William McDonough
Born (1951-02-20) February 20, 1951 (age 73)
Alma materDartmouth College
Yale University
AwardsPresidential Award for Sustainable Development, National Design Award, Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award
PracticeMcDonough Innovation, William McDonough + Partners, McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry
BuildingsNASA Sustainability Base, 901 Cherry (for Gap Inc., now home to YouTube), Adam Joseph Lewis Center at Oberlin College, Ford Motor Company's River Rouge Plant

William Andrews McDonough (born February 20, 1951) is an American architect and academic.[1][2][3] McDonough is the founding principal of William McDonough + Partners and was the dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia.[4][5][6] He works in green and sustainable architecture, often incorporating his theory of cradle-to-cradle design.

Early life

McDonough was born in Tokyo and spent most of his childhood in Hong Kong where his father was a foreign service officer.[7] Later, his father was a Seagram executive and his family lived in Canada and Westport, Connecticut.[8] He says the move caused "profound culture shock".[7]

McDonough attended Dartmouth College.[7] After graduating, he worked on the Jordan River valley redevelopment project and lived in a Bedouin tent.[7] He studied architecture at Yale University in the mid-1970s.[7] To fund his college education, he worked as a chauffeur for Benny Goodman.[7]


McDonough founded an architectural practice in New York City in 1981.[9] He moved his practice, William McDonough + Partners, to Charlottesville, Virginia in 1994 when he accepted the position of the dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia.[5][10] He served as dean until 1999 and has since been a professor of business administration and an alumni research professor.[11][12]

McDonough centers his work on cradle-to-cradle design, a philosophy defined in his firm's 2002 book, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things.[13] The goal of cradle-to-cradle design is to shift thinking from doing "less bad" to being "more good".[14] Since 1995, his primary design partner is the German chemist Michael Braungart; the Charlottesville practice also included 49 associates in 2009.[6][8]

The firm's designs are mostly categorized as green architecture or sustainable architecture, often using solar and passive energy efficiency techniques. This type of architecture is not known for its distinctive visual style but instead for minimizing the negative environmental impact of a building. McDonough says he aspires to design something like a tree, something that creates good, like oxygen, rather than minimizing negative impact.[15]

McDonough co-founded the Make It Right Foundation with Brad Pitt to rebuild the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans in 2007.[16] In 2008, McDonough was a senior advisor and Venture Partner at VantagePoint Capital Partners, one of the largest venture capital investors in clean technology.[17][18]

On May 20, 2010, at Google's Googleplex, McDonough announced the launch of the Green Products Innovation Institute, a non-profit public/private collaboration which was later renamed the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.[19] Executives from Google, Walmart, YouTube, Shaw Inc., and Herman Miller Inc. joined McDonough for the announcement.[20] Located in Charlottesville, Virginia, the institute builds on the 2008 California state law establishing the nation's first green chemistry program.[21][22][23]

At the January 2014 World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, McDonough led a workshop for CEOs that was centered around sustainable design, with an added focus on cradle-to-cradle, the upcycle, and the circular economy.[24][25] Before the meeting, he participated in the organizing process in Geneva, when the WEF partnered with the United Nations to review climate change.[26] McDonough was appointed chair of the forum's Meta-Council on Circular Economy in July 2014.[27] He addressed the Arctic Circle China Forum in Shanghai in May 2019.[28]

He is a senior fellow of the Design Futures Council.[13] He is also the chief executive of McDonough Innovation, which provides consulting to global companies, organizations, and governments[29].

YouTube Headquarters, 901 Cherry Avenue, San Bruno, California


Lewis Center, Oberlin College

McDonough's first major commission was the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Headquarters in New York City in 1984.[30][8] The EDF's requirement for good indoor air quality exposed McDonough to the importance of sustainable development.[31] Since then, William McDonough + Partners has been responsible for numerous milestones in the sustainable movement, such as 901 Cherry Avenue in San Bruno, California, completed in 1997 for Gap, Inc.; it is now the headquarters for YouTube. The building features a 70,000-square-foot (6,500 m2) green roof that helps to prevent water runoff, insulates the building from noise, and provides a habitat for several species.[32] It received the BusinessWeek/Architectural Record Design Award in 1998.[33]

Other corporate projects include buildings for Gap Inc., Nike, and Herman Miller.[34][6] The Herman Miller SQA factory in Michigan includes a series of manmade wetlands that process and purify the building’s stormwater.[6] Set on 37 acres (15 ha), the 295,000 square feet (27,400 m2) building is often called the GreenHouse.[35]

