William McDonough Biography


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William McDonough is an advisor, designer, thought leader, and author. His 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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  • Appointed to Chair of the World Economic Forum Meta-Council on Circular Economy
  • 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.


  • 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.
  • McDonough co-founded Make It Right (2006) with Brad Pitt to bring affordable Cradle to Cradle-inspired homes to the New Orleans Lower 9th Ward after Hurricane Katrina.




  • 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

  • Consulting Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, 2004–present

Yale University

  • School of Forestry & Environmental Studies Leadership Council, 2002–present

Arizona State University

Instituto de Empresa, Madrid, Spain

  • Eco-Intelligent Management Center, Chair, 2004–2006

Cornell University

  • A.D. White Professor-at-Large, 1999–2004

Tongji University, Shanghai

  • Honorary Professor, 2004


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

U.N. 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



  • External Advisory Council, 2009–present

General Electric

  • Ecomagination, Board of Advisors, 2008–2009

Dow Jones Sustainability Index

  • Advisory Board, 2004-present

VantagePoint Capital Partners

Cherokee Sustainability Council

  • member, present

SAP CEO Sustainability Advisory Panel

  • member, 2011-present


Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute

  • cofounder, 2010

Clinton Global Initiative

  • Advisor, 2013-present

World Economic Forum

  • Chair, Meta-Council on Circular Economy, 2014
  • 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

Make It Right Foundation

  • cofounder, 2006
  • Board Member, 2006–present

Healthy Child Healthy World

  • Advisory Board, 2006–present


  • cofounder, 2002

President’s Council on Sustainable Development

  • Special Advisor to President Clinton, 1993–1996


American Institute of Architects

  • Fellow, 1997–present
  • Committee on the Environment, Founding Member, 1989–1993

Royal Institute of British Architects

  • International Fellow, 2008–present

Urban Land Institute

  • Fellow, 1999–present

U.S. Green Building Council

  • Charter Member, 1993–present

American Society of Landscape Architects

  • Honorary Membership, 2008


United States Presidential Award for Sustainable Development, 1996
The Smithsonian Institution, Cooper-Hewitt Museum, National Design Award, 2004
Presidential Green Chemistry Award (for work with Shaw Industries), 2004
21st Century Visionary Science Leadership Award, U.S. EPA, 2008
Hero for the Planet, Time Magazine, 1999
Benjamin Botwinick Prize for Ethical Practice in the Professions, Columbia University Business School, 2003
I.D. Forty Design Award, I.D. Magazine, 2001
Designer of the Year, Interiors Magazine, 1999