Cradle to Cradle International Housing Design Competition

Most houses are consumption machines. They provide roughly-hewn
vessels in which we consume copious quantities of natural resources
and produce trash and pollutants. This legacy of ‘cradle to grave’
design has provided humanity with numerous benefits, but it has
also gravely threatened our health, happiness, and natural
resources. The basis for this old design is a linear model in which
resources pass in and waste passes out — any sense of cyclical
sustainability is eschewed in favor of raw production. Thus,
old-school industrial design produces as many landfills and
incinerators as it does buildings and jobs. In their book
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, William
McDonough and Michael Braungart outline a new standard for design
that turns ‘cradle to grave’ production on its head, detailing a
‘cradle to cradle’ standard of sustainable design that purifies
air, water, and soil and retains natural resources for perpetual
reuse. This new paradigm works with nature rather than against it,
using cyclical metabolisms of resource use that replenish as they

All of this theory, of course, is useless without meaningful
application, which is why the Cradle to Cradle Home competition was
formed. Judged by a who’s who of sustainable designers and endowed
with significant cash awards, the ultimate goal of the competition
is to build real examples of the principles laid out in McDonough
and Braungart’s work. Winning entries will actually be built on a
specific site in Roanoke, Virginia, and entrants are encouraged to
keep local context in mind when designing their habitations. By
encouraging the design of homes that give to the environment rather
than take from it, the Cradle to Cradle Home competition provides a
crucial forum for green designers to demonstrate the viability of
the sustainable architecture concept.
Brendan Themes

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