Aug 2015 – Aug 2016
Quartz is an open database
(not to be confused with qz.com) that catalogues the health and environmental impacts for 102 of the most common building products used within our built environment. Developed through a partnership between Flux, Google, thinkstep, and Healthy Building Network (HBN), the Quartz Project seeks to drive market transformation towards less toxic, lower-impact materials by promoting the transparency of material composition.
While at Flux, I worked on the project as the database and quality engineer during the database's construction, as well as, the application engineer after its completion.
The database was built and hosted with neo4j, a graph database technology that allowed us to organize and store the research performed by HBN and thinkstep in an easily understandable and searchable way. As the research teams completed data collection and standardization of a given building product, I added new nodes and relationships to the database encoding the product's description, chemical composition, byproducts, and environmental and health impacts. Below is a screenshot of how a product might be represented in neo4j.
Once all 102 building products were catalogued and reviewed for accuracy, the Quartz team launched a free online portal for people to access the database. The portal was unveiled in November of 2015 on the Greenbuild conference stage, drawing significant attention from the architecture, engineering, and construction community. Read the Quartz team's blog about the project here and here, or press coverage of the initiative here.
After the launch of quartzproject.org, I began building a separate application for building designers to use our data. It allowed them to conduct whole-building health and environmental analyses during early-stage design.
Although other softwares exist to conduct whole building assessments, they are all restricted to evaluating late-stage designs, at which point most of the decisions have already been made. By giving designers the ability to analyze buildings earlier in the design process, the Quartz application could become a powerful decision-making tool for enabling healthier and more sustainable decisions.
In the initial prototype, I used Excel for the user interface and Flux, our company's cloud-based software, for the back-end computation.
I ultimately wasn't able to finish implementing certain features, but the app provided a proof-of-concept for the Quartz team to build off of in the future. View the code on github, and watch the explainer video of the app below. (Excuse the crappy hackathon quality.)