Net carbon zero

Physical Capital logo


The Physical capital relates to the community and commercial buildings as well as green, grey and blue infrastructure that we retain and manage.

Why it matters

‘Net zero’ is reached when the amount of greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere is no more than the amount removed. In response we have put a strong emphasis on reducing the whole life carbon footprint of our Strategic Sites in line with a Net Zero approach by 2040. This will be achieved through the minimisation of embodied carbon in the design and construction of infrastructure and buildings, a flexible energy strategy prioritising highly efficient sources to reduce operational carbon and the deployment of renewable energy to future-proof our sites. Our visionary design guides for the physical works we obtain planning consents for support this objective by focusing on increased sustainable transport and water resilience through our master planning design activities.

Action areas

  • Carbon footprint
  • Resilience
  • Connectivity

Carbon footprint

Carbon reduction has been a consistent measure for our business, focusing on operational carbon from the space we own or occupy as well as from our own direct activities. It represents the part of our carbon footprint over which we have absolute control and for which we have full responsibility. 

However our operational Scope 1 and 2 emissions will only account for 4% of our business as usual carbon footprint over the years 2021–2035 with the remaining 96% being Scope 3 emissions resulting directly and indirectly from infrastructure and buildings commissioned by Urban&Civic. 

We are therefore committed to our business targets to achieve net zero as follows:

  • net zero by 2030 for Scope 1 and 2 emissions, by keeping cumulative absolute emissions well within the carbon budget for the 1.5 degree scenario of Science Based Targets (SBTs).
  • net zero by 2040 for Scope 3 emissions resulting directly and indirectly from infrastructure and buildings commissioned by Urban&Civic. Cumulative absolute Scope 3 emissions to remain within the carbon budget for the  1.5 degree scenario of Science Based Targets (SBTs).

Achieving Net Zero is not only about the outcome but also the journey. ‘Our Map towards Net Zero’ sets out the headline actions we as a business need to implement along with our value chain to achieve both the long-term targets and also the nearer term 2025 interim targets.


Our map towards Net Zero


2025 targets: 

  • Achieve an annual reduction of 7% in absolute Scope 1 and 2 emissions as per SECR reporting (tonnes CO2e). This equates to a 28 per cent reduction compared to 2020/2021 data.
  • Achieve a reduction of 19% under a 1.5 degree scenario in Scope 3 emissions compared to business as usual  encompassing whole life capital and operational carbon for all directly instructed infrastructure and buildings delivered in the year (tonnesCO2e).
  • Develop a complete inventory for all Scope 3 emissions for the year 2022/2023 to establish the actual Scope 3 baseline across all the work of Urban&Civic.


In 2022/23, we increased our operational Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 4.4%  which falls well short of our7% per annum target to reduce emissions.  The key reason for this was the 7% increase in the electricity grid carbon factor meaning the carbon content of the electricity we consumed was higher than 2021/22 even though the amount of electricity consumed decreased by 5 per cent overall. Other reasons for not meeting the target included increased gas consumption at our Middlehaven asset and increased direct fuel consumption for business travel purposes. To ensure we stay on track to meet our 2025 target and beyond, we have included a number of carbon reduction actions in the 2023/24 business plans for all Strategic Sites. This also includes a target to develop site specific plans to achieve Net Zero for Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030. We’ll also aim to implement the energy saving opportunities as outlined in our ESOS (Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme) Phase 3 compliance report. Specific reduction actions will include:

  • Adopt more energy efficient behaviours in our occupied spaces
  • Replace building services with more energy efficient equipment at end-of-life
  • Phase out gas and other fossil fuel uses
  • Install renewable energy systems where viable to do so.
Graph showing the target reduction and actual reduction in operational carbon emissions per sq. m. of occupied asset for the FY 2019/20

Graph showing the target reduction and actual reduction in operational Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions for the FY 2022/23.

We have also this year measured our Scope 3 carbon footprint for the first time, and will use the data as a ‘trial’ year. The data collection produced an indicative and unaudited footprint of 13,577 tonnes CO2 , broadly 10 times higher than our Scope 1 and 2 emissions of 1,294 tonnes CO2 . 98.7% of our Scope 3 emissions were Category 2 ‘capital goods’ emissions (i.e. upfront carbon in buildings and infrastructure completed or under construction) with the remainder comprising employee commuting, business travel and waste generated from U&C offices 



Resilience is core to the continual success of Urban&Civic’s developments and we are determined that our projects are delivered and managed robustly for the long term.  We are focusing on the role of the water cycle in our developments and have been working with statutory water authorities, consultants and our housebuilder partners to confirm our direction of travel towards minimisation of water consumption and maximising the efficiency of our whole water cycles. 


