Paint-by-numbers procurement

09 Jun 2022

Can procurement be like painting by numbers? By connecting Green Star Buildings with NATSPEC, the national building specifier, it is now easier for procurement and corporate sustainability strategies to align. We asked NATSPEC’s CEO Richard Choy how this collaboration can help more companies meet sustainability targets at scale and speed.

The procurement function plays a central role in shaping any organisation’s footprint – both directly through purchasing decisions and indirectly by influencing product design.

But as McKinsey’s recent work with global chief procurement officers reveals, most companies are struggling to translate their sustainability commitments into a clear procurement strategy. Just 20% of organisations surveyed by McKinsey used sustainability measures as primary criteria in sourcing decisions or supplier reviews.

However, many organisations have robust foundations in place and Australia has a comprehensive and reliable national database for building specification in NATSPEC.

Work to align Green Star Buildings with NATSPEC specifications will ensure best practice sustainability is embedded in procurement documentation. Here’s what NATSPEC CEO Richard Choy says about the partnership.

1. Let’s start with the basics. Tell us a little bit about NATSPEC and your role in the construction industry.

NATSPEC is a national not-for-profit organisation, owned by government and industry. Our objective is to improve the construction quality and productivity of the built environment through leadership of information. We are impartial and not involved in advocacy or policy development. 

Our key services are the National Building Specification (NATSPEC), the local government specification (AUS-SPEC), and the National BIM Guide and associated documents. We maintain these documents with the Australian industry for the Australian industry.

As a not-for-profit organisation we reinvest all of our resources back into improving the Australian industry. The building specification is required to protect the consumer and client from poor workmanship, inappropriate materials, and illegal products. By maintaining an Australian, national, comprehensive, and regularly updated specification system we are the desired quality control tool for government and quality projects. We are strongly supported by the Australian Institute of Architects and Master Builders Australia.

2. This month we released the Specifying for Green Star Buildings using NATSPEC resource. What triggered this?

Using the NATSPEC system facilitates the understanding and integration of specifications between disciplines. This allows delivery of documents that are both rigorous and comprehensive, reflective of current legislative requirements and industry practices including sustainability. The majority of the NATSPEC team are professional architects and engineers. We all believe in sustainable solutions and for many years have published a technical paper Specifying ESD with the assistance of industry organisations including the GBCA. 

As designers we realise that there are many complex aspects to sustainable design and that the Australian society’s expectations are much higher today than they were even a few years ago. The release of GBCA’s Green Star Buildings in late 2020 prompted discussions on how both organisations could work even more collaboratively. GBCA CEO Davina Rooney was keen to explore ideas focussed on achieving synergy between NATSPEC and GBCA’s Green Star Buildings.

3. Who will find the new resource useful?

Our technical team worked closely with GBCA to identify opportunities within NATSPEC to include new guidance text and align with ESD requirements to target Green Star Buildings Minimum Expectations. This makes it easier for designers and specifiers to make informed choices. To assist specifiers in determining how to best align NATSPEC with the ESD requirements embodied in Green Star Buildings, the new GBCA document Specifying for Green Star Buildings using NATSPEC will be an invaluable resource.

These documents also provide a strong foundation for thinking about sustainable opportunities rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. They are of assistance to all practitioners, whether they be architects, designers, engineers, consultants, builders, or developers. Indeed, anyone involved in delivering a project to Green Star Buildings’ 4-, 5- or 6-Star rating will find the new resource of huge benefit.

4. Why is it important to include Green Star Buildings Minimum Expectations credits in national building specifications?

The built environment and those charged with delivering it must help ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.

Because buildings produce nearly a quarter of Australia’s harmful emissions, sustainable designs and materials are one of the industry’s best tools for long-term sustainability success. A sustainable building is energy efficient, water efficient, has good healthy spaces, and is built responsibly on sites that are not critical natural areas.

Including Green Star Buildings’ Minimum Expectations credits in NATSPEC specifications is desirable, as they are a measurable and deliverable means by which practitioners can ensure that ESD best practice is embodied in their documentation. The documentation becomes the contractual requirement and defines the deliverables. Without the sustainable requirements being documented many unscrupulous builders will find unsustainable shortcuts.

5. How can this partnership between Green Building Council of Australia and NATSPEC lead to more sustainable outcomes for Australia’s built environment?

This latest initiative between GBCA and NATSPEC provides the opportunity for the specifier to readily connect the dots between the Minimum Expectations stipulated in Green Star Buildings and the options available in NATSPEC, to target compliance with those minimum Green Star Buildings requirements.

NATSPEC specifications and Green Star Buildings complement each other, assisting practitioners in making environmental considerations a priority and choosing sustainable practices more easily.

GBCA and NATSPEC are excited to be able to continue to explore opportunities for further collaboration.

Keen to know more? Visit the Green Star resources to download the document.

For more information on NATSPEC visit