SPECIAL GREEN SIDEBAR- Mr. Green: Architect McDonough a design genie

William McDonough has worked with everyone from Steven Spielberg to Wal-Mart to construct more eco-friendly buildings

Even if there weren't a green bone in our governmental bodies, Charlottesville might still be a top green city, thanks to one of the world's most celebrated greenies, architect William McDonough, who happens to live here.

McDonough is perhaps the world's leading authority and philosopher on green architecture. In fact, BusinessWeek magazine referred to the 56-year old former UVA architecture professor as the "Original Green Man" in an interview early this year. (Last year, following the success of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, director Steven Spielberg invited McDonough to L.A. to talk about doing a documentary on the architect's work). 

McDonough, who came to Charlottesville in 1994 to be dean of the School of Architecture, chose to locate his offices here after his academic stint, inspired, it seems, by UVA's founder.

"Being a dean at the University of Virginia, I was impressed by the breadth of interests of the university's founder, Thomas Jefferson," McDonough told BusinessWeek. "In comparison to him, everyone looks like a slacker."

Indeed, McDonough's thinking on green architecture is marked by its boundlessness. In a book he co-authored in 2002 called Cradle to Cradle, McDonough outlined his belief that architecture and science must come together to save the planet. By discovering new and more innovative ways to create and reuse materials, he says, we can come up with a new "design chemistry" that changes the way we build. McDonough even goes so far as to include an understanding of relativity, DNA, and nanotechnology in rethinking the way things are designed and built.

Indeed, many of McDonough's projects around the world are marked by this "design chemistry," which is as much a scientific challenge as an architectural one. For example, his firm's 20-year, $2 billion redesign of Ford Motor Company's River Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan, features a 10-acre green roof and a system that turns the plant's paint fumes into electrical power.

"We'd have to ask the question: how can something be high-quality design if it makes you sick or destroys the planet?" McDonough asked in the Business Week interview. "And often the answers require science. It's easy to tell the truth; it's harder to know what the truth is. And that's what science is for."


1 comment

How come McDonough lives in a 6000 square foot energy guzzling mansion in ritzy Farmington subdivision if he's so green? The only thing green about this guy's house is the big fancy irrigated green lawn that surrounds it. How do you spell hypocrite?