Zero Carbon Developments

What are zero carbon developments?

Zero carbon developments are new buildings that have no net carbon emissions.

They are typically designed and built to be highly energy efficient; and to not use gas or coal-fired electricity, through a combination of rooftop solar and buying off-site renewable energy, such as through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).

Generally zero carbon standards in the built environment have a consistent set of features, including:

  • high standard of energy efficiency (e.g. passive design, improved air tightness, insulation, glazing, lighting, cooling and heating and hot water systems)
  • maximising on-site renewable energy generation (usually solar PV)
  • long term off-site renewable energy purchasing, such as through PPAs
  • various legal and contractual arrangements to ensure the standard is maintained over the life of the building.

How will Yarra Council require new developments to achieve a zero carbon standard?

At the Council Meeting on 17 March 2020, Council committed to progress a planning scheme amendment to implement a Zero Carbon Local Policy for new developments. This has also been committed to in our Climate Emergency Plan.

We are working with other Council Alliance for a Sustainable Built Environment (CASBE) member councils to pursue a planning scheme amendment that builds on the existing local Environmentally Sustainable Development (ESD) Policies held by numerous Victorian Councils. The Elevating ESD Targets Planning Policy Amendment project aims to deliver revised and elevated ESD targets, including targets for zero carbon development.

This project has grown to involve 29 urban and regional Victorian councils. It demonstrates a growing understanding across the state of the need for stronger planning policy to drive a gas-free, zero-carbon built environment. 

This project involves drafting ESD planning policy objectives and standards and these will be reviewed by three different expert fields:

  • Technical ESD and development feasibility
  • Planning advice
  • Economic benefit cost analysis.

The planning scheme amendment work will also present the considerable economic opportunities that zero carbon developments offer, such as the procurement of off-site renewable energy. We are progressing the policy work throughout 2020 and then aim to seek authorisation from the Minister for Planning.

We have been undertaking informal engagement throughout this project and will continue engaging further with the development industry as the work progresses. Once the policy work is ready we then aim to seek authorisation from the Minister for Planning.

There are currently leaders in the development industry working towards achieving a zero carbon standard. Yarra Council encourages this sort of leadership in the development community, and any developers aspiring to high sustainability standards in their future developments in Yarra are encouraged to engage early with Yarra Council’s statutory planning department.

Examples of zero carbon developments in Yarra

In Yarra, we’re seeing leaders in the development industry respond to a growing demand in the community for zero carbon, healthy and climate resilient homes and workplaces.  Here are recent case studies of developments in Yarra that would meet zero carbon standards:   

We are keen to promote further leading sustainable developments that would meet zero carbon standards.  


To discuss zero carbon developments further, call Yarra City Council on 9205 5555 or email