Google-Backed Database Promotes Sustainable Building Design

Google, along with thinkstep, architecture and engineering tech company Flux and nonprofit Healthy Building Network (HBN), last week launched a new collaborative open data initiative to combine health and environmental impact data on building materials that empowers the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry to achieve greater sustainability.

The Quartz database is the result of a year-long collaboration known as The Quartz Project, whose overall mission is to promote the transparency of building product information. Now freely available to building owners, architects and sustainability specialists, as well as to the general public, the database brings together for the first time data on the impacts building materials have on both human health and environmental sustainability.

The database will serve as a catalyst for more sustainable materials by providing baseline information for the AEC industry, Google and its partners claim. The database aggregates and standardizes the industry’s current supply of isolated, disjointed data into an open database of relevant, valuable and actionable information that is well organized and easy to understand.

For the first time, key AEC stakeholders will have an open, vendor-agnostic mechanism to compare, contrast and evaluate materials based on their impact on the environment and human health, according to Google.

Starting out, the Quartz database will provide a collection of product profiles for 100 commonly used building materials. It is a free and open dataset, integrating both LCA and health-hazard data into a single information source using widely accepted and consistent methodologies, such as Pharos Project/GreenScreen hazard screening, TRACI 2.1, and ISO14044.

The data is vendor-neutral and covers 100 building products across a range of categories, such as concrete, drywall and insulation. Products are compared by composition, health impacts, and environmental impacts.

Data is licensed under Creative Commons BY 4.0, meaning there is no restriction on the use, redistribution, or modification of the data. This openness is meant to enable the AEC community and the general public to become more educated about the potential impacts of materials in buildings and communities, and to put this data to creative and productive use.

Through consistent language and metrics, stakeholders will be empowered to have productive dialogue with building products manufacturers, driving the industry towards increased sustainability, Google says.

The days of conventional concrete and carbon-intensive building materials are waning, as new sustainable construction materials rise to prominence. Promising advancements such as concrete made from biofuel waste, carbonate rock made from captured carbon emissions and a smart gypsum board that can help regulate room temperatures, and other innovations in material development illustrate the intensifying search for more sustainable materials — from city streets to cement production plants.


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