What does it mean to design healthy things, and why would you design something that wasn’t healthy? William McDonough, co-author, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things and self-proclaimed professional visionary, proposed these questions to the audience at the inaugural HIVE conference.

With his question, he gets to the heart of the matter – it’s about design. It’s about designing the marketplace to be able to handle innovation. Designing systems, products and processes that manage reuse and sustainability.

Consumers are demanding sustainable solutions to feel good about their purchases and their legacy. Making a business operate and designing innovative products that are ecologically and socially beneficial--while making good business sense--requires deep collaboration between builders and manufacturers. Watch this presentation to see how designing a new system dominates the answer to making purpose and profit align.

This panel, including Dan Fulton, Retired CEO Weyerhaeuser Company; Director, Tri Pointe Group; Blaine Brownell, AIA LEED AP, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, University of Minnesota School of Architecture; Lee Clark-Sellers, Innovation Officer, Ply Gem; Bill Hayward, CEO and Chief Sustainability Officer, Hayward Lumber; and Dan Bridleman, SVP, Sustainability, Technology & Strategic Sourcing, KB Home, represents all aspects of the industry and are a great representation of what it is going to take to create the right “journey” to innovation.

As Bridleman said, “I love the idea of how we talked about this conference and about innovation – and for me, I have some really good thoughts. And my thought is just one person. For us to deal with the problem that we have in front of us, innovation has to come from the industry and from a lot of folks. Sometimes I wonder, how do you capture all those thoughts and capture innovation and turn it into something that is real? Because we can do everything, but nobody could buy anything.”

With the thought of true collaboration, Clark-Sellers added that innovation needs to come in the way that product comes back to the manufacturer to be reused. She argues that it shouldn’t be looked at as a two-step process: manufactured and installed, and then done. Collaboration needs to happen to allow reuse of the product as it comes off the home.

Clark-Sellers also answers questions posed to the panel during the session.

Q: What steps are necessary to transition from primarily product innovation to system innovation, as it relates to sustainability and affordability?Lee Clark-Sellers: The builder/architect is the final opportunity to leverage a system approach, after approval by local code and regulation committees.  Manufacturers can partner with other manufacturers to create systems, but the builder is left as the puzzle master.  With a multitude of options, it can be difficult to determine the best option to balance sustainability and affordability. The homeowner has to ultimately decide when the balance is achieved.

Q: How might we raise the accountability of developers/contractors to ensure sustainability and healthiness of homes particularly given most homeowners are unaware of potential hazards.Clark-Sellers: It’s about awareness and trusted information sources.  For every stat that demonstrates potential hazard, there is another to explain it away.  As homeowners continue to look at the internet for information, it’s critical to make this information easy to find, and applicable to the reader.  Too often hazards are discussed in technical terms that are hard to interrupt into everyday language.

To continue the conversation on circular economy, visit www.HIVEforhousing.com.