Tag Archives: Construction

NW Bicester

Bioregional Oxfordshire supported the development of the UK’s first eco-town North West Bicester, from 2010 to 2017, through a long-term partnership with lead developer, A2Dominion, and the local authority, Cherwell District Council

The UK’s first eco-town

NW Bicester eco-town is a 6,000-home extension to the market town of Bicester, with highly sustainable, true zero-carbon homes plus workplaces, schools, community facilities and abundant green space.

It is the only development to be built to the original high sustainability standards outlined in the UK’s official government Eco Towns Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 2009. The policy was scrapped in 2015.

Bioregional got involved with the eco-town process in 2008 when our CEO Sue Riddlestone OBE sat on its advisory panel, helping to define the standards for the PPS.

Following this work , Bioregional started working with NW Bicester’s lead developer A2Dominion and the planning authority, Cherwell District Council to help deliver the eco-town.

Working across the traditional planning divide, we took a collaborative approach to understanding the PPS standards and developing the strategies to deliver them.  We provided advice on energy, waste, water, landscape, transport, green space and nature, and employment strategies.

We have also helped deliver sustainability benefits across the wider town by working with the local authority and other organisations. Read more.

What makes a One Planet Community?

Elmsbrook is the first phase of the eco-town, a 393-home One Planet Community. Bioregional helped A2Dominion to prepare an ambitious sustainability action plan using the One Planet Living framework. This action plan was then endorsed by Bioregional in 2012.

Construction of Elmsbrook began in the spring of 2014, with the first residents moving in mid-2016.

With a local office nearby in Bicester, Bioregional Oxfordshire worked with A2Dominion during the  first phase to ensure it fulfils its sustainability promises.

The 393-home One Planet Community includes a primary school, community centre, an eco-business centre and local neighbourhood shops, creating a village feel.

  • All homes are built to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 5 incorporating triple glazing, rainwater harvesting and water recycling.
  • Electricity is generated from PV solar panels on every home (34 square metres per property on average) which, when complete, will make this the UK’s largest residential solar array.
  • Heat and hot water come from the community’s own combined heat and power plant. The ambition is to eventually use waste heat from the existing Ardley energy-from-waste facility nearby.
  • With cycle and pedestrian routes, a bus stop within 400 metres of every home, live timetable updates in each home, charging points for electric vehicles and an electric car club, residents are being encouraged to adopt sustainable modes of travel.

Why shrinking parking space would be a breath of fresh air

While air pollution is beginning to be taken seriously, it’s still hard to part people from their cars. Ben Gill explores the importance of thinking about sustainable transport when designing a building

There may be ten One Planet Principles, and each principle may cover more than one issue, yet I seem to spend an inordinate amount of my time discussing car parking.

And with good reason: as people are starting to understand the serious health implications of local air pollution, reducing our dependence on cars won’t just help reduce overall global carbon emissions – it’ll also potentially save lives. Action will be needed on many fronts, including reducing the amount of new car parking spaces that are built.

The problem is, with the exception of city centres, people seem to think car parking is an inevitable fact of life. Often you can’t get planning permission to build without the requisite parking spaces, based on the view that no-one will work at an office if they can’t drive there, so it won’t be let – and so investors won’t invest.

On one sustainable property development project I am working on in France, the neighbouring building has 500 parking spaces for about 700 employees. Surely this is a car park with some office spaces attached? To investigate this more I took some approximate numbers around cost and floor areas for occupants and car parking1 and applied them to this building.

Some of my findings were surprising. The build cost for the office space and the underground parking are pretty comparable, and yet the floor area of the car park is actually twice that of the office. So while the common wisdom would be that you couldn’t let this office without car parking, what would happen if there was no car parking but the rent was halved? Or all employees were offered a free annual travel card for the first 20 years of the building’s operation? Would it still be unlettable?

And what about the building occupants, what would be their preference? The surveys and statistics show that ‘millennials’ are not particularly interested in car ownership – you can make a lot of Uber trips for the approximately £6,000 that it costs to own and operate a car a year. I guess many of them would welcome working in an office that they didn’t have to own a car and drive to, especially if cycling was made easy or public transport subsidised.

So while both climate change and air pollution are becoming increasingly urgent issues and people start to value access to transport more than car ownership, we’re stuck with planning requirements and a system that seems determined to perpetuate car ownership. And despite the efforts of forward-thinking developers, public authorities and social entrepreneurs like Bioregional, none of our political leaders seem to be particularly interested in trying to change the status quo.

I suppose on the plus side, once we do have a sustainable transport system in place, we’ll be able to use all the empty underground parking spaces for storm-water management as flooding increases.

Bioregional is working with a number of property developers to design new buildings that promote healthy, sustainable living and crucially aim to reduce car-dependence. Find out more.

1 I assumed: Office: 12m2/occupant, £1500/m2 build cost. Underground parking with 30m2 per space and a cost of about £20,000 per space.

Zibi, Ottawa becomes the world’s 10th One Planet Community

Bioregional has endorsed Ottawa-Gatineau’s Zibi project as Canada’s first One Planet Community and the world’s tenth.

laval_plaza smallOne Planet Community status is the gold standard in sustainability ambition for development projects, representing not just endorsement of green building standards but an ongoing commitment to all aspects of sustainable development through the lifetime of a project. Zibi, which means ‘river’ in the Algonquin language, is a waterfront area located in the downtown cores of Ottawa and Gatineau overlooking both the Ottawa River and Chaudière Falls. The name of the development was chosen as a public commitment to the Algonquin-Anishinabe people, on whose unceded land the Ottawa Valley, much of Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec is situated.

Redeveloped from industrial brownfield land once dominated by a paper mill, the 37-acre site will include a blend of commercial and retail properties, condominium developments, a hotel, waterfront parks and open spaces and a network of pedestrian and cycling paths.