2025 target: 

  • Limit water consumption on all new properties to a maximum of 90 litres per person per day (l/p/d) by 2025.


For 2022/23, we managed to obtain water consumption data from all of our sites with occupied homes. The methods associated with this have varied but progress has still been made against last year . For a number of sites, the consumption data was provided in water flow per second, which has then been scaled up to a litres per day figure taking into account the number of residents in homes and how many water outlets there are throughout the development. For other sites, a simple consumption figure per household was provided by the water companies. Consumption at most sites exceeded the target of 90 litres of water consumed per person per day. The overall site average was 107 l/p/d.

These results are valuable in showing us where and how to improve the water efficiency of our sites together with our housebuilder partners and also identifying the issues in obtaining the performance data needed to credibly assess this metric. In 2023/24 we will continue working with the water companies to access a broader dataset that is more representative of performance and support their water efficiency engagement campaigns with residents where relevant.



Graph showing the average litres of water consumed per person per day in all new properties constructed from October 2021.


As Master Developer, we are in a unique position to provide access to and promote sustainable transport. It is a critical aspect of the pathway to net zero, and we see this as the biggest opportunity to positively contribute to reducing emissions in our direct influence.


2025 target: 

Construct 95% of occupied buildings within 200m of a high-quality cycle way as specified by SUSTRANS (this includes lighting and intermittent segregation detail in the case of hybrid cycle/footpaths, protective barriers from cars, etc.)


Average performance in 2022/23 has improved from 99% to 100% for the five sites where buildings have been delivered, currently exceeding the 2025 target of 95%


Graph showing the percentage of occupied buildings within 200m of a dedicated cycle way

Case studies

Waterbeach’s first primary school goes green

The Waterbeach team are celebrating a significant milestone with proposals for its first primary school being announced by Cambridgeshire County Council. 

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U&C and Buckingham collaborate to slash Co2 emissions

Urban&Civic and Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd (Buckingham) agreed an innovative, collaborative cost sharing agreement to use 1 million litres of Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) instead of diesel for earthmoving at Priors Hall Park.

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Wealds on the Bus clock up 10,000 trips

The Alconbury Weald team has worked in partnership with the local authority and Huntingdon-based Dews Coaches to launch a new bus service, the AW1. 

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Working to make our signage more sustainable

At Urban&Civic, sustainability is at the heart of what we do; not only in delivering exceptional new developments, but across the business as a whole.

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Urban&Civic and Catesby come together in a new office at Houlton

2022 saw the relocation of the Houlton Project Team and the Head Office of Catesby Estates, to the newly constructed Orchard House, an office space in the heart of Dollman Farm, close to the The Tuning Fork and directly above Houlton’s Co-Op. 

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Houlton School Awards

U&C win a national award (a pineapple) issued by The Design Council as part of the Festival of Place for Best Creative Retrofit.

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Sustainable travel is a core part of the master developer approach, promoting early options for walking, cycling and buses. At Houlton, when the development of 6,200 homes is complete residents will be no more than 400 meters away from a bus stop, making access to local towns easy. 

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Walking groups

Urban & Civic in partnership with Sustrans have been organising weekly led walks through Middlebeck, Newark with the aim of encouraging an active lifestyle. Our Community Engagement Officer wanted the walks to be a fun and sociable activity for people who want reap the benefits of exercise.

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E-scooter safety session success!

Northamptonshire’s pilot of Voi e-scooters to promote greener travel options and reduce traffic, saw Priors Hall Park district centre host a 6-hour e-scooter safety event for residents.

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Empowering our people to cut greenhouse gas emissions

As part of our ongoing commitment to educating on carbon, we have engaged Groundwork to deliver carbon literacy training to our colleagues and have an ambition to provide this accredited learning to at least 80 per cent of our employees by June 2022.

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Alconbury Weald residents encouraged to get on their bikes

Alconbury Weald is aiming to become a truly sustainable community: that’s partly about putting in place the right infrastructure and services for people to lead low carbon lives as the development rolls out, and creating a culture where people choose low carbon travel options.

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Treeconomics at Alconbury Weald

Treeconomics is a social enterprise that seeks to highlight the benefits of trees and works to understand how they improve our urban spaces, making them better places to live. 

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Case study Treeconomics at Alconbury Weald_Banner.jpg

Calling all cycling smoothies

The long awaited launch of the Middlebeck cycle hub was a huge success in July, with local residents attending from across Newark to get their bike serviced and to participate in the celebrations.

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