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Cradle to Cradle: The Stuff That Surrounds Us

After reading about a few of the different kinds of products that can be considered “Cradle to Cradle,” you might be thinking to yourself, “It’s great that these products represent a new way of creating things, but, if I don’t buy them, what does it matter to me?” Good question. Aside from thinking it’s important to simply know that they’re out there, we’re also eager to point out that it’s not just an idea, and a list of products; C2C is being used for other impactful things as well. At the top of this list: a Cradle to Cradle home.

That’s right: an entire dwelling, where you spend 60% of your life, that doesn’t create any persistent waste. Here’s the idea: the home has become a machine for consuming in. In our homes, we process an increasing quantity of consumer goods – bringing them in one end and discarding them at the other. As we consign our planet’s finite material nutrients to landfills, we perpetuate the modern invention of “waste” which is unknown in nature.

The answer, then, seems simple enough: follow nature more closely, and we’ll create less and less waste, until eventually that quotient is zero. By pursuing a vision of industry that does not damage ecosystems or social systems, Cradle to Cradle design moves beyond the “less bad” aims of efficiency; instead, it proposes a new strategy called “eco-effectiveness.” By learning from nature’s “design principles,” eco-effective design conceives industrial systems that emulate the healthy abundance of nature.

The first such home (pictured below) follows these principles from top to bottom. It utilizes timeless passive solar strategies by shielding unwanted summer sun and absorbing heat from low winter sun through its thermal mass. Active solar collection provides the main source of necessary electrical energy. The core extends vertically, clad with a super-conductive photosynthetic plasma cell skin that is able to generate 200% more electrical voltage per area than contemporary photovoltaics. It saves water by using a vegetated roof system that collects and filters stormwater into the building core. The core collects and supplies all household plumbing elements contained within it. Black and grey water are released to a primary septic tank below the core and eventually released as effluent to the “living garden”. Rapidly renewable soy-foam wall panels offer superior thermal resistance with minimal embodied energy. Reconstituted concrete with striated polymer mesh reinforcement efficiently supports the open building plan, allowing a flexible arrangement of partitions and spaces to accommodate present and future users.

From the ground up, this home, designed to be built in Roanoke, Virginia, are a marvel of modern sustainable design. Follow its principles, and there’s no reason we should throw anything in the landfill again. Learn more about the amazing design at the C2C Home website [www.c2c-home.org].