Google teams up with Healthy Building Network for green materials database

Tech giant Google has joined forces with the US-based Healthy Building Network to launch a web-based materials analysis tool that promises to advance healthy materials use, accelerate access to high-quality and comparable data, and connect supply with demand.

The application, Portico, is currently being beta-tested by founding partners in the enterprise including architects Perkins + Will, developer The Durst Organization, Harvard University and the HomeFree Affordable Housing Cohort. The financial model is also currently under development, with options including subscription being considered.

Google has been using Portico since 2015 to identify products for its global buildings portfolio and to inform product decisions. The commercial version, due soon for release, integrates with the standard design and delivery process. It enables collaboration between various stakeholders, including architects, contractors and manufacturers.

Anthony Ravitz from Google Real Estate Workplace Services said the platform provides actionable data that prioritises health outcomes based on rigorous standards and integrated criteria, enabling real-time decisions within the cost and schedule constraints of a design and construction project.

The platform’s products library as of the end of 2016 contained more than 2500 products. Each product is assessed against more than 40,000 chemical hazards identified by HBN’s Pharos Project.

Stacy Glass, vice president, built environment, at Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, said engagement with the platform encouraged manufacturers to “optimise” the chemistry of their products.

Ms Glass said it also outlines key steps manufacturers need to take to achieve healthy materials – inventory, screening, assessment, optimisation and transparency.

Products that have achieved C2C Material Health attributes are recognised in the platform. The Living Future Institute’s Living Product Challenge, Red List and Declare initiatives are also being aligned with the platform.

“Portico has potential to leverage technology and the network effect to dramatically scale the size and number of projects able to meet the Living Building Challenge Materials Petal,” International Living Future Institute’s Living Product Challenge director James Connelly said.

Alexander Durst, chief development officer of The Durst Organization, said the platform leveraged the collective power of owners, contractors and designers to demand manufacturers disclose data about their products and how they are made.

“In addition, Portico strengthens the marketplace by fostering competition and aggregating information on healthier building products, allowing for more informed and better specification for bidding and negotiations.”

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