This week, Sue Riddlestone appeared on the BBC’s Costing the Earth to discuss housebuilding in the UK. Here, she shares more about how we can create zero-carbon homes that are great places to live – as well as her call for action to the UK government
BedZED - the UK's first major zero-carbon community
What we did
BedZED was initiated by Bioregional and developed by Peabody Trust in partnership with Bioregional and ZEDfactory architects. Completed in 2002, the UK’s first large-scale, mixed-use sustainable community comprises 100 homes, office space, a college and community facilities. It is also where our main office is.
The story behind the world-famous eco-development
The idea for BedZED was conceived in 1997. Bioregional, architect Bill Dunster and engineers Arup were looking for an opportunity to create a zero-carbon eco-village. And our co-founders Sue Riddlestone and Pooran Desai were looking for a new, green office!
Sutton Borough Council was selling a plot of undeveloped open land for housing development near Beddington Farmlands. Alongside developer Peabody Trust the project partners managed to secure the land and construction began in 2001.
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How Bioregional helped
BedZED was designed to achieve big reductions in climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions and water use. We wanted to make it easy for people living there to have a greener, lower impact lifestyle, relying less on private cars and producing less waste.
Bioregional acted as sustainability advisors to the design team, steering green transport planning, renewable energy solutions, the selection and sourcing of construction materials and a ‘green lifestyles’ programme to residents and businesses in transport, local food and composting initiatives.
This included helping develop the sustainability strategy in collaboration with the project partners, with new and ambitious benchmarks in areas such as energy efficiency and greener construction.
What did BedZED achieve?
After it was completed in 2002, BedZED became famous for the scale of its ambition. It remains, arguably, the most ambitious attempt at all-round sustainability in a major new housing development and has attracted thousands of global visitors.
It won the Housing Design Award for sustainability from the Royal Institute of British Architects in 2001 and was shortlisted for the prestigious Stirling Prize in 2003.
There’s a real sense of shared values as well as a strong community feel at BedZED. Combined with the green space nearby and the layout of our streets, it makes it a special place to live, and quite unique to London living.Dave Tchilingirian, resident of BedZED
We continue to help create zero-carbon homes and share our learning from BedZED
BedZED has stood the test of time, though some of its green technologies have been challenging to adopt. Most importantly, BedZED also inspired us to create the One Planet Living framework which now underpins all our work and has been used in more than $30bn of property developments worldwide.
We also run regular One Planet Living training courses for people who want to use the framework in their own projects and organisations.
In 2018, we created a wholly owned subsidiary Bioregional Homes to continue our mission to create exemplar communities. In 2020, Bioregional Homes formed a new partnership with award-winning housebuilder Hill Group. Bioregional Hill creates zero-carbon, locally affordable homes with communities, for communities.
- Local materials: Just over half (52%) of the construction materials by weight were sourced within 35 miles – considerably closer than the construction industry average. The bricks used on the outside walls came from just 20 miles away.
- Reclaimed products: 3,400 tonnes of construction material, 15% of the total used in BedZED, were reclaimed or recycled products. Nearly all the steel in the building is reused, much of it coming from refurbishment work at Brighton Railway Station.
- Giving unused land new life: Even the land the eco-village stands on is recycled. It was used for many years for spreading sludge from the nearby sewage works.
Warm, comfortable, cheaper-to-run homes
- Warm, well-ventilated houses: Most of BedZED’s homes are heated by the warmth of the sun and highly insulated. Its distinctive wind cowls help fresh air circulate.
- Biomass boiler: While the original wood-powered boiler had to be turned off in 2005 due to technical difficulties, in 2017 a new biomass boiler was installed. Alongside a green electricity tariff, this means BedZED remains true to its zero-carbon vision.
- Solar panels and energy-efficient appliances: Extensive solar panels provide some of BedZED’s electricity, while efficient appliances reduce energy bills.
- Onsite car club: A major success was the introduction of the first car club to England which has subsequently led to major expansion of the car club network in London and other UK cities.
A healthier, happier place to live
- Mixed sizes and mixed tenure: Homes range from one-bed apartments to four-bedroom houses. Half were sold on the open market, one quarter were reserved for social (low cost) rent by Peabody and the remaining quarter for shared ownership, a lower-cost way of owning a home.
- Abundant green space: Even though BedZED is a high-density development, most homes have private outdoor space and many have small gardens. The whole development shares a square and a large playing field.
- Water-saving appliances: Dual-flush toilets, aerated flow taps and shower heads and water-efficient washing machines means the average home uses almost 40% less water than average metered homes in Sutton.
- Neighbourliness: One of BedZED’s biggest successes is that it has created a great community, with car-free streets for children to play and people to chat.
- Cheaper bills: For one three-person BedZED household using an on-site car club car instead of its own vehicle, we estimated total annual savings in transport, water and energy bills at £1,391 a year compared to an average London household with its own car. That’s nearly £4 a day.