Chetwoods’ environmental team, Thrive, collaborated with NBS to help develop and implement extra filters in the manufacturer product platform, NBS Source Database, which is an invaluable resource for architects and design teams when specifying materials. It is the latest project in Chetwoods’ materials R+D process. We believe that with a better understanding of materials we can demonstrate the true value of good construction products and ensure that they are not lost during the all too familiar value engineering process.


Collaboration with NBS

We have engaged with NBS to incorporate additional search filters in NBS Source, to encourage manufacturers to provide enhanced data about the sustainability of their products.

NBS Source is a widely used digital platform providing a single source for construction product information to support architects, engineers, and other building professionals in making the right product choices for a construction project. The free to use database of more than 1,100 manufacturers and 27,000 products is online and embedded within many BIM processes, with thousands of users per month.

The new enhanced filters developed for NBS Source with our Thrive team focus on the environmental impact of products featured on the database.

Our Thrive colleagues had noticed that while sustainability information for a few products was available on the platform, it was time consuming to find. It was also hard to contrast and compare the sustainability credentials of different products easily and quickly within the existing tool. Also, many products had no sustainability information at all. They recommended, with the support of NBS Source, that a series of new filters on specific sustainability criteria could help resolve this issue by simplifying the process in a more intuitive way.

They started by researching best practice standards, such as the Living Building Challenge’s Red List, a study on Circular Economy strategies, and analysis of Whole Life Carbon assessment guidance. The result was a list of essential criteria, which was then shared on open source for the industry to engage with. Thrive have used these criteria to assist materials manufacturers, including Ibstock, Brett Martin and Tata Steel.


New Sustainability Filters for Materials Specification

Based on the list and other industry feedback, NBS implemented five key new filters: ‘Recycled content level’, ‘Recyclability’, ‘Country of product manufacture’, ‘Country of material origin’ and ‘Contains red list materials’ on the NBS Source platform. In addition, NBS are also encouraging manufacturers to provide data on embodied carbon calculations.

The team were clear on the impact these filters should have: Their implementation would increase clarity for architects around which materials were the more sustainable option; They would also help to ensure that the sustainable materials stayed in the building specification and throughout the construction process through to build, as there was clear guidance on why the materials were environmentally beneficial – giving all architects a stronger position to advocate for sustainable choices.

Thrive also hope that in the longer term the sustainability filters will encourage increased transparency from materials manufacturers on the environmental impact of their products and make them prioritise an increase in sustainable options. As these filters heighten the visibility of these products, it should increase their selection in the long-term, driving materials manufacturers to produce more sustainable options to increase their sales.

In the year since these new sustainability filters were implemented, there has been a significant increase in products in the NBS Source database which are tagged for the essential sustainability criteria encapsulated in the five filters.


Chetwoods Materials Passports and Resource Hierarchy

Architects have an opportunity to incite change down the construction supply chain, by asking more from materials suppliers and manufacturers. Our own materials R+D process includes a series of questions we ask our clients, raise at CPDs, and pose to materials manufacturers and suppliers when selecting materials as part of a specification.

In the absence of an industry-accepted Material Passport standard, we have created a supplier questionnaire and our own Material Passport template to help improve our understanding of the sustainability and health and wellbeing credentials of the materials we specify for our projects.

We combine this with our Resource Hierarchy pyramid, which is applied in order of best to least desirable choices depending on the realistic lifespan of a building and the components within it. Our Thrive Project Director Taleen Josefsson presented a webinar on this topic in  ‘The Holistic Specification of Materials’ for the NBS.

Chetwoods Resource Hierarchy pyramid

Chetwoods Sustainable Design Drivers

Our consideration of materials is just one element of a holistic approach which we implement for every project. Every scheme we work on is considered by our specialist teams: Studio puts the human nature, imagination, and instinct into our designs. Thrive ensures that they are ethical, environmental, and healthy. Works makes them into exemplars of construction and technological performance.

Chetwoods Sustainable Design Drivers

In every project our teams refer to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, applying Chetwoods Sustainable Design Drivers, to ensure that ethical, environmental and health and wellbeing principles are embedded throughout design, construction, and delivery.

UN Sustainable Development Goals


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