He also received a commission for an environmental re-engineering of the River Rouge Plant for Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan. This project took twenty years and cost US$2 billion. The River Rouge Plant now includes the world's largest living roof; the 1,100,000 square feet (100,000 m2) roof is covered with more than 10 acres (4.0 ha) of sedum.[36]

His Flow House, designed for the Make It Right Foundation in New Orleans in 2009, incorporates solar and other passive energy designs such as deep overhangs and multiple connections with exterior areas that allow for daylight and natural ventilation.[37] It also has roof-mounted solar panels, water cisterns to harvest rainwater runoff, and rain gardens to absorb any storm runoff.[37]

Dedicated in 2012, the NASA Ames Research Center's Sustainability Base was designed to harvest more energy than it needs to operate and cleanse its water.McDonough designed it to meet a conventional budget and tight timeline, be a test bed for NASA technologies, and exceed LEED Platinum metrics.[38] The facility is designed to "learn"—and continuously improve—over time.

In 2014, McDonough and his firm developed a master plan for Park 20|20, the first large-scale urban development in the Netherlands to adopt the cradle-to-cradle philosophy.[39]

Completed works

Project Name Completed Client Location References
EDF Headquarters 1984 Environmental Defense Fund New York City, New York [30]
Herman Miller "Greenhouse" Factor and Offices 1995 Herman Miller Holland, Michigan [6][35]
901 Cherry Office Building 1997 Gap, Inc.; now home to YouTube San Bruno, California [32][6]
Nike European Headquarters 1999 Nike Hilversum, Netherlands [6][40]
Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies 2000 Oberlin College Oberlin, Ohio [41]
Ford River Rouge Complex 2002 Ford Motor Company Dearborn, Michigan.
Visitor's Center 2005 Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest Clermont, Kentucky [42]
David Allan Hubbard Library 2009 Fuller Theological Seminary Pasadena, California [43]
American University School of International Service 2010 American University Washington, D.C. [44]
Greenbridge 2010 Greenbridge Developments LLC Chapel Hill, North Carolina [45]
BSH Hausgeräte Office 2011 Delta Development Group/Park 20|20 Hoofddorp, Netherlands [46]
NASA Sustainability Base 2012 NASA–Ames Research Center Mountain View, California [47]
Meadow Farm House 2013 private residence Northern California [48][49]
Hero Motocorp Garden Factory and Global Parts Center, Phase I 2014 Hero MotoCorp Neemrana, India [50]
Dropbox Headquarters 2015 Kilroy Realty San Francisco, California [51][52][53]
Method Manufacturing Facility 2015 Method (now owned by Ecover) Chicago, Illinois [54]
Hero Global Center for Innovation and Technology 2016 Hero MotoCorp Jaipur, India [55]
VMware Corporate Campus 2016 VMware Palo Alto, California [56][57]
Co|Lab 2019 HITT Contracting Falls Church, Virginia [58]


After being named one of Fast Company magazine's "Masters of Design" in 2004, the same magazine followed up in 2008 with a more critical look at McDonough entitled "Green Guru Gone Wrong."[59] Interviewing many of McDonough's former colleagues, the magazine cited his failure to have any meaningful impact with his cradle-to-cradle program, his unsustainable suburban lifestyle, and his habit of misrepresenting his professional successes. It also noted that just 160 of his planned 30,000 products were green-certified, and that he trademarked the term "cradle-to-cradle" even though it was coined by Swiss architect Walter Stahel many years beforehand.

In 2008, McDonough's Huangbaiyu project was heavily covered by the press for its many design issues, including conflicts between Feng Shui and passive solar design standards, including garages although no villagers could afford cars, failing to provide space for grazing livestock, and building houses out of potentially unsafe compressed coal dust.[60] In 2008, a PBS Frontline investigation found that McDonough's poor planning and execution of the Huangbaiyu project had doomed it to failure from the start.[61]

Awards and honors

In 1996, McDonough became the first individual recipient of the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development.[62] In 1999, Time called him "Hero for the Planet".[63] In 2004, he received a National Design Award for environmental design from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.[64]

In 2013, Stanford University Libraries began the William McDonough "Living Archive".[65] At the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he received the Fortune Award for Circular Economy Leadership for his outstanding contribution to the development of a prosperous and sustainable economy.[66][67]

Fortune named McDonough one of the World's 50 Greatest Leaders in 2019 in recognition of his contributions to the green building movement, being a leading proponent of the circular economy, and his efforts to redesign plastics.[68] He was also profiled by Vanity Fair, Discover, and Time.[69][8]


