Lewis Center was made possible largely by a gift from Adam
Joseph Lewis, a philanthropist and supporter of holistic
health efforts, international health programs, and a variety
of environmental issues.
"This building is only the beginning
of what's possible. Someday the difference between indoors and
outdoors will disappear."
McDonough, founding principal of William McDonough + Partners,
Architects and Planners, was named TIME magazine's "Hero
of the Planet."
"The model for the next Industrial
Revolution may well have been in front of us the whole time:
P. Bihuniak is vice president of technology for BP Solar,
a leader in photovoltaic systems which turn sunlight into electricity.
"It's a hurdle to get over the initial investment. But
you save money over the long haul."
educator David Orr chairs
Oberlin's environmental studies program.
"Relative to the potential for ecological design, if this
building were the Kitty Hawk, we're ten feet off the ground.
Someday, someone will design 747s."
NOT EASY BEING GREEN
Creating a single benign product for corporate use can present a
hurdle for environmentalists. McDonough and German chemist Michael
Braungart were asked by a client to come up with an environmentally
safe fabric. Initially, they looked at a hybrid made of cotton and
plastic from recycled beverage bottles, a solution that appeared
to make environmental sense. But a closer look revealed two problems:
when office workers moved about in their chairs, they roughed up
the fabric, sending tiny bits of recycled plastic into the air.
The plastic wasn't meant to be inhaled and, moreover, once it was
blended with cotton, the resulting fabric wasn't safe to biodegrade
in soil. Eventually, McDonough and Braungart settled on a fabric
made from pesticide-free plant and animal fibers--wool and ramie.
out safe dyes and processing chemicals was the next challenge. Sixty
chemical companies declined to help before European giant Ciba-Geigy
signed on. With the experts on board, McDonough and Braungart considered
8,000 chemicals, rejecting 7,962. The remaining 38 compounds were
used to create a line of safe fabrics, including the non-toxic and
biodegradable fabric on the Lewis Center's auditorium chairs. The
seating fabric is not only edible (if anyone should be so inclined),
but degrades in sunlight in about three years.
Playing devil's advocate, ABC News correspondent and symposium moderator
Robert Krulwich '69 asked McDonough, "Can you eat the fabric on
the auditorium chairs?"
invite you to eat a chair," McDonough replied.
you eaten pieces of the fabric?" Krulwich persisted.
I have," McDonough said.
Eco-smart wastewater is another Lewis Center technology that may
push its way into the corporate world. The Living Machine, created
by John Todd, is a built-in wastewater system that imitates natural
purification systems found in ponds and marshes. Bio-mimetics
expert Janine Benyus says the system illustrates a new humbleness
in our search for solutions to environmental problems. "Rather
than turn to an engineering text, Todd asked how nature would
filter water." The emerging science of biomimicry, she explains,
seeks sustainable solutions by mimicking nature's designs and
New-age environmental thinking permeates the design of the Lewis
Center. Simply put, it doesn't try to minimize environmental
problems; it tries to eliminate them. The building is constructed
using time-honored materials--brick, wood, and stone. Its windows
open to allow in fresh air. Huge, old-fashioned eaves shut out
the high summer sun. These are features you could find in 19th-century
Ohio buildings constructed of non-toxic materials and designed
for Midwestern weather. Even the desks are made of wood rather
than man-made materials. For the first time in generations,
students will be able to carve their initials in their desks.
Thus, everything old is new again.
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