University of Bath and B&NES partner on ambitious sustainable construction policies

The city of Bath as seen from Beechen Cliff
The city of Bath as seen from Beechen Cliff

University experts will monitor, analyse and investigate the implementation and industry response to new sustainable building policies.

University of Bath and Bath & North East Somerset Council have come together to help deliver the Council’s new, cutting-edge set of sustainable construction policies, demonstrating their joint commitment to tackling the climate emergency.

In early 2023, Bath & North East Somerset Council will launch new policies to address building emissions - the first in the UK to set net zero operational energy requirements for new housing, whilst also imposing net zero operational carbon standards for new non-residential buildings and capped embodied carbon emissions for both development types.

To monitor, analyse and investigate the policy’s implementation and industry response, a project will initiate a partnership between the council’s planning team and the University’s building carbon experts, led by Dr Will Hawkins. This partnership will be funded by the UKRI Policy Support Fund and was facilitated by the University’s Climate Action Team.

Buildings and construction pose a considerable decarbonisation challenge, accounting for around 39% of global emissions. For decades, University of Bath has pioneered research into the measurement and reduction of lifecycle carbon emissions in buildings, including the operational carbon in service and the embodied carbon in materials and construction. However, progress in planning policy and national regulation has been slow and has so far been limited to the operational energy of new buildings.

This new partnership will help ensure the council’s new approach achieves real emission reductions, by evaluating developer engagement, advising on carbon assessment methodologies and identifying real impacts on design proposals.

Additionally, the project will provide a unique research study into carbon legislation and will hopefully be a precursor to a longer-term partnership through which the policy will be developed and its effects measured, providing a case study of international significance.

Dr Will Hawkins, Lecturer in Structural Engineering Design, said: -Bath & North East Somerset Council’s sustainable construction policies are among the most ambitious in the world, and we are excited to support their implementation and development as we move towards a decarbonised construction industry.-

The University’s whole-institution response to climate change impacts all aspects of university life with a joined-up approach across four themes of Research, Education, Footprint and Partnerships, particularly gaining in impact from the interactions between these areas.

Peter Phelps, Climate Action Project Lead, said: -This is a great example of the benefits of our whole-institution approach to climate change - what began as a conversation with the council’s planning team about ensuring our buildings standards aligned with future net zero policy, evolved into a wider and more impactful partnership. Through our Climate Action principles we have committed to supporting society transition to net zero while we also do so ourselves. This project offers us a small but significant way to effectively demonstrate this.-

Tim Ibell, Dean of the Faculty for Engineering and Design, added: -This is a fantastic initiative that demonstrates the real advantage to our academic community and to our partners of the joined-up, whole-institution approach to climate action. With buildings and construction representing a key area for net zero focus globally, this project offers international impact. It builds beautifully on the University and the council’s collaborative initiative, Our Shared Future , and the concept of universities as civic organisations.-

Councillor Sarah Warren, Council Deputy Leader and cabinet member for Climate and Sustainable Travel, said -I am delighted that the council is working with the University of Bath’s built environment experts, enhancing our existing partnership. This collaboration will help boost the delivery of our sustainable construction policies, which are so crucial in delivering the council’s carbon net zero goals. This project will help us increase the energy performance of our local buildings, directly tackling the climate emergency. It is also an excellent example of our joint working and I very much welcome it.-

Councillor Tim Ball, Council cabinet member for Planning and Licensing, said: -We have put in place a ground-breaking planning framework to tackle emissions from buildings. However, no matter how forward-looking our planning policies, we need to ensure they are delivered, and so I welcome the expertise and support this partnership brings. Partnerships like this help us bring our policies to life and, crucially, strengthen the bonds between the council and the University of Bath.-

This project will benefit from additional expertise and participation from Dr Andy Shea (Senior Lecturer in Building Physics), Dr Stephen Allen (Senior Lecturer in the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering), Ellie Marsh (Research Associate in the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering), Peter Phelps (Climate Action Project Lead), and Alex McCann (Climate Policy [Planning] Officer at Bath & North East Somerset Council).