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 do we pursue net carbon zero?

In 2019, the UK Government set a legal target to achieve nationwide net zero emissions by 2050, while the UK built environment industry is driving for all new buildings to be net zero operational carbon by 2030. We are committed to playing our part to achieve these targets.  

Our approach to net zero carbon addresses both operational carbon and embodied carbon. Our Sustainability Framework sets out when and how we intend to make substantial reductions to both.

What is the journey?

To achieve this objective, we have identified three action areas to provide a strategic focus for our efforts and commitments: first, to measure and minimise our carbon footprint;second, to enhance the resilience of our sites, by preparing for the physical risks associated with climate change; and third, to ensure the best connectivity for our land parcels, encouraging sustainable means for mobility.

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 Well-below-2 degrees with an aspiration to stay within the 1.5 degree scenario of Science Based Targets (SBTs).

Our 2025 targets will put us well on the path to achieving our net zero commitments. 


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 35 per cent reduction compared to 2020/2021 data. 
  • Achieve an annual reduction of 2.5% minimum, thereby complying with the “well below” 2°C scenario (with a view to achieving 4.2% in line with the 1.5°C scenario) in absolute Scope 3 emissions encompassing whole life capital and operational carbon for all directly instructed infrastructure and buildings delivered in the year (tonnes CO2e). This equates to a 13% reduction compared to 2020/2021 data. 
  • 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.


Although our operational carbon emissions reduction was lower than our target in 2020/21, it shows we are on the right path to making substantial reductions by 2025. 

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 carbon emissions per sq. m. of occupied asset for the FY 2021/21


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.


There is no performance to report in 2020/21 for this target because the metric was newly introduced for 2021/22. 


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 all 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.).


On three sites – Alconbury, Houlton and Priors Hall – all new buildings are already achieving the 2025 target. Wintringham and Newark were close to achieving it at 98% and 92% respectively and are on track to meet it over the coming years.


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

Case studies


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