From the business case to building a sense of community, what is it really like to create better, more sustainable places to live, work and do business? Ben Gill shares insights from the brains behind three of our inspiring One Planet Communities
I’m a complete sucker for well-designed, sustainable homes. And the icing on the cake is when I get to share this passion with the world. So, you can imagine my excitement when BBC South News got in touch last week to ask if they could do a feature on Springfield Meadows – a zero-carbon housing development that we’ve been working on with green developers, Ssassy Property, for the past few years.
Walking towards the site with the film crew I felt a huge sense of pride thinking about what has been achieved in just two years. Back in 2018 we held a workshop with the project team and two future residents of Springfield, helping them imagine how we could make One Planet Living a reality for them in their new community. But today? We no longer have to imagine – those residents are now happily moved in. It’s a beautiful, fully functioning, life-enhancing reality.
Warm, healthy homes in a thriving, green community
Springfield Meadows sits on an 8-acre rural plot in the village of Southmoor, with great transport links to iconic Oxford, just 11 miles away. The 25 new-build homes were designed to help residents lead happier and healthier lives with a very small carbon footprint.
Ssassy used Bioregional’s One Planet Living
framework throughout planning and construction to achieve this. This considers all aspects of sustainability – not just things like waste, water and energy, but supporting the local community and economy too. So, as well as being highly energy efficient, with solar panels and connection to green power, the homes were built using local labour, with 35% affordable housing.
I believe that this is the future of housing; one that every single one of us, and the planet, deserves.Nicole Lazarus, Head of One Planet Living, Bioregional
Responding creatively to the challenges of rural development
As a rural development that’s also responding to housing need in the area, the scheme is required by planning rules to be relatively low-density. This has enabled the creation of a place full of nature and space, with a wildlife pond, community orchard and herb garden, all of which residents love and which bolster a feeling of neighbourliness.
Of course, rural development also creates challenges when it comes to enabling low-impact living, and Greencore has tackled these challenges creatively. For example, excellent bus connections are enhanced by free bus vouchers, which will be provided to residents in the first year, and a car-club with electric vehicles will be promoted.
Reducing ‘upfront’ carbon emissions through construction innovation
What’s most exciting about the development to me though, is what the walls are made of. Instead of brick, they are pre-fabricated panels made from hemp and lime, all part of an innovative, natural construction system. This has reduced the ‘upfront’ carbon emissions (the carbon emissions generated by extracting, processing and transporting building materials, as well as in construction) by a massive 90% compared to a standard UK home of a similar size.
Given that buildings and construction are responsible for 39% of global energy-related carbon emissions, if we’re to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030, reducing the upfront emissions of construction is vital.
At Bioregional, we were so impressed with this development that we awarded it Global Leadership in One Planet Living last year. This means that as far as we are concerned, it represents the level of ambition necessary to achieve a world where we live within the means of our one planet, exceeding local best practice against all 10 One Planet Living principles.
But Managing Director Ian Pritchett's plans don’t stop at this development. Ian has two more sites lined up, much larger than this one. He’s on a mission to transform housing development in Oxfordshire and beyond.
Revisiting this state-of-the-art development was like seeing an old school friend. I was astonished at how it’s blossomed – what it’s become and what’s been achieved.
And talking to the film crew and meeting its newest residents filled me with pride. People are living here in an eco-friendly, healthy, affordable way – showing that truly sustainable living is entirely possible.
Homes of the future
Incidentally, this week is World Green Building Week, whose goal is to “Act on Climate” through the delivery of green buildings. As members of the UK Green Building Council, we are keen to shine a light on developments like this. And indeed, this is what gets me up in the morning!
I believe that this is the future of housing; one that every single one of us, and the planet, deserves.
So be inspired this World Green Building Week – read more about Springfield Meadows and take a look at other similar developments springing up all over the globe that are using the One Planet Living framework to achieve net zero carbon emissions, and enable people to live healthy, happy and sustainable lives.