A new, free database provides sustainability and health information on 100 building product types across a range of categories, comparing them by composition, health effects, and environmental impact.

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 content data. Quartz is a project of Google; technology company Flux; the Healthy Building Network, a nonprofit devoted to reducing toxic building materials; and thinkstep, a global sustainability software, data and services firm. 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, according to Drew Wenzel, campus design technical specialist at Google.

“Google is deeply committed to building the healthiest environment possible,” he says. “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.”

Project planners believe that the database will serve as a catalyst for more sustainable materials by providing baseline information for the design and construction industry and standardizing 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.

“Information gaps and incompatible datasets can make data difficult to analyze, stifling decision making from whole building design to product selection,” says 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 and comparison.”