Net Zero Carbon Buildings Framework

This page provides the latest information on UKGBC's net zero carbon buildings framework, which is a series of guidance documents. This page should be referred to first, in case information has been superseded from previously published guidance.
Image of Manchester skyline to reflect their commitment to going net zero carbon by 2030


January 19, 2022


Research & Innovation



UKGBC published the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Framework Definition in 2019 to provide the industry with clarity on the definition of net zero carbon buildings. Given the evolving nature of guidance on this topic, it was intended to be built on over time – the reason why it was titled a ‘framework’. It sets out high-level principles for achieving net zero carbon for construction and for operational energy, with the noted intention that further detail and stricter requirements would be developed over time.  

Figure 1: Two current definitions for net zero carbon buildings  

The framework sets out an overarching set of principles to follow, with a reduction first approach to achieving net zero carbon. Each principle includes the approach that should be followed, technical requirements and, where relevant, any areas for future development. 

Figure 2: Carbon reduction hierarchy for achieving net zero carbon buildings

Framework Clarifications  

Since 2019, UKGBC has published (or supported the development of) additional pieces of guidance which layer onto the original framework. This guidance strengthens the framework with additional technical requirements and, in some instances, supersedes the high-level guidance within the original framework.

To support the navigation of this guidance alongside the framework, to take account of the ongoing emerging industry net zero carbon buildings guidance and best practice and responding to common queries received we have produced a NZCB Framework Definitions Clarifications document available here.




The below table outlines key clarification to the original framework and the related the Carbon reduction hierarchy principal points clarified (see figure 2 above).

Document Name and Clarification

Relevant Carbon Reduction Hierarchy Principle Point (see Figure 2)

April 2019

Net Zero Carbon Buildings: A Framework Definition (47 pages) 

Original framework.  


September 2019

Net Zero Operational Carbon: Ten key requirements for new buildings (1 page) 

(UKGBC supported) 

Updated guidance on: 
- Levels of energy performance expected for new residential, office and school buildings. 

3.1 -  Reductions in energy demand and consumption should be prioritised over all other measures. 

January 2020

Net Zero Carbon: Energy performance targets for office (5 pages) 

Updated guidance on:  
- Levels of energy performance expected for new and existing offices, with a trajectory up until 2035. 

3.1 - Reductions in energy demand and consumption should be prioritised over all other measures. 

March 2021

Renewable Energy Procurement & Carbon Offsetting: Guidance for net zero carbon buildings (67 pages) 

Updated guidance on: 
- No allowance for offsetting of embodied carbon via export of renewable energy for new buildings.  
- No allowance for fossil fuel consumption (primary energy) for new buildings, with replacement plan for existing. 
- Technical requirements for procurement of renewable energy and offsets.  
- Minimum reporting templates, latest versions: 
      - NZC – Construction [Word] 
      - NZC – Construction [Excel] 
      - NZC – Operational Energy [Word]  

1.1 - Net zero carbon – construction

2.1 - A whole life carbon assessment should be
undertaken and disclosed for all construction projects to drive carbon reductions

2.2 - The embodied carbon impacts from the product and construction stages should be measured and offset at practical completion

4.1 - On-site renewable energy source should be prioritised

4.2 - Off-site renewables should demonstrate additionality

5.1 - Any remaining carbon should be offset using a recognised offsetting framework

5.2 - The amount of offsets used should be publicly disclosed

March 2021

Net Zero Carbon Buildings: Levels of performance (5 pages) 

Updated guidance on: 
- Interim embodied carbon and energy performance targets.

2.1 -  A whole life carbon assessment should be undertaken and disclosed for all construction projects to drive carbon reductions

3.1 - Reductions in energy demand and consumption should be prioritised over all other measures. 

Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard 

In May 2022, a cross-industry initiative was launched to develop the UK’s first Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard. Leading industry organisations BBP, BRE, the Carbon Trust, CIBSE, IStructE, LETI, RIBA, RICS, and UKGBC have joined forces to champion this initiative. 

​Whilst significant progress has been made in defining what ‘net zero’ means for buildings in the UK, a process of market analysis showed a clear demand for a single, agreed methodology. The UK Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard will enable industry to robustly prove their built assets are net zero carbon and in line with our nation’s climate targets. 

The outputs from the development of the Standard are due to be made available in 2023. Whilst UKGBC’s net zero carbon buildings framework (i.e. this webpage) remains current, it is likely that when the Standard’s outputs are published, the framework will be retired.  

Readers are encouraged to stay up-to-date with the development of the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard via this website: 


For all the latest UKGBC updates on net zero buildings, please visit the Advancing Net Zero homepage or email us with any queries or comments at