Google, Healthy Building Network Release Web App

Google teamed up with the Healthy Building Network to deliver a web app for materials analysis. The goal is to provide a nutrition-label-like list of materials in building products.  

Google, Healthy Building Network, web analytics app

Google has collaborated with the Healthy Building Network (HBN) to release a web application designed to help organizations make better decisions about the materials they use in building construction projects.

The app, called Portico, will give architects, contractors and manufactures scientific information on the human and environmental impacts of their building material choices. It would also let them search for and compare building materials for certification and environmental hazard screening information.

Portico will provide a listing of all the ingredients of every product in a particular environment, from chairs to the paint used in specific rooms, said Priya Premchandran, team design and construction lead with Google's real estate workplace services group. "[It's] just like the nutrition labels on the food you buy at your neighborhood grocery store," she said in a blog post.

Google has been testing Portico on internal construction and design projects since at least 2015. So far, the company has used the tool to evaluate and score products used in more than 195 projects spanning 20 countries and some 5,000 manufacturers, Premchandran said. The company has compiled a list of some 2,500 products that meet Google's requirements for healthy materials. Each product has been assessed against a total of more than 40,000 chemical hazards, the Healthy Building Network said in a separate release on its website.

"Unlike other product databases, Portico is designed to integrate with a typical design and construction delivery process," HBN said in the release.

It combines a product database with collaborative workflow tools to help organizations have easy access to product- and materials-related data during all phases of the construction lifecycle. It connects product data with project workflow and helps in areas like product research, project management and production information requests.

"Users can manage a building project by defining criteria, setting goals and tracking progress," HBN said in its release.

In addition, Portico can be used to connect manufacturers with their supply-chain partners to enable more direct communications on product-related topics.

The tool also is designed to host a diverse set of applications that organizations might develop on their own to meet their specific requirements, Premchandran said.

With this week's public release of Portico, Google also announced the addition of four new partners that will contribute to building and maintaining the web application. The four organizations are Harvard University, commercial and real estate firm Durst Organization, architecture and design company Perkins+Will and HomeFree Affordable Housing, a consortium let by Healthy Building Network.

Initially, Portico will be available through an early access program to a small group of companies. But the goal is eventually to make it available on a wider basis. Companies interested in being considered for inclusion in the Portico effort can find more information here.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.