See also


  1. ^ Lynch, Patrick. "Spotlight: William McDonough". Arch Daily. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
  2. ^ "William McDonough". NNDB. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
  3. ^ "William McDonough". Amazon. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
  4. ^ Dolan, Kerry A. (August 4, 2010). "William McDonough On Cradle-To-Cradle Design". Forbes. Retrieved August 16, 2010. William (Bill) McDonough is perhaps best known for redesigning Ford Motor's River Rouge plant with a vast green grass roof.
  5. ^ a b Hales, Linda (August 27, 2005). "An Environmental Problem Slipping Through the Quacks". Washington Post. Retrieved October 20, 2008.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Muoio, Anna (May 31, 1998). "This 'Green Dean' Has a Blueprint for Sustainability". Fast Company. Retrieved March 20, 2023.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Tyrnauer, Matt (June 12, 2010). "Industrial Revolution, Take Two: William McDonough". Vanity Fair. Retrieved March 20, 2023.
  8. ^ a b c d Lacayo, Richard (October 17, 2007). "William McDonough and Michael Braungart". Time. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
  9. ^ "William McDonough: The 'Utopian' Architect". National Press Club. National Public Radio. April 24, 2002. Retrieved October 20, 2008. Founded in 1981, the team of some 40 architects practices ecologically, socially and economically "intelligent" architecture and planning in the United States and abroad.
  10. ^ "Contact". William McDonough + Partners. Retrieved March 28, 2019. William McDonough + Partners maintains a studio in Charlottesville, Virginia.
  11. ^ "William McDonough Leaves UVA". BuildingGreen. September 1998. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  12. ^ "William McDonough". American Program Bureau. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
  13. ^ a b Design Futures Council Senior Fellows "Senior Fellows: DesignIntelligence". Archived from the original on November 6, 2007. Retrieved March 16, 2015.
  14. ^ Khalamayzer, Anya (February 7, 2018). "Bill McDonough: We are here to make goods, not 'bads'". GreenBiz. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  15. ^ "William McDonough on Cradle to Cradle Design". TED. February 2005. Retrieved April 26, 2010.
  16. ^ "Houses of the Future". The Atlantic Monthly. November 2009. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
  17. ^ Hamilton, Tyler (January 12, 2008). "Venture fund bets billion on cleantech". The Star. Toronto. Retrieved November 11, 2009. We've got the largest and deepest team focused on cleantech and well over $1 billion allocated to it
  18. ^ "William McDonough". Bloomberg News.
  19. ^ "Cradle to Cradle Enters Public Domain, Eyes Mainstream Acceptance". GreenBiz. May 2010. Retrieved September 10, 2010.
  20. ^ Dolan, Kerry A. (May 2010). "Another Step Toward Green Design". Forbes. Retrieved September 10, 2010.
  21. ^ Sullivan, Colin (May 2010). "Glitzy Google Gathering Launches Green Product Institute". The New York Times. Retrieved September 10, 2010.
  22. ^ Haven, Cynthia. "Stanford Libraries acquire the archives of leading environmentalist William McDonough". Stanford. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
  23. ^ "Who is involved?". Cradle. In 1994 he moved the firm, William McDonough + Partners, to Charlottesville to become dean of architecture at the University of Virginia.
  24. ^ "William McDonough at WEF Annual Meeting 2014". YouTube. World Economic Forum. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  25. ^ McDonough, William (February 21, 2014). "Climate change and circular economy take centre stage at Davos". The Guardian. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  26. ^ Makower, Joel. "The McDonough Conversations: A change of climate at Davos". GreenBiz.com. GreenBiz. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  27. ^ "ASU Wrigley Institute board member to chair economic council". ASU News - Science & Tech. Arizona State University. July 22, 2014. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
  28. ^ "Agenda: Arctic Circle China Forum 2019". Arctic Circle. Polar Research Institute of China. Archived from the original on May 14, 2019. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  29. ^ "William McDonough". McDonough Innovation. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  30. ^ a b "William McDonough: The Original Green Man". Bloomberg. Bloomberg Companies Inc. March 27, 2007. Retrieved March 28, 2019. Virginia's dean of green architecture talks about eco-efficiency, a multi-disciplinary approach, and the need for a new platform of thought.
  31. ^ Ken Shulman (August 1, 2001). "Think Green". Metropolis Magazine. Archived from the original on May 5, 2007. But the project had a catch: the EDF told McDonough it would sue him if any of its employees took sick due to poor air quality or noxious substances in the construction. When McDonough asked his suppliers if they could provide him with a list of chemicals contained in their products, he was told it was proprietary information.
  32. ^ a b "Gap Office Building, 901 Cherry". Mixed Mode. February 2005. Retrieved August 4, 2010.
