Decoding Design

Google offices go transparent

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Google creates a program to build healthier workplaces.

Google offices already boast a fun and creative culture. Now the internet company wants to ensure their workspaces are healthy environments. For the past two years, Google has been screening materials for hazardous ingredients before including them in its North American office projects. The goal of the company's Healthy Materials Program is to eliminate 100 percent of known toxins in its buildings.

The substances the company avoids can be found on the Living Building Challenge Red List and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chemicals of Concern list.  Google requires vendors to provide information on all ingredients in products from every part of the supply chain and to participate in screening through the Pharos Project, an open source materials evaluation system. The information is then available to all Pharos members.

In an article for Building Green, Nadav Malin outlines challenges that Google's facilities and design teams faced in eliminating toxins from their workspaces, including being one of the few large organizations to insist on transparency of information. More demand from more companies would mean more leverage, as seen in the Transparency website by architecture firm Perkins and Will. Additionally, furniture and finishes manufacturers themselves often don't know every little thing that goes into their products. They also are unwilling to give up what they consider proprietary information. But as more clients and customers push for open information, manufacturers will find that transparency breeds trust, a competitive edge.

Besides the health benefits to its current Googlers, Google's commitment to a healthy workplace will be a draw for new talent. The company's office projects have mostly been interior fit-outs but this summer, Google is applying the Healthy Materials Program to an entirely new building as well as its international offices.

Watch a video of Google's sustainable building program below:

Related on SmartPlanet:
Google Zurich reworks office design
Architects promote transparency in choosing green building materials

Via: Building Green, Google Green

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Sun Kim

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sun Joo Kim is an architect and creative consultant based in Boston. Her projects include design and master planning of museums, public institutions, hospitals, and university buildings across the U.S. She holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure