EventsA building like a tree – Cradle to Cradle

A building like a tree – Cradle to Cradle

Michael Braungart

EPEA, Hamburg

Event from
12 January
Photo from Michael Braungart



Cradle to Cradle® is a design concept taken from nature. In nature all products of a metabolic process can be useful for another process. For instance, the fallen leaves from a tree provide nutrients for the tree itself and for other plants. They provide a place for the hedgehog to hibernate and a hiding place for mice. From a lavish abundance of cherry blossom arises a new generation of cherry trees. Every product, even though it may give every appearance of being a waste product, is useful. 

Products manufactured according to the Cradle to Cradle® principle function just like that: They are developed with their entire life cycle in mind. When such products reach the end of their life cycle they can be broken down into their individual components and so can be used as starting materials and components for future products. Something that is theoretically waste material in one life cycle becomes an important nutrient in another, equivalent life cycle.

The goal of Cradle to Cradle® is an all-round improvement in manufactured products. They are thus of superior quality and of practical use to the consumer, are wholesome for all who come into contact with them and good for the environment and the economy.

The Cradle to Cradle® concept is based on three innovative principles:
– Every product is conceived in such a way that it is a nutrient for another product (waste = nutrient).
– Every product is created through the constant energy generated by the sun.
– Every product contributes to variety, be it with regard to concept, culture or biodiversity.

Michael Braungart

Prof. Michael Braungart is the founder of the EPEA Internationale Umweltfor­schung GmbH in Hamburg and co-founder of MBDC McDonough Braungart ­Design Chemistry in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA. His work has been published in numerous scientific, design and environmental journals in Europe and the USA.

After completing his studies in process engineering in Darmstadt, Michael Braungart carried out research in collaboration with the Chemistry Institute of the University of Konstanz on chemical processes of industrial production. He subsequently became involved in the establishment of a chemistry division at Greenpeace International where he made a decisive contribution to its development. Around this time he was awarded a PhD in chemistry from the University of Hanover and took over the leadership of the chemistry division at Greenpeace. In 1994 Michael Braungart was appointed professor of process engineering at the University of Lüneburg. In the autumn of 2008 he took up an appointment outside Germany, at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, where a Cradle to Cradle® chair was established. Moreover, since 2002 he has been a visiting professor at the Darden Business School in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.

Photo of the lecture by Michael Braungart


The Cradle to Cradle® concept is an idea of the German chemist Prof. Dr. Michael Braungart and the American architect William McDonough. It is based on the Intelligent Product System (IPS) developed by Braungart’s company EPEA Internationale Umweltforschung GmbH between 1987 and 1992. Since that time, hundreds of companies worldwide offer products inspired by the Cradle to Cradle® concept. Even public administrations and institutes consider the Cradle to Cradle® principles when making investment decisions.