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Cradle to Cradle


This funny looking wooden artefact is called a perpetual mo on machine (PMM). The theory is that once the machine is started (it turns like a windmill), the momentum of the li le ‘hammers’ will be transfered to the rest of the wheel, and in essence, the wheel will turn perpetually (that is con nually, forever). The only problem is that, as you can imagine, IT DOES NOT WORK!! Throughout centuries, physicists have tried to invent (or some might call it discover) the perpetual machine that would be able to provide them with infinite amounts of energy. Wouldn’t that be amazing, if we could solve all the energy crises in the world with just some clever design? If we think about it, the natural systems and cycles we discussed last week can be considered kindof as a perpetual system where materials and energy are con nually recycled and reused in loop. However, the main difference is that unlike the perpetual machine that can theore cally func on solely on its internal energy (or its system energy or however you care to name it), natural loops are powered by a source of energy that we too o en tend to ignore or overlook - the sun! CRADLE TO CRADLE? The principle behind cradle to cradle is that when a resource is used in a system, it can poten ally be reused con nually or kept inside a system where it cannot escape to damage the environment. The cradle is basically the beginning of the cycle, and the said resource undergoes its life me and ends at the grave. However, the state in which this resource exists at the grave can poten ally cons tute the ‘cradle state’ of the same, or different cycle.

CRADLE

LIFETIME

The state of the resource at the grave can be relooped in the same system or introduced into another one.

GRAVE

CRADLE

Had perpetual mo on machines really worked, they would have been perfect examples of cradle-to-cradle design since their working principle is based on the fact that the kine c energy (cradle) that their mo on is producing (grave) is directly and con nually refed into the system (cradle) to sustain this perpetual mo on.


How to apply the cradle-to-cradle principle? Two examples in Melbourne itself where this principle has been, only to a certain extent, been used are the Pixel Building and 60L. How?

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Use of recycled aluminium • The en re original structure is Pixelcrete uses 100% recycled recycled, since the building is aggregate and 50% less portland retroffited cement • Wooden floor, doors and Methane from the blackwater is par ons are reused from the used as fuel for hot water system old building. Both buildings use green surfaces to collect and treat rainwater. Both can poten ally disconnect from the water grid if it wasn’t for regula ons. Their potable water is used several mes (as drinking, grey and black water) before being discarded - very good representa on of cradle to cradle. Both buildings make use of solar energy through photovoltaic pannels. The pixel building pushed the technology further by using tracking PV’s.

Where does the perpetual mo on machine fit? Wouldn’t that be awesome if we had a building which, just like the PMM, could live off the material and energy it produces? Carbon neutrality and net zero energy are definitely excellent star ng points, but can we push it even further? The interes ng difference that exists between cradle to cradle (and to some extent the living building challenge) and other ecoefficient philosophies is that the former do strive to a ain only energy and water consump on, low environmental impact or minimal resource consump on - rather they strive to have a posi ve effect on the economic, ecologic and equity levels. This is why we want to achieve a Perpetual Mo on Machine-like system - it does not give us cheap energy, it wastes nothing and gives us FREE energy!! 1. 2. 3.

Grocon, Pixel, [Online] Available: h p://www.pixelbuilding.com.au/FactSheet.pdf McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, 2002, IntroducƟon to the Crade to Cradle Design Framework, Version 7.02. RLT Industries, 2002, Perpetual MoƟon Machine, [Online] Available: h p://www.rlt.com/14100


WAIT A MINUTE!! Haven’t we just said earlier that perpetual mo ons machines don’t work? Why would we want to model our future environmental strategies on something that does not work? AHA!!! The trick is that it is possible to reloop a maximum amount of material, resources and energy into a system, it just requires some intelligent design and a source of energy to drive this system. Do we have intelligent designs? Pixel and 60L are ‘living’ tes monials of it. Can we afford to input anymore energy to drive these reloop systems? YES!! Why? Because it’s free!! We have one gigan c source of energy that is mostly untapped. And this is the only source of energy the natural systems of the earth needs. Yes, the SUN! So how do we fit all the pieces together? How do we use these design principles and this environmental knowledge to achieve cradle-to-cradle? A recurring theme that comes back in all my reflec ons is this idea of educa on and understanding. Understand the principles and know how to apply them in a realis c way. A lot of people say that it is unprac cal because it costs too much money. Biggest load of c*** i’ve ever heard. Yes, cu ng edge technologies are expensive and technically inaccessible to people without any environmental knowledge, but how much does it cost to place a barrel in your backyard to collect water? How smart do you need to be to know that if you reuse a piece of paper instead of binning it, its part of a tree that you’ve just saved? How would that work in my prac ce? I would apply the principle on a scale where it can work. I men oned that I am from Mauri us (refer to my 1st card), and there, having a rainwater system where gu ers simply pour into a rainwater tank will be far be er accepted than one where rainwater is used in the washing machine, and this greywater is used to flush toilets etc. Clients are simply going to say: ‘why are you being so fancy? how much is this going to cost me? I just want some free water to wash my car!‘ This house will not win lots of environmental awards but the fact that the popula on is STARTING to think about the possibili es presented in C2C is already a small victory. This is what I mean when I men on the need to adapt to scale and circumstances.

Looks quite basic, but that’s more than most houses in developing countries have.

‘To eliminate the concept of waste means to design things-products, packaging, and systems-from the very beginning on the understanding that waste does not exist.’ McDonough and Braungart

Regenerating Sustainability Week 4  

Cradle to cradle

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