Do You Know What Your Building is Made of?
When considering what a building is made of you can typically list out the various components; a series of walls, windows, and doors as well as insulation, flooring, furniture, etc. What many don't know is the exact list of ingredients that are making up those components. Luckily, this is something that has been on the forefront for companies as they are working towards making databases that will not only tell you what your building is made of but also if it fits green certifications.
Despite the best efforts of today to make greener and more sustainable buildings, they historically have a bad environmental track record. According to CO.Design, buildings account for half of the United States' energy consumption and carbon footprint, and more than 534 tons of construction and demolition waste entered landfills in 2014.
So while we are aware of their environmental impacts, a topic that isn't traditionally discussed in regards to buildings is the negative health implications they have on an individual. According to the EPA, indoor air pollution is often worse than it is outside and the common causes for this are often the materials, finishes, furniture, and products - which are often made from noxious chemicals- that compose our buildings.
In an attempt to combat the indoor pollution, third-party classification systems have aimed to make the information about chemical content in products and the potential health risk they pose available to manufacturers. The issue is that the information is typically hard to obtain and product manufacturers have continuously opted to paying for the information certification.
While many companies may ignore the materials going into their offices, Google demanded to know what was being put in their building and even implemented a healthy materials program to ensure employee satisfaction.
The desire for a healthy environment for employees is what eventually led Google to make themselves a platform called Portico which is a database of products organized by manufacturer, product category (like textiles, seating, carpet, systems furniture, etc) and whether or not it meets the standards of two green building certification programs - LEED and Living Building Challenge.
While the platform is currently only in use by Google, they hope to release the information to the public when they have achieved their goal of 12,000 building materials and products entered into the database. So it may be only a matter of time before buildings become healthier - if the developers chooses.
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Source: Co. Design