William McDonough

architect  •  advisor  •  designer  •  thought leader  •  author


Born in Japan, February 20, 1951, William McDonough was first introduced to closed loop material cycles while growing up in Japan and Hong Kong. This experience had a tremendous influence on his life. McDonough’s interests and influence range widely, and he works at scales from the global to the molecular. He is recognized globally as a leader in sustainable development. His vision for a future of abundance for all is helping companies and communities think differently. Together they are changing the world.


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Inaugural Chair of the World Economic Forum’s Meta-Council on Circular Economy, 2014-2016

Recognized by Time magazine as a “Hero for the Planet,” noting: “His utopianism is grounded in a unified philosophy that—in demonstrable and practical ways—is changing the design of the world.”

Received the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development, 1996

Earned the first U.S. EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award for his work with Shaw Industries, 2003

Received the National Design Award for exemplary achievement in the field of environmental design, 2004

Architect of many of the recognized flagships of sustainable design, including:




William McDonough has written and lectured extensively on design as the first signal of human intention.



Corporate / Not-For-Profit

William McDonough advises commercial and governmental leaders worldwide through McDonough Innovation.

McDonough is also active with William McDonough + Partners, his architecture practice with offices in Charlottesville, Virginia, and San Francisco, California.

William McDonough and Michael Braungart co-founded MBDC, a Cradle to Cradle® consulting firm. McDonough and Braungart have also co-founded not-for-profit organizations to allow public accessibility to Cradle to Cradle thinking. These include:

  • GreenBlue (2000), to convene industry groups around Cradle to Cradle issues.
  • Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute (2009), founded at the invitation of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to create a global standard for the development of safe and healthy products.



Videos / Interviews

William McDonough: Architect & Designer (OnInnovation)

Green Architect & Cradle to Cradle Founder William McDonough (Inhabitat)

William McDonough Projects (Arch Daily)

William McDonough, FAIA: The Renaissance Man of the Green Movement (GreenSource)

Watch William McDonough’s Presentations (YouTube)

William McDonough speaking at Global Citizen 2015 Earth Day on April 18, 2015, in Washington D.C. The event was held to inspire citizens to take action for the people and the planet.

William McDonough discusses the benefits of the Cradle to Cradle® Design Framework in this Reuters TV segment, November 2015.

Resource Abundance by Design presented by William McDonough at the World Economic Forum in Tianjin, China, September 12, 2014.

Huffington Post interviews sustainable design leader, William McDonough live at the 2014 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland

Beyond Sustainability: From Limits To Growth: William McDonough’s talk at the 2014 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland,January 24, 2014.




William McDonough Discusses Method’s New Manufacturing Facility (Huffington Post)

The Upcycle and Waging Peace Through Commerce: William McDonough Wants Us To Design Our Way To Abundance (Forbes)

William McDonough Helps the World Economic Forum Set the Agenda for Sustainable Business (PRNewsire)

Green Pioneer William McDonough (San Francisco Chronicle)

William McDonough: 6 ways to move beyond zero-waste (Green Biz)

William McDonough Feature: Industrial Revolution, Take Two (Vanity Fair)

Stanford Libraries Acquire the Archives of Leading Environmentalist William McDonough (Stanford | News)

William McDonough Feature: The King of Green Architecture (Discover Magazine)

William McDonough and Michael Braungart Feature (Time)

“Designing cities and factories with urban agriculture in mind” by William McDonough (The Guardian)



Selected Honors & Awards

United States Presidential Award for Sustainable Development, 1996

Time Magazine Hero for the Planet, 1999

Interiors Magazine, Designer of the Year, 1999

I.D. Magazine, I.D. Forty Design Award, 2001

Columbia University Business School, Benjamin Botwinick Prize for Ethical Practice in the Professions, 2003

The Smithsonian Institution, Cooper-Hewitt Museum, National Design Award, 2004

Presidential Green Chemistry Award (for work with Shaw Industries/Berkshire Hathaway), 2004

U.S. EPA, 21st Century Visionary Science Leadership Award, 2008

Rachel Carson Environmental Award, Natural Products Award, 2013

National Wildlife Federation, J.N. “Ding” Darling Conservation Award, 2014

US Green Building Council Leadership Award, 2016

The Circulars, Fortune Award for Circular Economy Leadership, 2017

World Green Building Council, David Gottfried Global Green Building Entrepreneurship Award, 2017

Hanley Wood Award for Vision and Leadership in Sustainability, 2017




Yale University, School of Architecture, Master of Architecture, 1976

Dartmouth College, Bachelor of Arts, Magna cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, 1973




University of Virginia: Dean, School of Architecture and Edward E. Elson Endowed Chair, 1994–1999; Darden School of Business, Professor of Business Administration & Alumni Research Professor, 1999–present

University of Cambridge: Sustainability Leadership Council, founding member, 2007–present

Stanford University: Adjunct Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, 2004–present

Yale University: School of Forestry & Environmental Studies Leadership Council, 2002–present

Arizona State University: International Board of Trustees for Sustainability, 2007–present; William McDonough ASU Bio

Insituto de Empresa, Madrid, Spain: Eco-Intelligent Management Center, Chair, 2004–2006

Cornell University: A.D. White Professor-at-Large, 1999–2004

Tongji University, Shanhai: Honorary Professor, 2004




World Economic Forum:

  • Member, Global Future Council on the Future of Environment and Natural Resource Security, 2016 – present
  • Chair, Meta-Council on Circular Economy, 2014–2016
  • Sustainability Program Designer, Presenter and Moderator, 2014
  • Global Agenda Council on Design, Member, 2010
  • Global Agenda Council on Cities, 2011
  • Global Agenda Council on the Future of Sustainable Construction, Chairman, 2008–2010
  • Cultural Leader, 2002–2008

China-U.S. Center for Sustainable Development: U.S. Chairman and Member of the Board of Councilors, 1999–2009; Chairman Emeritus of the U.S. Board of Councilors, 2009-present

United Nations Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals¸ Presenter, 2014

United Nations Conference on Environment & Development (The Earth Summit): Official Representative for Architecture and City Planning, International Union of Architects and the American Institute of Architects (dual role), Rio de Janeiro, 1992

Preparatory Committee for UNCED (The Earth Summit): Official Representative, New York, 1992




Walmart: External Advisory Council, 2009–2014

General Electric: Ecomagination, Board of Advisors, 2008–2009

Dow Jones Sustainability Index: Advisory Board, 2004-present

VantagePoint Capital Partners: Senior Advisor, 2004–2015

Cherokee Sustainability Council: member

SAP CEO Sustainability Advisory Panel: member, 2011-present

Agilyx, Advisory Board, 2017-present



Non-Profit Organizations

Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute: cofounder, 2009

Clinton Global Initiative: Advisor, 2013-2016

Make It Right Foundation: cofounder, 2006; Board Member, 2006–2017

Healthy Child Healthy World: Advisory Board, 2006–present

GreenBlue: cofounder, 2002

President’s Council on Sustainable Development : Special Advisor to President Clinton, 1993–1996

Cherokee-McDonough Challenge, Advisor, 2012–present

Alton Jones Foundation, Board of Trustees, 1992–1996

John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment¸ Board of Trustees, 2001–2004




American Institute of Architects: Fellow, 1997–present; Committee on the Environment, Founding Member

Royal Institute of British Architects: International Fellow, 2008–present

Urban Land Institute: Fellow, 1999–present

U.S. Green Building Council: Charter Member, 1993

American Society of Landscape Architects: Honorary Membership, 2008