William McDonough Profile

  • The internationally renowned architect of the "Cradle to Cradle" vision, he provides businesses with a road map to create a world of sustainable prosperity through their practices and products.

  • A prolific writer and charismatic speaker, he is one of the Green Revolution's most outspoken and compelling voices, propelling ecological design and sustainable development through platforms such as the TED stage, the U.N., the World Economic Forum, and SXSW.

  • Widely respected for his thought leadership in design, he has received numerous awards, including three Presidential awards.
  • Since 1995, William McDonough’s Cradle to Cradle values and roadmap have guided organizations in realizing products and practices that benefit the health of people and the planet. Described by Al Gore as “the mastermind of sustainable design”, Mr. McDonough has demonstrated that we can create a world of abundance, peace, and quality of life that is not only sustainable but actually improves from generation to generation.

    An architect by trade, Mr. McDonough’s early projects opened his eyes to the relationship between design, our health and well being, and our environment. He began to focus on environmental design, which led him to create the world’s largest living roof at the time and buildings that produce their own energy – such as the structure that houses YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California, Google’s Googleplex in Mountain View, CA; NASA’s Ames Campus in Mountainview, CA; and Nike’s European headquarters.

    In the early 1990s, one of his projects introduced him to Michael Braungart, a German chemist and former Greenpeace director, who collaborated with him in the “Cradle to Cradle” vision and encouraged him to take his views of sustainability and abundance beyond architecture. Today, Mr. McDonough’s organizations, the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute and McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, work with multiple manufacturers globally to ensure the safety and beneficial footprint of their materials and design.
    His books Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things and Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability—Designing for Abundance have helped propel the Green Revolution.

    Mr. McDonough is the recipient of numerous awards, the most recent of which include the 2014 National Wildlife Federation Conservation Award; the 2016 US Green Building Council Leadership Award; and the Fortune Award for Circular Economy Leadership, which was presented to him during the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he was introduced as “the father of the circular economy.” Mr. McDonough was the Inaugural Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Meta-Council on the Circular Economy (2014-2016) and currently, serves on the Forum’s Global Future Council on the Future of Environment and Natural Resource Security. Watch some William McDonough’s World Economic Forum presentations on YouTube.

    • View Extended/Alternate Bio

      William McDonough is a world-renowned architect, designer, speaker and winner of three U.S. presidential awards: the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development (1996), the nation’s highest environmental honor, the National Design Award (2004); and the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award (2003). Time magazine recognized him as a “Hero for the Planet” in 1999, stating that “his utopianism is grounded in a unified philosophy that—in demonstrable and practical ways—is changing the design of the world.”

      McDonough is one of the primary proponents and shapers of what he and his partners call ′The Next Industrial Revolution.′ Time magazine again recognized Mr. McDonough and Michael Braungart as “Heroes of the Environment” in October 2007. Also in 2007, Mr. McDonough was elected an International Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

      McDonough′s leadership in sustainable development is recognized widely, both in the U.S. and internationally, and he has written and lectured extensively on his design philosophy and practice. McDonough co-authored the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, which maps the lineaments of a new design paradigm, offering practical steps on how to innovate within today’s economic environment. Part social history, part green business primer, part design manual, the book makes plain that the re-invention of human industry is not only within our grasp, it is our best hope for a future of sustaining prosperity. In 1991, McDonough was commissioned to write The Hannover Principles: Design for Sustainability as guidelines for the City of Hannover′s EXPO 2000.

      McDonough is the founding principal of William McDonough + Partners, an internationally recognized design firm practicing ecologically, socially, and economically intelligent architecture and planning in the U.S. and abroad. He is also co-founder of MBDC, a product and systems development firm assisting prominent client companies in designing profitable and environmentally intelligent solutions. Mr. McDonough is an Alumni Research Professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, and Consulting Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University. McDonough also serves as U.S. Chairman and member of the Board of Councilors of the China-U.S. Center for Sustainable Development. He is part of the Management Committee of HRH The Prince of Wales’s Business & The Environment Programme at Cambridge University. From 1994-1999, McDonough was the Edward E. Elson Professor of Architecture and Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia.

      McDonough is acclaimed for his creative and effective building designs; he is also recognized as the world leader in the field of ecologically intelligent architecture. Mr. McDonough believes firmly in minimizing human impact on the environment by modeling design on the elegance and efficiency of natural systems. Through this approach, McDonough has produced numerous environmentally friendly, economically responsible buildings for corporate, commercial, institutional, and residential clients

    William McDonough Speaking Videos

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    William McDonough's Speech Descriptions

    A decade before Al Gore began to raise public awareness of climate change, William McDonough was addressing environmental issues with both urgency and a message of optimism. Mr. McDonough uses compelling stories from his own projects to make the technical aspects of clean technology and ecologically driven innovation accessible to general audiences. The esteemed green architect firmly believes that “commerce is the engine of change” and offers an actionable roadmap for companies who want to do well by doing good. Mr. McDonough has spoken at the U.N, TED, SXSW, and numerous international events dedicated to designing a more abundant future.

      Suggested Keynote Topics:

      • Uncovering Value: The Links Between Environmental and Financial Performance
      • Redesigning Real Estate: Building for Sustainable Prosperity
      • The Next Industrial Revolution: Beyond Recycling, Beyond Eco-Efficiency
      • A New Geography of Hope: Landscape, Design and the Renewal of Ecological Intelligence
      • The Extravagant Gesture: Nature, Design, and the Renewal of Human Industry

    What People are Saying about Seeing William Speak

    Rating Entries

      William McDonough′s “utopianism is grounded in a unified philosophy that—in demonstrable and practical ways—is changing the design of the world.”
      Time Magazine

      “A must for all – consumers, educators, health professionals, business and government leaders… McDonough offers a practical vision and gives us hope for a future that is safe for our grandchildren.”
      Polly Walker, MD, MPH
      Center for a Livable Future
      Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

      “McDonough has been practicing, writing and preaching ecologically sensitive, socially just design for more than 20 years. Style is one thing, but in terms of transforming the planet, no designer is more important to watch now.”
      The Washington Post

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    Books by William McDonough:

      Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things
      Environmentalists are normally the last people to be called shortsighted, yet that′s essentially what architect McDonough and chemist Braungart contend in this clarion call for a new kind of ecological consciousness. The authors are partners in an industrial design firm that devises environmentally sound buildings, equipment and products. They argue that conventional, expensive eco-efficiency measures things like recycling or emissions reduction are inadequate for protecting the long-term health of the planet.

      Our industrial products are simply not designed with environmental safety in mind; there′s no way to reclaim the natural resources they use or fully prevent ecosystem damage, and mitigating the damage is at best a stop-gap measure. What the authors propose in this clear, accessible manifesto is a new approach they′ve dubbed “eco-effectiveness”: designing from the ground up for both eco-safety and cost efficiency. They cite examples from their own work, like rooftops covered with soil and plants that serve as natural insulation; nontoxic dyes and fabrics; their current overhaul of Ford′s legendary River Rouge factory; and the book itself, which will be printed on a synthetic “paper” that doesn′t use trees.

      Because profitability is a requirement of the designs, the thinking goes, they appeal to business owners and obviate the need for regulatory apparatus. These shimmery visions can sound too good to be true, and the book is sometimes frustratingly short on specifics, particularly when it comes to questions of public policy and the political interests that might oppose widespread implementation of these designs. Still, the authors′ original concepts are an inspiring reminder that humans are capable of much more elegant environmental solutions than the ones we′ve settled for in the last half-century. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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