The definition and philosophy of Cradle to Cradle design explained
As we detail in our latest whitepaper “Green building labels: How to get certified — and why”, building materials manufacturers are increasingly investing in the acquisition of material certifications for their products, such as Cradle to Cradle certifications. They are doing so because the use of sustainable materials — by architects and contractors — significantly contributes to the acquisition of green building labels for building projects. But what actually is the definition of Cradle to Cradle? In this blog, we explain the Cradle to Cradle philosophy, and look at examples of Cradle to Cradle certified products.
The Cradle to Cradle philosophy explained
Cradle to Cradle was developed by Prof. Michael Braungart (EPEA) and architect William McDonough (MBDC) and has since become a well-known sustainability concept. The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute (C2CPII) was founded in 2011 and manages the Cradle to Cradle product standard.
To use C2CPII’s definition, “Cradle to Cradle materials are applied with respect for their intrinsic value and their useful afterlife in recycled or even „upcycled“ products, which have value and technological sophistication that may be higher than that of their original use.”
So, just as in nature, with Cradle to Cradle design, there is no waste, no shortages, and no limitations. It is a design concept predicated on the unlimited reuse of raw materials (‘waste is food’), the use of renewable energy and the stimulation of diversity. The goal is to launch a new industrial revolution which ensures that production and manufacturing have a positive impact on society, the economy, and our planet.
By eliminating waste through full reutilization of discarded materials, the Cradle to Cradle approach serves the sustainability to a great extent. As a matter of fact, all materials used in Cradle to Cradle certified products possess the property of being fully recyclable, either biologically or technically.
But material reutilization is just one quality category Cradle to Cradle design looks for in a product. As the Cradle to Cradle Products innovation institute mentions, “Cradle to Cradle looks at a product through five quality categories”:
- Material health;
- Material reutilization;
- Renewable energy and carbon management;
- Water stewardship;
- Social fairness.
The Cradle to Cradle certification system explained
The C2CPII also has a Cradle to Cradle certification system in place, built up by achievement levels. A product receives an achievement level in each of the five quality categories. The achievement levels are expressed in certification tiers. Five certification tiers are available within the Cradle to Cradle certification program. Here’s the list of tiers, from lowest tier to highest tier:
1. Cradle to Cradle basic certification
2. Cradle to Cradle bronze certification
3. Cradle to Cradle silver certification
4. Cradle to Cradle gold certification
5. Cradle to Cradle platinum certification
The lowest achievement level represents the product’s overall mark. So if a product obtains a platinum certification in four categories, but a bronze certification in the last category — the bronze certification tier is applied to the product as the overall Cradle to Cradle mark. This construction stimulates sustainable materials manufacturers to aim for a high overall quality of their products.
The website for the official Cradle to Cradle products program offers extensive resources regarding Cradle to Cradle certifications. It’s worth exploring if you want to research the Cradle to Cradle approach and certification system on a deeper level.
Cradle to Cradle product examples and applications
Now that we have covered the basic principles of the Cradle to Cradle concept, let’s take a look at an example of a Cradle to Cradle certified product — a Cradle to Cradle tile. Mosa tiles have a Cradle to Cradle Silver certification, based on the new 3.1 standard, in which the requirements for all five quality categories have been expanded and heightened even further. Exactly the use of these types of certified materials has a positive influence on the assessment of a building by green building certification systems. They earn architects points for green building labels.
If we look at green building label DGNB — one of the most authoritative and prominent green building labels in Europe; they officially recognize Cradle to Cradle tiles as certified products that contribute to their label. They even offer a navigator tool that includes recognized manufacturers of Cradle to Cradle certified materials. A big benefit for architects who select an included manufacturer: they do not have to manually submit material certificates when requesting a green building label.
If you would like to learn more about the why of green building labels like the DGNB — and how to get certified — we recommend our free whitepaper on the topic. It explains the concept, importance, and acquisition process of green building labels for building projects and architects in great detail. Download your free copy here.