Cradle to Cradle Makes it Right

Brad Pitt is one of the biggest celebrities in Hollywood. A fact that should not come as a surprise to anyone. What is surprising is that Brad Pitt has taken his celebrity status and used it to give back to people who have given so much to him.

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In 2006 Brad Pitt created the Make it Right Foundation. The aim of this foundation was to provide housing for those who had lost their homes as a result of Hurricane Katarina. The goal of the project was to rebuild 150 homes and to make them safe, affordable and energy efficient. His project is focused on the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans. So far the project has been a success. As of November 2011, 75 of the planed 150 homes were completed.

The design methodology chosen for the construction of these homes is known as Cradle to Cradle. This method is unique as it employs a biometric approach in all aspects of design. In essence, when using this method it is important to take into consideration account the effects on the environment. The end goal being that what is created should be efficient, cost-effective and produce little to no waste.

The materials used in construction, when employing Cradle to Cradle Design, are split into two categories (or nutrients): “biological” or “technical”. The use of the word “nutrients” is meant to underline the ideology of this design system: what is used must also be able to nurture and enrich its environment.

The biological nutrients must be organic materials, which after use can be disposed of by returning them to the ecosystem. There they can decompose and become food for other life forms. In addition, the biological nutrients must be locally sourced so that their introduction into the regional ecosystem does not cause any imbalances. Just because something is natural and harmless in one zone does not mean it is always transferable to another.

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The technical nutrients differ from the biological nutrients in that they are synthetic materials. The criteria for the technical nutrients are that they must be non-toxic and non-harmful. They must also have no negative impact on the surrounding environment and be reusable without any loss of quality. The reuse eliminates a phase known as “downcycling”, where synthetic materials are processed into other lesser products, which eventually end up in the garbage.

The health of the occupants was also one of the main considerations in the creation of Cradle to Cradle Design. Modern building materials have left our homes full of toxic materials, which have a negative impact on human health. In addition, the processes involved in the manufacturing of many commonly used building materials have an adverse effect on the environment in general, so it is really a two-fold problem. By phasing out these harmful materials two issues can then be remedied: the occupants enjoy greater health, indoors and outdoors, and the environment is spared the toxic by-products of the manufacturing process.

Reduced cost is another benefit of Cradle to Cradle Design. This added bonus really runs contrary to how most things work in our society. In general, the cheaper something is, the more damaging it is to the environment. Being able to offer quality housing at a reduced cost that is both good for the occupants and the environment makes this design method all the more attractive.

Cost savings can also be found as a byproduct of the materials chosen for construction. Living roofs, for example, act as a natural form of insulation and can also be used to help purify water. The placement of the house, with respect to the rising and setting of the sun, can leverage its heat and light, which further reduces utility bills.

This method of house placement is known as passive solar design. Heat absorbing walls can store thermal energy that can be released later in the day when the temperature drops. Solar collectors can be used to heat water and solar panels can create extra electricity. Window placement will also maximize the available light. As a result of these, and many more improvements, Cradle to Cradle houses use one-third the energy of similarly sized homes.

With the success of the first Make It Right project more are in the works. Hopefully the viability of this method is embraced nationwide. Everyone wants quality housing that is affordable. Thankfully Cradle to Cradle design is paving the way for sustainable habitation for all.

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