The Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Program Integrated as a Key Element of LEED, a Globally Adopted Green Building Program

LEED_logo_USGBCThe U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Version 4 Rating System, overwhelmingly approved last week by member voters, includes the Cradle to Cradle Certified Program, solidifying the organization’s commitment to material health, a movement advanced for 25 years by American architect William McDonough and German chemist Michael Braungart.

McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC), LLC, a firm that leads clients beyond sustainability to positive growth through Cradle to Cradle® science, innovation, and leadership, announces that the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has incorporated the Cradle to Cradle Certified Program in the latest version of its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Version 4 rating system (it will take effect in November). The endorsement of Cradle to Cradle Certified products marks the USGBC’s deepening commitment to material health and improving the impacts of buildings on the well–being of humans and the environment.

“We salute the USGBC’s courageous leadership in making material health a priority in the face of immense challenge from industry,” says William McDonough. “The stand they have taken will help continue their meaningful input as an agent of market transformation.”

Last year, at the USGBC’s annual Greenbuild Conference, McDonough delivered the closing keynote address, focusing on material health and a future of abundance for all. He brought clients and partners to the stage with him to make this case, and it happened at a Greenbuild where the USGBC announced a major grant from Google to focus on human health. In February of this year, MBDC and the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute participated in the USGBC’s Building and Human Health Summit, where the USGBC brought together industry leaders on healthy materials. The USGBC’s CEO, Rick Fedrizzi, has commended McDonough for his 20-plus years of pioneering leadership in the green and healthy building movement, as he acknowledged that the Cradle to Cradle material health considerations are now coming to the forefront for the organization and the industry.

“This year marks the 20th anniversary of USGBC. We convened this group as one of our first big initiatives of this milestone anniversary year, not because we didn’t care about this critical subject earlier, but because at this moment in time we are ready for this discussion,” Fedrizzi said. “Protecting and enhancing human health and well-being have been a big part of LEED from the beginning. It’s been embedded into LEED in different credits, but it’s not been in the front seat of this vehicle we are driving. And it needs to be in the front seat in a big way.”

This is also milestone for McDonough and Braungart, the Cradle to Cradle community they helped create over the past few decades, and their enterprises, especially MBDC. This represents a capstone of 25 years of work. “After I’d been working as an architect since the early 1980s, Michael Braungart and I began our collaboration in 1991,” McDonough says, ” before the USGBC had begun to form. Our work helped inspire many who created the council, and I was honored to host the first meeting to formulate what would become LEED while I was Dean at the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia. My firm was a charter member of the U.S. Green Building Council, and I have been supportive since LEED’s inception.” Many of McDonough’s pioneering architectural projects predate LEED, including the Adam Joseph Lewis Center at Oberlin College–a building that harvests more energy than it uses, cleanses its own water, and even produces food.

MBDC was launched in 1995, two years after the founding of USGBC, with the design and creation of the William McDonough Portfolio Collection for the Designtex brand of Steelcase, the world’s largest furniture manufacturer. The safe, high-tech, compostable textile–Climatex Lifecycle by Rohner Textile AG–later became one of the first Cradle to Cradle Certified products. The innovative product design and safe process chemicals resulted in highly profitable production with manufacturing trimmings that could be safely used as mulch in local food gardens and with the water leaving the factory that meets the high standards of Swiss drinking water.

Since then, MBDC has continued to work with innovative product manufacturers, such as Herman Miller, Steelcase and Construction Specialties, companies that have also been longtime leaders in the green building movement and key partners in advancing Cradle to Cradle thinking in the industry.

Shaw Industries Group Inc., the world’s largest carpet manufacturer and a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, has also been a leader. “A decade ago, Shaw designed the world’s first Cradle to Cradle flooring product,” said Paul Murray, Vice President of Sustainability and Environmental Affairs at Shaw. “Today more than 60 percent of Shaw’s sales are from Cradle to Cradle Certified products. As we work toward our goal to design all our products to Cradle to Cradle protocols by 2030, our company, our customers and our communities benefit from this rigorous, holistic approach.”

The demand for healthy building materials and interest in Cradle to Cradle Certified products is growing beyond the scale of individually LEED-certified buildings and into larger developments and communities. Jones Lang LaSalle (a global real estate firm with some 1.6 billion square feet of property under its management) and Delta Development (owner of Park 20|20, a Cradle to Cradle inspired development in the Netherlands) have both explicitly stated that they prefer Cradle to Cradle Certified products for their buildings.

The concept is going global. At last month’s Schmidt-MacArthur summit in London, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said: “Goodness will have a brand … something that looks like a lot like Cradle to Cradle Certified.”

Many others are taking note and taking up the Cradle to Cradle concept. In his foreword to McDonough and Braungart’s latest book, The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability–Designing for Abundance (North Point Press, 2013), President Bill Clinton wrote: “The ideas that Bill and Michael put forward … come from an honest sensibility that transcends the daily finger-pointing of left, right, or even reverse. They just point forward.”

About McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC), LLC

MBDC leads clients beyond mere sustainability to positive growth through Cradle to Cradle science, innovation, and leadership. MBDC advises companies on integrating the Cradle to Cradle framework into products, operations and decision–making. The design framework is articulated in two books co–authored by internationally recognized architect/designer William McDonough and chemist Dr. Michael Braungart: Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, published in 2002 by North Point Press; and The Upcycle: Beyond Sustainability–Designing for Abundance, which came out in April 2013.

About the Cradle to Cradle Certified Program

The Cradle to Cradle Certified Program was created by MBDC in 2005 as an internal inventory, assessment, and optimization protocol for continuous product and process improvement in five criteria categories: material health, material reutilization, renewable energy use, water stewardship and social fairness. In 2010, William McDonough and Dr. Michael Braungart donated the Cradle to Cradle Certified Program to the non-profit Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute to administer the certification program as an independent, third-party organization. MBDC gifted an exclusive license to the Institute for use of the product certification mark and methodology. MBDC now evaluates applicants’ products as one of the growing number of accredited assessors for the program. Once assessments are audited and approved by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, products are then recognized at one of five levels: Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

About LEED and the Cradle to Cradle Certified Program

LEED rating systems (including Building Design & Construction, Interior Design & Construction, and Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance) now offer Materials & Resources Credits for building product disclosure and optimization and purchasing. Buildings using a minimum of 20 different products that have been Cradle to Cradle Certified at or above the Basic level (V2) or the Bronze level (V3) can earn one point. Products certified at these levels have already surpassed the material ingredient reporting requirement with a chemical inventory to at least 0.1% (1000 ppm). An additional point is awarded for the use of optimized products that are Cradle to Cradle Certified at or above the Gold level (V2) or the Silver level (V3) and equal a value of at least 25% by cost of permanently installed products. Prior to LEED Version 4, buildings have been awarded Innovation in Design Credits (since April 2007) for the use of Cradle to Cradle Certified Products that total at least 2.5% of the cost value of all permanently installed building products.

Cradle to Cradle® is a registered trademark of MBDC.

Cradle to Cradle Certified is a certification mark licensed by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.

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