Architect-author advocates 'green' building practices

Efforts by business and industry to pollute less and conserve energy are admirable, but won't significantly boost profits or save the planet in the long run, according to a world-renowned architect speaking at the University of South Carolina .

William McDonough, called "a hero for the planet" by Time magazine in 1999, told the Moore School of Business this week that businesses must commit to be 100 percent sustainable to be successful in the future.

He said buildings and factories must produce their own energy via solar and other renewable methods and use nontoxic, recyclable materials for everything from roofing to carpets.

"Being less bad is not being good," said McDonough, a consultant whose clients include Ford Motor Co., Wal-Mart, Pepsico and the U.S. Air Force. "It's just bad ... but less so."

The advice in Monday's talk by McDonough, who has earned three presidential citations, resonated with business school dean Hildy Teegen. USC is to build a new $90 million business school on its research campus, Innovista.

McDonough's views and practices "are terribly relevant for our business school," Teegen said, and they will likely be embraced in the new building.

The school is to be built on Greene Street near Colonial Life Arena and is expected to boost the university's struggling research campus. A design could be unveiled in the first quarter of 2010.

McDonough's talk was part of the Wachovia Lecture Series at the Moore School, whose international master's business program has been ranked first or second for 20 consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report.

Among McDonough's accomplishments:

- Planting a 10 1/2-acre roof of Ford's Dearborn, Mich., manufacturing plant with native grasses. In addition to providing nesting habitat for birds and a home for other wildlife, it saved the company $35 million in storm water drainage fees.

- Designing green cities in China and partnering with actor Brad Pitt to build solar-powered, sustainable homes in hurricane-ravaged New Orleans.

McDonough, with German chemist Michael Braungart, published his theories and designs in the book "Cradle to Cradle," which is printed entirely on recycled plastic "paper."

The architect has also has launched a Cradle to Cradle certification label that endorses 100 percent sustainable products worldwide.

"These tragedies (pollution and energy concerns) are of our own making," McDonough said. "We don't seem as a species to have a plan. A fundamental new design is required."