In response to a push for transparency in building materials along the supply chain, Google, AEC tech company Flux, the nonprofit Healthy Building Network (HBN), and global software developer Thinkstep have launched a database that compares the composition and health and environmental impacts of more than 100 building-product categories. Issued under a Creative Commons BY 4.0 license, the vendor-neutral information contained by the Quartz Common Products Database can be freely used, redistributed, and modified by the public.
“[T]he process of vetting commonly used building products is very complex, consumes a substantial amount of resources, and does not scale well,” said Google campus-design technical specialist Drew Wenzel in a press release. “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.”
Resources like the Quartz database reflect a growing interest in material health not only among those specifying the materials but also among the companies that are manufacturing them. That includes the new building-material health credit in LEED V4, a materials health certificate from the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, and further refinement of the Health Product Declaration (HPD) Open Standard around standard reporting requirements in the newly launched version 2.0.
Yet the efforts remain largely disjointed, in part due to the number of organizations seeking material-ingredient transparency. That sentiment is echoed by an April 2015 report from the Harmonization Task Group, which was created by the U.S. Green Building Council following a $3 million grant from Google in 2012 to find ways to improve material health and supply chain transparency, particularly around standardized data reporting and sharing. The task group, which comprises members of the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association, the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, GreenScreen and Clean Production Action , HBN, and the HPD Collaborative, found that, with regard to the implementation of the new LEED credit, its adoption "has been hampered by confusion about the programs and their differing requirements and benefits, with resulting market hesitancy to invest in any one particular approach." The report continues: "Harmonization of program data needs and assessment protocols into a unified ecosystem will reduce entry barriers and confusion for manufacturers and product end-users alike."