Architect William McDonough, best known for his project that incorporates roof-top vegetation to naturally cool buildings and purify storm run-off, speaks to Newsweek about the future of environmental design and how practical technologies and sustainable building materials can benefit everyday life.

You've created some revolutionary green buildings for companies such as Ford. Are these showcase pieces that only Fortune 500 companies can afford? Our clients have commercial realities. If you look at the Ford plant, for example, that green roof saves Ford millions of dollars in storm-water management. It's an immensely practical exercise. The storm-water management [otherwise would have involved] $48 million of concrete pipes and chemical treatment plants. We did the whole thing for $13 million. And we created habitat. The killdeer [birds] started nesting there five days after the roof went down. And the same thing with our corporate campus for the Gap, where we did another green roof, which blocks all the noise from the airplanes flying overhead. These are practical solutions to real commercial problems.

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