The Net Zero Building Standard Requires Trusts to Act Now as the NHS Maps out its Road to Sustainable Healthcare Infrastructure
In response to the escalating climate crisis and the pressing need to reduce carbon emissions, the NHS net zero building standard provides trusts with clear actions they can, and indeed must, take to achieve sustainable estates.
Earlier this year, the NHS released the highly anticipated NHS Net Zero Building Standard, the world's first healthcare specific net zero building standard. This standard should play a significant role in reducing the NHS's carbon footprint by targeting buildings, which contribute to approximately 15% of the organisation's total emissions.
With the recent heatwaves, floods, and wildfires devastating regions worldwide, the urgency to transition towards net zero cannot be overstated. The NHS Net Zero Building Standard is a critical measure to address climate change impacts and ensure sustainable, quality care for patients. Below we outline what this standard means for NHS trusts and how this standard interacts with the New Hospital Programme.
The Importance of Sustainable Buildings
Addressing the Climate Crisis: Climate change's detrimental effects on public health are evident globally, with last year’s heatwave causing around 60,000 excess deaths in Europe (around 3,000 in the UK) and increased pressure on health services. Sustainable buildings play a pivotal role in mitigating climate change and reducing its impact on public health.
Reducing NHS Carbon Footprint: NHS buildings and estates account for approximately 15% of the organisation's carbon footprint. By adopting more sustainable solutions, the NHS can make substantial progress towards its 2045 net zero goal, particularly as the organisation is placing a newfound emphasis on large scale infrastructure projects through the New Hospital Programme.
Financial Savings: Sustainable building design often leads to cost savings in the long run, such as reduced energy bills and maintenance expenses.
Enhanced Patient Care: Buildings designed in a more sustainable way offer a better environment for patients, with improved comfort, air quality, and daylight exposure contributing to higher quality care.
Positive Impact on Staff: A healthier and more sustainable workplace can boost both staff wellbeing and productivity
The NHS Net Zero Building Standard
The NHS Net Zero Building Standard was released in February 2023. It provides comprehensive technical guidance and supporting materials, aligning with existing sustainable infrastructure standards such as BREEAM and complementing the NHS's overarching strategy, "Delivering a net zero NHS" (2020). The standard will apply from October 2023 to all investments into new healthcare buildings and major upgrades to existing facilities.
Impact on NHS Trusts
- The new standard requires NHS trusts to collect, assess, and report whole life carbon data for their building projects. This includes embodied carbon assessments during the design process and reporting actual emissions post project completion. As the standard evolves with iterations expected in 2025 and 2030, additional metrics like energy generation and operational carbon will also need to be reported. Trusts are urged to begin reporting ahead of these requirements to ensure compliance with future standards.
- Compliance with the NHS Net Zero Building Standard is vital to achieving the NHS's net zero ambition by 2045. Accurate and transparent carbon reporting facilitates knowledge sharing and performance improvement across NHS projects, further enhancing sustainability efforts
- To support NHS trusts in this endeavour, the NHS promises to roll out education and training programmes, facilitated by the newly established Net Zero Coordinator role. It is essential for trusts to have clearly defined roles and responsibilities, a thorough understanding of compliance measures, and a strong focus on sustainability planning from the outset of any building project
Intersecting with the New Hospital Programme
As the standard applies to all investments that are at pre-strategic outline business case stage from the 1st of October, there is a uncertainty around how these standards will interact and influence schemes under the New Hospitals Programme (if at all). Whilst the NHP has committed to its own environmental strategy and journey to net zero, this has been developed independently of the NHS net zero building standard. The National Audit Office has already highlighted that this raises a risk that new hospitals may not be fully compliant with the NHS Net Zero Building Standard. At the moment it is unclear how the NHS will approach the discrepancies between the NHP and the Net Zero Building Standard.
At The PSC, we understand the urgency of addressing climate change and the importance of sustainable infrastructure. We offer expertise in healthcare, sustainability and infrastructure planning.
With the NHS Net Zero Building Standard leading the way, the NHS is demonstrating its commitment to creating a greener and more sustainable healthcare sector, fostering a healthier future for patients, staff, and the environment.
Discover how our sustainability focused services can drive your organisation towards a more sustainable future. If you're looking to implement sustainable practices or ensure compliance with the NHS Net Zero Building Standard, we're here to help. Contact us for more information about our services and how we can partner with you on your sustainability journey.
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