Google anchors group promoting building product information transparency

Flux, a San Jose-based technology company founded to deliver collaboration tools for increasing efficiencies in building architecture and engineering, has teamed with Google, a global tech company committed to creating healthy and sustainable workplaces; Healthy Building Network (HBN), a nonprofit devoted to reducing toxic building materials; and, thinkstep, a global sustainability software, data and services firm, to launch the Quartz database.

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.

“Google is deeply committed to building the healthiest environment possible,” affirmed Drew Wenzel, campus design technical specialist, during the late-2015 presentation, “Open Data, Collaborative Action: The Scalable Approach for Designing Healthier Buildings.” “Using healthy products and materials is integral to this mission. In our experience, the process of vetting commonly used building products is very complex, consumes a substantial amount of resources, and does not scale well. The Quartz Project is providing actionable health and environmental data that project teams can use to efficiently and reliably make decisions based on these factors at a much earlier stage in the design process.”

The Quartz database will serve as a catalyst for more sustainable materials by providing baseline information for the AEC industry. 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 a truly open, vendor-agnostic mechanism to compare, contrast and evaluate materials based on their impact on the environment and human health.

“Information gaps and incompatible datasets can make data difficult to analyze, stifling decision making from whole building design to product selection,” said Heather Gadonniex, director of sustainable building and construction at thinkstep. “We believe transparent and open data can help solve the challenge of curating the enormous amount of information necessary for meaningful analysis.”

The Quartz database ( will provide a collection of product profiles for 102 commonly used building materials. Specifically:

  • Quartz 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.
  • 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 will 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.

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