Cotswold District Council secured funding from the LGA Housing Advisers Programme to collaborate with two neighbouring councils (West Oxfordshire District Council and Forest of Dean District Council) to plug a perceived gap in the market for succinct, direct and practical advice on how to achieve net zero housing, both new build and retrofit. The Toolkit project was a response to queries received by the councils from small developers, architects, self-builders and householders.
There are many different low carbon and net zero carbon design methodologies and accreditations. Whilst the language of net zero is becoming normalised, few developers are consistently building such homes, and perceptions of excess cost and risk are holding such developments back.
Smaller builders and architects often do not have dedicated expertise on achieving net zero, and new builds still tend to default to a ‘comply with building regulations’ approach. Self-builders are often very motivated to achieve net zero carbon but would still benefit from succinct advice.
A brief for the toolkit was developed following significant delays due to COVID-19, and a consortium of leading experts was contracted, comprising of Etude, Elementa, Passivhaus Trust and Levitt Bernstein. A project team, comprising of climate officers from the three councils and the consultants, enjoyed a strong collaborative co-development process with each member of the team bringing different experience and local issues to bear. Early drafts of the toolkit have been enthusiastically received by both industry professionals and council members.
A key objective of the Housing Advisers Programme was to disseminate results of the research. The toolkit will be published under a Creative Commons licence which permits and encourages other councils to pick the work up, adapt it as required, and re-publish it under the same licence terms, and so maximising its reach.
How is the new approach being sustained?
The potential to turn the toolkit into an interactive web resource is now being explored. As well as being picked up by other councils, the tookit will also be used by development planning teams in the three partner councils to help explain to planning applicants what net zero carbon is, and to encourage more building to this standard. In due course the toolkit’s principles may be embodied in updated local planning policy.
Second tier councils with shared objectives can achieve more ambitious outcomes by collaborating on projects.
This toolkit has been created to make Net Zero carbon new build and retrofit more accessible. It has been designed for building professionals (developers, contractors, architects and engineers) and is also relevant to self -builders, planning officers and other housing professionals. Although it can be used by homeowners, it is aimed at those who already have some knowledge or experience of construction.