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$3M Google Gift Targets Green Building

Friday, November 16, 2012

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Search giant Google is putting its money where its green corporate line is, with a $3 million grant to further research into—and standards for—healthy building materials.

The new grant to the U.S. Green Building Council “will catalyze the transformation of the building materials industry and accelerate the creation of healthier indoor environments,” USGBC said in an announcement Wednesday (Nov. 14) at its annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in San Francisco.

Environmental Nutrition Labeling?

“Imagine having nutrition-label-like data about every product you use at your fingertips—knowing exactly what ingredients make up things like office chairs or house paint and how they could impact your health today and 30 years from now,” Google blogged about the grant.

Google office
Images / video: Google

Google's offices use only paints, sealants, adhesives, carpets, and furniture with the lowest levels of VOCs and formaldehyde possible. The company cited lack of clear information on building materials.

“It’s a future that goes hand in hand with our commitment to creating the healthiest work environments possible and promoting transparency within the wide world of building materials.”

The company cited “a lack of clear and accessible information on building ingredients, which means that a lot of us might be exposed to potentially harmful and toxic chemicals in building materials—whether it’s in the desk you sit at every day or the building’s paints, tiles and carpeting.”

It added: “This grant is designed to improve human health and well-being by supporting more industry research and better standards around healthy materials.”

Walking the Walk

Google noted that it had incorporated healthy, sustainable practices into the development and operation of its own campus.

“A surprising number of chemicals have been incorporated into commonly used building materials without being assessed for their impact on human health,” the company says.

“We’ve eliminated many of these chemicals in our buildings, and only use paints, sealants, adhesives, carpets, and furniture with the lowest levels of VOCs and formaldehyde possible. We also exclude toxic elements like lead and mercury. We actively seek sustainable materials that are locally manufactured, high in recycled content, and biodegradable.”

Google video - healthy building practices

Anthony Ravitz, Team Lead for Green Building at Google, explains the company's philosophy toward building healthy, eco-friendly, inspiring workplaces. The company has rigorous vendor requirements.

Google also requires its vendors to share comprehensive product ingredient information “from every point in the supply chain” through the Pharos Project, an open-source materials evaluation system.

Spurring ‘Real Change’

The grant will focus on three areas that the parties say will spur the creation of healthier indoor environments and encourage market transformation in the building materials industry: supporting research on building materials and health, developing new transparency tools, and engaging stakeholders from across the industry.

“The idea for this project emerged from our own work at Google, where we're committed to creating the healthiest work environments possible that help employees perform at their best,” said Anthony Ravitz, Google's Green Team Lead, who explains the company’s corporate philosophy on green building in a video.

“USGBC has a deep background in spearheading research, developing a rating system spanning the globe, and engaging with the many stakeholders in the building industry, making them the perfect partner to help spur real change on the healthy materials front.”

USGBC president Rick Fedrizzi said the Google partnership “enables us to broaden our efforts in the materials industry as we prepare for the next version of the LEED green building program, LEED v4.”



Tagged categories: Certifications and standards; Conferences; Green building; Green design; Greenbuild; Health and safety; Research; U.S. Green Building Council

Comment from Barry Lamm, (11/20/2012, 9:49 AM)

Impressive, however, I would be more impressed if they had given that money to Habitat for Humanity to rebuild homes in the hurricane damaged areas of New Jersey and those areas. There must be a lot of low income families that lost homes and could use Habitat's help there.

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