  33. ^ "Industrial Revolution, Take Two". Vanity Fair. May 2008. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  34. ^ "William McDonough". William McDonough + Partners. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  35. ^ a b Shulman, Ken. "The Pioneering Sustainable Building That Still Inspires Pilgrimages". Metropolis. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  36. ^ Hammonds, Don (November 12, 2004). "Greener, literally: Ford's better ideas for the newest plant include grass-covered roof, pollution-eating plants". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. PG Publishing Co., Inc. Retrieved October 20, 2008.
  37. ^ a b "William McDonough Partners Flow House In New Orleans". Inhabitat. July 13, 2009. Retrieved April 26, 2010.
  38. ^ "NASA Sustainability Base". NASA. August 2009. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  39. ^ "Park 20|20, Amsterdam: Born to Be Recycled - Urban Land Magazine". Urban Land Magazine. May 5, 2014. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  40. ^ "Nike European Headquarters". William McDonough + Partners. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  41. ^ "Design Partners". Oberlin College and Conservatory. July 2, 2018. Retrieved March 20, 2023.
  42. ^ "Visitor Center, Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest". William McDonough + Partners. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  43. ^ Williams, Janette (May 18, 2009). "Fuller Theological Seminary celebrates new library". Daily News. Retrieved March 20, 2023.
  44. ^ "American University School of International Service / William McDonough + Partners and Quinn Evans | Architects". ArchDaily. March 10, 2011. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  45. ^ "Greenbridge". William McDonough + Partners. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  46. ^ Singhal, Sumit. "B/S/H/ Inspiration House, Park 20|20 in Hoofddorp, The Netherlands by William McDonough + Partners". AECCafé. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  47. ^ Lee, Lydia. "NASA Sustainability Base | 2014-06-16 | Architectural Record". www.architecturalrecord.com. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  48. ^ "Meadow Farm House". William McDonough + Partners. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  49. ^ Glenn, Deborah Snoonian. "Meadow Farm House | 2015-03-16 | Architectural Record". www.architecturalrecord.com. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  50. ^ "Hero MotoCorp Garden Factory and Global Parts Center". William McDonough + Partners. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  51. ^ "Dropbox Headquarters". William McDonough + Partners. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  52. ^ "A Tour of Dropbox's New San Francisco Headquarters". Officelovin'. December 7, 2016. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  53. ^ Ellison, Stephen (March 9, 2021). "Dropbox's San Francisco HQ to Sell for Record $1.08 Billion". NBC Bay Area. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  54. ^ "Method Cleans Up With Its Soap Factory". Whalebone. January 27, 2019. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  55. ^ "Hero Global Center for Innovation and Technology". William McDonough + Partners. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  56. ^ "VMWare Global Impact Report 2015" (PDF). VMWare. Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  57. ^ Conrad, Katherine (November 5, 2007). "New VMWare campus is green, open and inviting". The Mercury News. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  58. ^ "HITT Co|Lab". William McDonough + Partners. Retrieved March 21, 2023.
  59. ^ Sacks, Danielle (2008). "Green Guru Gone Wrong: William McDonough".
  60. ^ Toy, Mary-Anne (August 26, 2006). "China's first eco-village proves a hard sell". The Age Company Ltd. Retrieved November 27, 2010.
  61. ^ "FRONTLINE/World. Fellows. Green Dreams | PBS". www.pbs.org. Retrieved October 25, 2022.
  62. ^ "William McDonough: The Original Green Man". Bloomberg. March 27, 2007.
  63. ^ Lacayo, Richard (July 17, 2010). "William McDonough and Michael Braungart: Heroes of the Environment". Time Magazine. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  64. ^ "Clinton library wins National Design Award". June 12, 2006. Retrieved March 29, 2019. ...William McDonough+Partners, an architecture firm based in Charlottesville, Va., received the environment award for its work creating projects that are "ecologically, socially and economically sound." ...
  65. ^ Torrez, Brittany (April 18, 2013). "Stanford creates 'living archive' of papers, real-time conversations". The Stanford Daily. Retrieved November 19, 2013.
  66. ^ Covello, Lauren. "Nike, Patagonia Win Awards at Davos for Efforts to Combat Waste". Fortune. Retrieved February 6, 2017.
  67. ^ "William McDonough Receives Fortune Award for Circular Economy Leadership at The World Economic Forum". McDonough Innovation. January 18, 2017. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  68. ^ "[24] William McDonough"in((cite web)): CS1 maint: postscript (link) "The World's 50 Greatest Leaders". Fortune. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  69. ^ Kushner, David. "The King of Green Architecture". Discover. Retrieved November 19, 2013.