In January 2023, Bath & North East Somerset Council (B&NES) implemented the first local planning policies in the UK requiring, first, that all new building developments achieve net zero operational energy, and second, that major developments meet an embodied carbon target. Both go far beyond the existing national building regulations, but they are representative of a growing number of similar policies from local authorities.

This paper describes a collaboration between B&NES and the University of Bath which explored the first months of the new policies’ implementation, to identify the impacts on building designs, the reception by practitioners, and opportunities for policy development and refinement. Thirty-eight eligible planning applications were analysed, the majority for minor residential buildings
eligible only for the operational energy policy. Despite a non-compliance rate of over 50% – primarily caused by a lack of policy awareness – many applications for buildings theoretically achieving net zero operational energy were received, representing efficiencies far beyond current standards. However, scrutiny and monitoring will be required for these ambitions to be met in practice. A
corresponding questionnaire was completed by 65% of applicants. Although the responses were largely negative, with particular concerns over cost and viability, there was broad support for the policies’ aims and an expectation of long-term emissions savings.

A long-term study is now needed to track the evolving industry response, quantify the real emission savings through construction and occupation, and further engage with stakeholders to support the policies’ implementation, development, and wider impact.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationUrban Innovation
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2024


  • Construction
  • Net Zero
  • Buildings


Dive into the research topics of 'Net-zero-carbon construction: connecting policy and science: A collaboration between Bath & North East Somerset Council and the University of Bath'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this