We’re helping to build the UK’s first Eco Town, setting new standards in sustainability, through a long-term partnership with a major housing provider and developer, A2Dominion, and the local Cherwell District Council.
Putting One Planet Living at the heart of major housing development
The development of NW Bicester demonstrates how a brand new community can provide large numbers of homes and workplaces which respect the natural limits of our one planet while giving residents a great quality of life.
The first phase of the North West Bicester eco-town is a 393-home One Planet Community. Construction began in the Spring of 2014, with the first homes went on sale in June 2015. Bioregional helped to prepare an in-depth, highly ambitious sustainability action plan signed off in 2012. In April 2016, residents began to move in.
With a local office in the adjacent town of Bicester, we continue to work on this first phase to ensure it fulfils it sustainability promise. Our partners are A2Dominion, and Cherwell District Council, the local planning authority.
We have also secured funding for a wide range of environmental and energy-saving projects within the existing town which we have delivered to benefit local people. And we are helping to masterplan the wider North West Bicester Eco Town with 6,000 homes which follows on from the first phase.
The 393-home One Planet Community will include a primary school, community centre, eco pub and an eco-business and retail centre, creating a village feel.
All homes will be built to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 5 incorporating triple glazing, rainwater harvesting and water recycling.
Electricity will be generated from PV solar panels on every home (34 square metres per property on average), making this the UK’s largest residential solar array.
Heat and hot water will come from the Exemplar’s own combined heat and power plant. The ambition is to eventually use heat supplied by the nearby Ardley energy-from-waste facility.
With cycle and pedestrian routes, a bus stop within 400 metres of every home, live timetable updates in each house, charging points for electric vehicles and an electric car club, residents will be encouraged to adopt sustainable modes of travel.
Spreading eco-benefits around town
When Bicester was designated as one of England’s first four Eco-Towns in 2009 with major new housing growth, the plan was to ensure the whole town benefited. Bioregional has developed and delivered a range of projects and initiatives securing eco-benefits for the town’s 31,000 residents.
We managed the installation of major energy saving package in 14 homes and two small businesses using a DECC grant we secured from a fund aiming to jump start the Green Deal energy saving loan scheme. These packages included insulation, new gas-fired boilers, LED lighting and solar energy. We estimate the savings in carbon dioxide emissions from the homes alone at 24 tonnes a year. We ran an open day with the householders to inspire neighbours to install home energy savings measures.
We led a project which researched, commissioned and installed a large biomass-fired boiler at Bicester’s leisure centre, fueled by local wood sources and fired up for the first time in the spring of 2014. This provides low carbon heat at a significantly lower net cost than fossil fuel alternatives for one of the town’s biggest heat consumers.
The Garth, a Victorian building used as Bicester Town Council’s offices, underwent a major energy saving retrofit managed by Bioregional. Find out more.
We give practical support to Bicester Green, an award-winning social enterprise which repairs and gives new life to household items such as furniture and bicycles which would otherwise go to landfill. It also provides skills training and volunteering opportunities for local people.
Building better sustainable homes with BEPIT
Based on the construction process for the One Planet Community, Bioregional is leading a £1.3 million, four year research project to radically narrow the performance gap between the energy and carbon savings that new housing promises and what is actually achieved. This project, funded by the UK government agency Innovate UK, also aims to reduce the cost premium for new homes meeting very high sustainability standards. Find out more.
Eco-Bicester Living Lab
Over several years we’ve helped introduce successful innovation to Bicester, run research projects and gathered an abundance of practical experience. To build on this, Bioregional and the Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development (OISD) at Oxford Brookes University have created the Eco-Bicester Living Lab. This virtual laboratory seeks to share the lessons we have learned with research, professional and business communities in the UK and beyond. Cherwell District Council and A2Dominion are key stakeholders and are co-sponsoring a PhD student study on the NW Bicester first phase at OISD. The Living Lab promotes Bicester as a centre for research and innovation, aiming to attract collaborators and funding.
Design for a changed climate
Like communities everywhere, North West Bicester will have to cope with a changing climate. Funded by Innovate UK and working with the Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development and PRP Architects, we’ve shown how the super-insulated, well-sealed homes being built in the One Planet Community will avoid overheating in the hotter summers and longer, more frequent heat waves that are coming. They will have triple glazed windows that allow closeable sun-blocking shutters to be installed outside them. Shading by trees and orientation will also be used to keep homes cool. As a result of this work, a planning condition set by Cherwell District Council will require all homes in the One Planet Community to be designed to adapt to forecast climate change, specifically avoiding overheating.