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 Protocol

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) metabolisms.

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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