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'Cradle to cradle' as a sustainable principle

Designing buildings, cities and towns without creating pollution or waste is quite possible, according to Michael Braungart. The founder of the ’Cradle to Cradle’ movement visited COWI in Denmark in May.

If the upper stratum of the world’s agricultural land were restored, we could solve the CO2 problem.

This is the theory of one of the pioneers of the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) movement, Professor of Chemistry Michael Braungartof Germany, who paid a visit to COWI in May 2009 to discuss the potential for the concept in Denmark.

Michael Braungart elaborates:

“Excess CO2 is not a climate problem: it is a materials problem. The top stratum of earth can bind two-thirds of all CO2. But if we destroy the topsoil, as modern agricultural production does, and fail to replenish all the carbon it removes, there is nothing we can do to keep CO2 emissions down.”

Everything is nutrientsThe Cradle to Cradle principle defines a holistic concept for designing our products – goods, buildings, cities and towns – in a way that by the end of their life cycles they can be broken down and circulated in biological or technical cycles.

The philosophy holds that all waste products must be treated as nutrients.

“Nature does not know about waste, only about nutrients,” Braungart points out.

COWI opportunities in C2CTalking about the visit, Jasper Steinhausen, a Sustainable Business Developer at COWI says:

“Part of our business is based on keeping ourselves informed of new concepts and possibilities. As far as aligning ourselves with the Cradle to Cradle principle is concerned, COWI is well-positioned thanks to our extensive, multi-disciplinary organisation and many years of experience in most of the disciplines which are crucial to the development of Cradle to Cradle buildings and products.”

In conjunction with the Danish counterpart to the C2C movement, the firm Vugge til Vugge, Jasper Steinhausen is involved in a pilot project which is raising funding for the construction of the first house in Denmark to be built according to C2C principles.

“The idea is that the building should work just like a tree, which generates oxygen, purifies rainwater, produces more energy than it consumes, and purifies the air in and around the building. The house will also be composed of materials which circulate in biological or technical cycles."

Read the full interview with Michael Braungart (pdf).

By Kathrine Schmeichel
Published: 07.07.2009


Blue book

German Professor of Chemistry Michael Braungart, 51, also teaches at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. He and the American architect William McDonough are co-authors
of Cradle to Cradle. They are co-proprietors of the C2C certification organisation MBDC, while Braungart is also involved not only in EPEA, which specialises in C2C consultancy, but also in several non-profit enterprises whose work, funded by C2C-related income, aims both to develop the C2C concept further and to help the poor all over the world to set up C2C projects.

In 2002 Braungart and McDonough wrote their book ‘Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things’.

LAST UPDATED: 16.09.2016