2016) Carbon is not the enemy, Nature 539, 349–351 (November 17, 2016)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lynch, Patrick. "Spotlight: William McDonough". Arch Daily. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
  2. ^ "William McDonough". NNDB. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
  3. ^ "William McDonough". Amazon. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
  4. ^ Dolan, Kerry A. (August 4, 2010). "William McDonough On Cradle-To-Cradle Design". Forbes. Retrieved August 16, 2010. William (Bill) McDonough is perhaps best known for redesigning Ford Motor's River Rouge plant with a vast green grass roof.
  5. ^ a b Lacayo, Richard (October 17, 2007). "William McDonough and Michael Braungart". Time. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
  6. ^ "William McDonough: The 'Utopian' Architect". National Press Club. National Public Radio. April 24, 2002. Retrieved October 20, 2008. Founded in 1981, the team of some 40 architects practices ecologically, socially and economically "intelligent" architecture and planning in the United States and abroad.
  7. ^ "William McDonough: The Original Green Man". Bloomberg. Bloomberg Companies Inc. March 27, 2007. Retrieved March 28, 2019. Virginia's dean of green architecture talks about eco-efficiency, a multi-disciplinary approach, and the need for a new platform of thought.
  8. ^ Ken Shulman (August 1, 2001). "Think Green". Metropolis Magazine. Archived from the original on May 5, 2007. But the project had a catch: the EDF told McDonough it would sue him if any of its employees took sick due to poor air quality or noxious substances in the construction. When McDonough asked his suppliers if they could provide him with a list of chemicals contained in their products, he was told it was proprietary information.
  9. ^ "Contact". William McDonough + Partners. Retrieved March 28, 2019. William McDonough + Partners maintains studio in Charlottesville, Virginia.
  10. ^ Hales, Linda (August 27, 2005). "An Environmental Problem Slipping Through the Quacks". Washington Post. Retrieved October 20, 2008.
  11. ^ "William McDonough Leaves UVA". BuildingGreen. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  12. ^ "William McDonough". American Program Bureau. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
  13. ^ "Who is involved?". Cradle. In 1994 he moved the firm, William McDonough + Partners, to Charlottesville to become dean of architecture at the University of Virginia.
  14. ^ "William McDonough". McDonough Innovation. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  15. ^ Haven, Cynthia. "Stanford Libraries acquire the archives of leading environmentalist William McDonough". Stanford. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
  16. ^ "William McDonough". William McDonough + Partners. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  17. ^ Hammonds, Don (November 12, 2004). "Greener, literally: Ford's better ideas for newest plant include grass-covered roof, pollution-eating plants". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. PG Publishing Co., Inc. Retrieved October 20, 2008.
  18. ^ "William McDonough: The Original Green Man". Bloomberg. March 27, 2007.
  19. ^ Lacayo, Richard (July 17, 2010). "William McDonough and Michael Braungart: Heroes of the Environment". Time Magazine. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  20. ^ "Clinton library wins National Design Award". June 12, 2006. Retrieved March 29, 2019. ...William McDonough+Partners, an architecture firm based in Charlottesville, Va., received the environment award for its work creating projects that are “ecologically, socially and economically sound.” ...
  21. ^ Design Futures Council Senior Fellows "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 6, 2007. Retrieved March 16, 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ "William McDonough".
  23. ^ Hamilton, Tyler (January 12, 2008). "Venture fund bets billion on cleantech". The Star. Toronto. Retrieved November 11, 2009. We've got the largest and deepest team focused on cleantech and well over $1 billion allocated to it
  24. ^ "Design Approach". William McDonough + Partners. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  25. ^ Khalamayzer, Anya (February 7, 2018). "Bill McDonough: We are here to make goods, not 'bads'". GreenBiz. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  26. ^ "The Five Goods". William McDonough. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  27. ^ "William McDonough on Cradle to Cradle Design". TED. February 2005. Retrieved April 26, 2010.
  28. ^ "William McDonough Partners Flow House In New Orleans". Inhabitat. July 13, 2009. Retrieved April 26, 2010.
  29. ^ "Gap Office Building, 901 Cherry". Mixed Mode. February 2005. Retrieved August 4, 2010.
  30. ^ "Industrial Revolution, Take Two". Vanity Fair. May 2008. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  31. ^ "Park 20|20, Amsterdam: Born to Be Recycled - Urban Land Magazine". Urban Land Magazine. May 5, 2014. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  32. ^ "Houses of the Future". The Atlantic Monthly. November 2009. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
  33. ^ "NASA Sustainability Base". NASA. August 2009. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  34. ^ "Agenda: Arctic Circle China Forum 2019". Arctic Circle. Polar Research Institute of China. Archived from the original on May 14, 2019. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  35. ^ "William McDonough on Bringing Back Breathing Cities". Retrieved July 3, 2019.
  36. ^ "William McDonough: Keynote Speaker". Sustainable Brands. June 2019. Retrieved June 24, 2019.
  37. ^ "Sustainable Brands Day 2: Great Lakes Now takes a look at the plastic problem". Great Lakes Now. June 2019. Retrieved June 24, 2019.
  38. ^ Sullivan, Colin (May 2010). "Glitzy Google Gathering Launches Green Product Institute". The New York Times. Retrieved September 10, 2010.
  39. ^ "Cradle to Cradle Enters Public Domain, Eyes Mainstream Acceptance". GreenBiz. May 2010. Retrieved September 10, 2010.
  40. ^ Dolan, Kerry A. (May 2010). "Another Step Toward Green Design". Forbes. Retrieved September 10, 2010.
  41. ^ "How To Get Your Product Cradle to Cradle Certified". Retrieved July 3, 2019.
  42. ^ "Before It Can Be Circular, It Has To Be Safe". June 2019. Retrieved July 3, 2019.
  43. ^ "William McDonough at WEF Annual Meeting 2014". YouTube. World Economic Forum. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  44. ^ McDonough, William. "Climate change and circular economy take centre stage at Davos". The Guardian. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  45. ^ Makower, Joel. "The McDonough Conversations: A change of climate at Davos". GreenBiz.com. GreenBiz. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  46. ^ "ASU Wrigley Institute board member to chair economic council". ASU News - Science & Tech. Arizona State University. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  47. ^ "Industrial Revolution, Take Two: William McDonough, May 2008".
  48. ^ King, John (November 13, 2012). "Green pioneer William McDonough". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
  49. ^ Kushner, David. "The King of Green Architecture". Discover. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
  50. ^ a b Torrez, Brittany. "Stanford creates 'living archive' of papers, real-time conversations". The Stanford Daily. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
  51. ^ Covello, Lauren. "Nike, Patagonia Win Awards at Davos for Efforts to Combat Waste". Fortune. Retrieved February 6, 2017.
  52. ^ "William McDonough Receives Fortune Award for Circular Economy Leadership at The World Economic Forum". McDonough Innovation. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  53. ^ "[24] William McDonough" inCS1 maint: postscript (link) "The World's 50 Greatest Leaders". Fortune. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  54. ^ "American University School of International Service / William McDonough + Partners and Quinn Evans | Architects". ArchDaily. March 10, 2011. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  55. ^ Singhal, Sumit. "B/S/H/ Inspiration House, Park 20|20 in Hoofddorp, The Netherlands by William McDonough + Partners". AECCafé. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  56. ^ "VMWare Global Impact Report 2015" (PDF). VMWare. Retrieved June 9, 2017.

External links[edit]