New, Open Source Database Compares the Environmental Impacts of Building Products and Materials

A four-way collaboration aims to make life cycle analysis of building materials much more transparent and accurate.
Dec 2, 2015 7:00 AM ET

What makes a building green? Is it a building made with materials and products that are not harmful to its occupants? Or, is it one that’s constructed with respect for the surrounding environment? Is impact to the environment measured by the effect of raw material extraction, the chemicals released during the manufacturing process, or other factors?

Today there are millions of building products on the market but there is little alignment in the way product information is made available. Even when information is available, some product labels address human health, while others address environmental impact, and since manufacturers have different ways of reporting, it’s difficult to understand and compare the sustainability of products.

To that end, we launched The Quartz Project, a collaborative open data initiative based on the understanding that data can help lead to better buildings. Data enables designers and builders to take into account all the factors that make performant and sustainable buildings. The four founding partners -- thinkstep, committed to helping clients adopt more sustainable practices, Healthy Building Network, committed to research into the health impact of building materials, Google, a tech leader committed to healthier buildings for their global workforce, and Flux, a technology innovator committed to better processes to improve design – bring perspectives required to make this kind of initiative work.