The Quartz Common Products Database

Posted on 11/10/2015 9:49:59 AM By Paul Bertram

The building products sector is under tremendous pressure to provide *“Full Disclosure” of material ingredients for the purpose of design professionals consideration in making material selection or de-selection.  LEEDv4, the Living Building Challenge “Red List”and the proposed ANSI update to GreenGlobes has increased the number of inquiries for “Material Transparency” reporting. Tools, reporting formats, and certifications such as PHAROS, The Greenscreen, C2C certification, HPDs (Health Product Declarations), the Declare label add to the confusion with inconsistent content reporting requirements.

It is argued that choice is good for the industry but manufacturers and their supply chain are challenged by having to respond to each of these with unique pathways for reporting “Material Transparency”.

To further exasperate the request for this information, manufacturers are already required by law to label any hazardous material and provide Safety Data Sheets SDS for each material. SDS reports end up be a large portion of the data found in the HPD and seems to most manufacturers duplication of information with the addition of Greenscreen analysis.

Keeping up on all this is a constant moving target and the latest to cross my desk is

Per their website “Quartz aims to bridge the gaps between information, knowledge, and action, leading to less toxic, lower-impact building materials.”

“The Quartz Common Product Database seeds the effort to bridge a vast knowledge gap within the architectural and engineering community (AEC) industry. Using a consistent and transparent methodology, our database includes composition, environment, and health hazard information on 100 common building products. Information is critical for market transformation towards less toxic and lower-impact materials.”

The Quartz Common Products Database has significant partners such as ARUP, Turner, Surbana, and Gensler (email if interested in being a partner)

Development partners are also significant and include:

They are a team of technologists who are optimistic about technology’s ability to improve the quality of buildings, the strength of communities, and to minimize their impact on the environment. FLUX was started in late-2010 at Google[x], Google’s research lab, with the mission to address two global challenges: climate change and affordable housing for the urbanizing population.

Flux provides cloud-based collaboration tools for architects, engineers, and contractors to exchange data and streamline complex design workflows.

Google has a deep commitment to providing the healthiest built environment possible. Quartz presents the opportunity for Google to leverage environmental data and integrate that into our overall approach for designing and building sustainable, healthy and high performing workplaces.

HBN’s research team created a rigorous methodology for researching the most common components, materials, and chemicals present in building products, which informed the foundation of each Common Product Profile. The software tool PHAROS is a familiar name in assessing material hazards.

The Pharos Project:

  • Evaluates 1,600 + building products & components from 296 manufacturers, across 13 major product categories. The ingredients of 380 products are completely disclosed by 59 manufacturers.
  • Profiles 34,400 + chemicals and materials for 22 health and environmental hazards, including carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, reproductive toxicity and endocrine disruption, against 60 authoritative lists of hazards issued by governments, NGOs and other expert bodies.
  • Rates over 250 product certifications and uses them in building product evaluations

ThinkStep provides the data, decision-support and management solutions you need throughout your operations and value chain to drive business performance sustainably.

So now that we have identified who and what is The Quartz Common Product Database, let’s discuss some opinion in the potential value of this tool. First, it should be recognized that PHAROS data is the current basis of the composition, environment, and health hazard information on 100 common building products. In talking with a number of design professionals about this tool, there is an opinion that there is much more work to be done.

Flux and Google have also been at this for a while and are creditable technology innovators.

Last but not least, there is Thinkstep who is a well-recognized name (formerly PE International) in the world of LCA (LifeCycle Assessment) and EPD (Environmental product Declaration) reporting.

I asked Heather Gadonniex about Thinkstep’s participation and she believes this could be the beginning of a more inclusive conversation to advance the discussion on what information and reporting tools are appropriate for the AEC industry. Areas of specific interestinclude more consideration of carbon and GHG reporting along with a Risk assessment approach to Material Transparency.

I also talked with several specifiers about The Quartz Common Product Database and received varying responses. One said it looked interesting and the data interfaced nicely with one specification tool on a Windows platform but did not work in a MAC environment. Another said this information at any level is beyond a specifiers expertise and really did not know how this information would be relative in material specification compared to functional performance and compliance. The third specifier who is a LEED advocate had a more pragmatic opinion and said he would be interested to see how this develops.

From the manufacturers and supply chain point of view what is desired is a science based consensus developed approach to make Material Transparency reporting more consistent.  We are on the Quartz Watch.

*The definition of “Full Disclosure” varies depending on what reporting tool or label is being considered

Please Note: Opinions and statements in BLOGS do not necessarily reflect the position of ASC.