Google’s Sustainability Moonshot

Google is known for its innovation beyond the search engine, with teams exploring everything from driverless cars to smart contact lenses. One effort that they don’t talk about quite as much, but perhaps is even more important, is sustainability, which the company calls its “quiet moonshot.”

With offices around the world, the company is continually striving to explore the products and practices that will ensure the health of employees. “People are at the center of what we do,” says Robin Bass, (e)Team Design, Construction, and Operations Lead for Google, noting that we spend 90% of our time indoors. “[My team’s] goal is to create an environment that helps Googler’s perform at their best every day.”

Part of that mission involves a deep understanding of the materials in buildings—of their ingredients, their origins, their chemical makeup, their circularity. “We know what’s in our food, what about our building products?” Bass says.

The company recently launched Portico, an open-source tool that integrates project management functions and a growing database of more than 2,500 building materials and products evaluated against a progressive path toward chemical optimization. Portico is designed to integrate with a typical design and construction delivery process, connecting data with project workflow.

Cradle to Cradle Certified products and those with a Material Health Certificate (MHC) earn high scores, with a Gold-level or higher in material health earning the most number of points available within Portico.

After a period of successful internal testing on Google design and construction projects (250 Google projects, which led to more than 5,000 manufacturers participating and a database of over 2,600 scored products!), Google has made the Portico tool available to a handful of additional partners who are beta testing the possibility of broader use by industry. 

Learn more about Google’s product transparency efforts—and how architects and designers may soon be able to benefit from and leverage those tools—by watching to the recording of our most recent Built Positive workshop, “Google’s Healthy Materials Moonshot.”

Click here to watch.