Thursday 7 October 2021

NBS and Sustainability

It's clear that how to create a more sustainable built environment is one of the key challenges facing the industry today.

The UK and other developed nations must lead by example. Within the UK, organizations, such as NBS, that have influence over thousands (millions?) of specification decisions made each day on large construction projects must support the industry overcome this challenge.

Well over 3,000 design practices subscribing to NBS to specify the nations infrastructure (schools, hospitals, offices, train stations etc... ). Well over 1,000 construction manufacturers work with NBS to publish their technical information - which, in turn, is used in specifications. Small changes we can make will result in huge changes across the country.

In this blog post I'm highlighting three areas where we are trying to make a difference...


Our NBS webinar series continues to be a huge success. But one of the webinars we hosted that had the most attendees (over 1,000!) was our joint webinar with the RIBA (Gary Clark HOK) on sustainable outcomes and the RIBA Plan of Work. This is still available on demand at the link below: 

Throughout October 2021, leading up to COP26 we have a series of webinars on sustainability. Sign up for these now below (or watch on demand once October has past):

We are also running our sustainability survey now (throughout Q4 2021) - please click the link below to take part and then be one of the first to receive a copy of the final report.

2. Product development

The NBS specification content we research and maintain allows for sustainable outcomes to be specified on projects. The article below gives specific examples against each of the RIBA sustainable outcomes that are aligned to the UN sustainable development goals.

Brief examples of specification templates and guidance in NBS relevant to sustainable outcomes includes:

  1. Operational carbon - Heating and cooling systems - in addition to the essential building fabric systems
  2. Embodied carbon - Responsibly sourced timber and reusing and recycled materials.
  3. Water usage - SUDs, reclamation, hot and cold water supply and sanitaryware
  4. Connected travel network - Cycle lanes, cycle storage, EV charging points
  5. Biodiversity - Meadows, bird boxes, green roofs
  6. Health and wellbeing - Daylight strategy, natural ventilation, office layouts
  7. Community - Playgrounds, landscape, contractor schemes and third party verification
  8. Sustainable operation - Comprehensive system completion specification content - especially important to successful operation of MEP and ensuring 'soft landing' and reducing the 'performance gap.
Over and above our generic content, we encourage the manufacturers we work with to publish their environmental credentials in terms of associated literature (certifications) and technical data such as country of origin, % recycled content and embodied carbon.

3. Practice what you preach

We recognise that the biggest impact we can have is positively influencing design and specification decisions our customers will make on some of the largest construction projects in the UK * through encouraging sustainable decision making within our products and through using our platform to help with education. However, we need to practice what we preach too.

For this reason, we have signed up to the UN Climate Neutral Now initiative. Through this, we now (a) measure our impact as a business, (b) analyse what we could do better, (c) put into practice initiatives on how to reduce our impact and (d) report on this annually.

Our annual report may be downloaded below:

Furthermore, at NBS we are now part of the much larger Byggfakta Group of companies operating around the world. My NBS colleague Lee Jones has been key in terms of developing the sustainability approach at a group level and more on this approach is at the URL below:

Some of the NBS team on our recent cycle out in County Durham planting trees

* Due to current market profile of the majority of NBS customers, this blog post mentions 'in the UK' - but of course UK architects and specifiers use NBS for projects around the world (Africa, Middle East, South East Asia in particular) and we have rapidly growing businesses in Canada and Australia too.

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