The McDonough Principles


One of the world’s most innovative designers in resource productivity is William McDonough, dean of the University of Virginia’s school of architecture. Inspired by the way living systems actually work, McDonough follows three simple principles when redesigning processes and products:

  1. Waste equals food. This principle encourages the elimination of the concept of waste in industrial design. We need to design every process so that the products themselves, as well as leftover chemicals, materials, and effluents, can become “food” for other processes.

  2. Rely on current solar income. This principle has two benefits: First, it diminishes, and may eventually eliminate, our reliance on hydrocarbon fuels. Second, it means designing systems that sip energy instead of gulping it down.

  3. Respect diversity. We need to evaluate every design for its impact on plant, animal, and human life. For a building, this means, literally, what will the birds think of it? For a product, it means, where will it go and what will it do when it gets there? For a system, it means weighing immediate and long-term effects and deciding whether it enhances people’s identity, independence, and integrity.