The Fractal Triad
MCDONOUGH BRAUNGART DESIGN CHEMISTRY WAS ESTABLISHED IN 1995
to realize its founders' intention ofjump-starting the "Next
Industrial Revolution" through better design, or rather
ecologically intelligent design. by incorporating broad
scientific and ecological knowledge into existing design criteria.
MBDC partners with companies on in-depth, multi faceted analysis
and synthesis of products and processes to comply with aset of
principles and criteria known as the McDonough Braungart Design
The protocol calls for a pre-eminent strategy for the future
of industrial design. It is a unique and proprietary design tool
that evaluates a product's materials and processes to arrive
at a point from which redesign for sustainability can take place.
During the process of redesign, the protocol continuously reviews
and tracks improvement of the product and its surrounding systems.
"There are two fundamental metabolisms in the world: one
is biological, the natural world we inhabit, of which we're physically
a part. The other is what we call the technical metabolism, the
metabolism of human industry. We need to design products into
each of these metabolisms so that they nourish one metabolism
without contami nating the other." explains McDonough.
According to this perspective, products are differentiated
into three fundamental types:
Product of consumption: Designed to return safely to
nature through the biological metabolism. They are literally
consumed by micro-organisms and turn back into dirt.
Product of service: Products perceived as "services"
rather than as objects for sale. They return to the industrial
metabolism after their useful life. Examples include computers,
televisions and appliances.
Unmarketables: Products which cannot be consumed or
used in either an organic or an industrial metabolism. Safe means
of recycling these materials may be currently unavailable due
to lack of demand and high cost. In the long-term. these products
should not be manufactured. As existing unmarketables are discarded,
they should be stored and prevented from contami nating the surrounding
environment until a safe recycling process is developed.
"We use to be able to throw things 'away'," says
McDonough. "But there is no more away. There is nowhere
to go from here."
As the result of the conventional "cradle-to- grave"
product lifecycle, more than 90 percent of packaging and products
wind up in a landfill (lit erally a grave) or an incinerator
(a crematorium) within two months of their distribution. Some
of these materials may spend part of their useful life in downcycling
(i.e., park benches or automobile parts), but in the process
of downcycling, techni cal materials lose their quality and availability.
Instead of the lineal cradle-to-grave lifecycle, McDonough
and Braungart propose a cradle-to- cradle lifecycle in the (re)design
of all products. With cradle-to_cradle optimization, technical
nutrients (materials) are returned to the technical cycle, where
they become valuable nutrients for industry. Biological nutrients
(organic materials) are returned to the soil from which they
came. In theirwords: waste equals food all products are seen
as nutrients within biological (natural) or industrial (technical)
The McDonough Braungart Design Protocol uses three highly
interdependent components to assess existing products and approach
redesign: ecology, social equity and economy. It examines a product's
potential impact (negative or positive) in each of these categories
and identifies areas for improvement, as well as includes a review
of products and manufacturing processes from the molecule to
the region. Assessment of chemical composition, materials use
and regional ecologi cal impact all play a significant role in
the design process. The protocol also examines the impact ofa
product's manufacture and lifecycle on people and communities.
A comprehensive review of economic viability ensures the product's
success in the marketplace. From these individual evaluations,
MBDC calculates a set of indicators with which to chart a trajectory
of constant redesign and improvement toward 100 percent sustainability.
_ McDonough Braungart Design Chemishy
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