Over three million square feet of development is planned. Zibi will provide a unique opportunity for people to live, work, play and learn in one of the National Capital Region’s most picturesque and historic areas. Working with Bioregional, developers Windmill Development Group and Dream Unlimited Corp. have used the 10 principles of the One Planet Living framework to help guide sustainability and eco-friendly planning for Zibi. Its One Planet Community status is underpinned by a sustainability action plan based on these 10 principles.

Zibi’s plan highlights include:

  • A district-wide energy system, which aims to provide Zibi with zero carbon energy by 2020
  • A target for only 2% or less of the waste generated by the completed development to go to landfill
  • 90% reduction in transport greenhouse gas emissions compared to the regional average, thanks to prioritising walking, cycling and charging points for electric vehicles
  • Cutting water use by more than half compared to the regional average – water-using appliances will be super-efficient and non-potable water will be used for irrigation of green spaces and toilet flushing
  • Radically increasing biodiversity (by 400%) above existing levels on the site
  • Housing opportunities for a diverse range of renters and buyers, and preferential allocation in some of the commercial space to local and socially responsible businesses
  • Working together with the Algonquin-Anishinabe community in ways that generate lasting and tangible benefits to present and future generations; creating a new model for how private developers engage with First Nations in Canada

A strong point of Windmill and Dream’s commitment with First Nations and to the One Planet community framework is the creation by the Algonquin-Anishinabe of an Advisory Council on Integrity. The Committee is made up of individuals who believe in the importance of sustainability, and who wish to ensure the integrity and appropriateness of the Zibi development on issues of First Nations culture, heritage and socio-economics.

Pooran Desai OBE, Co-founder of Bioregional and International Director of its One Planet Communities Programme commented: “If everyone on earth consumed natural resources at the same rate as the average Canadian we would need four planets to support us. One Planet Communities – like Zibi aims to be – are places where it is easy, attractive and affordable for people to lead happy and healthy lives within the environmental limits of the planet.

“We are thrilled to launch the Canadian flagship in the One Planet Communities network with such an ambitious and innovative project. Zibi sets a new standard for sustainable development in Canada. Windmill is showing leadership at the global level and we are delighted that Zibi is joining our network of the earth’s greenest neighbourhoods.”

Rodney Wilts, Partner of Windmill Development commented: “This endorsement from Bioregional – and the required planning and monitoring that goes with it – brings us that much closer to our vision of creating one of the world’s most sustainable communities. We are not just focusing on the energy, water and resource saving performance of the buildings; we are equally concerned with encouraging and supporting sustainable behaviours from its residents, visitors and the businesses working
out of it.”

Jason Lester, Senior Vice President of Urban Development at Dream commented: “Becoming a One Planet Community is more than receiving a stamp of approval. It’s a long-term commitment to bring our ambitious plan to life and to continue to work diligently to build a better community through sustainability.”

Brenda Odjick, Chair of the Algonquin-Anishinabe Advisory Committee on Integrity commented: “Windmill has extended a hand in friendship to the Algonquin-Anisinabe people. Never before has a private developer been as inclusive and collaborative in this part of Canada, and as consistent with the Algonquin values attached to the environment and to community.”

Bicester pips competition to win green apple award

bicesterThe organisations behind the delivery of 6,000 true zero carbon homes at North West Bicester have won an international award for their dedication to sustainability

Cherwell District Council’s EcoBicester team, Bioregional and NW Bicester eco-town developers A2Dominion have jointly been awarded the Green Apple Environment award for the Built Environment category.

The awards recognised the organisations’ One Shared Vision initiative to extend the sustainability concept for 6,000 true zero carbon homes at NW Bicester in Oxfordshire, the UK’s first eco-town, across the rest of the town. The first, Exemplar phase with just under 400 homes is now under construction.

The annual Green Apple Environment awards have been awarded  since 1994 to promote, recognise and reward schemes which promote environmental best practice across the world.

Lewis Knight, Bioregional’s Bicester Eco Town project manager said: “This is an ambitious project that will make sustainable living a reality. Being recognised as a One Planet Community differentiates the first, Exemplar phase o f NW Bicester from other schemes claiming green credentials and positions the project amongst some of the greenest neighbourhoods in the world.”

Gabi Kaiser of Cherwell’s EcoBicester project team, said: “The main achievement of the EcoBicester programme is to encourage the growth in sustainability culture and awareness of environmental issues by the people and businesses of Bicester. It is founded on a strong aspiration to ensure existing residents feel the benefits of the development at NW Bicester by creating a low carbon strategy for the town.”

Louise Caves, strategic partnership manager at A2Dominion, said: “Through partnership working we are able to create a truly exemplary and sustainable town for the 21st century.”

The Green Apple Awards are organised by the not-for-profit Green Organisation to promote sustainable living. Cherwell, Bioregional and A2Dominion were nominated for an award in the Built Environment category which recognises the success of the Eco-town development and the wider sustainability work across all of Bicester.

In their award submission, the three partners highlighted the high sustainability standards being met through the new development, including the use of a combined heat and power plant and photovoltaic panels to supply electricity and heat to homes. These efforts have helped the site to become one of only nine One Planet  Communities worldwide, with a sustainability action plan endorsed by Bioregional and based on ten One Planet Living principles.

Across the rest of Bicester, sustainability efforts have included a town-wide retrofitting of public and community buildings as well as individual homes and annual bike days.

For more information on the awards visit www.thegreenorganisation.info

Eco Bicester Living Lab PhD studentship opportunity

Help evaluate the actual performance of building progress of the UK’s first eco-town, the NW Bicester Exemplar development, against the aspirations set for the eco-town as an endorsed One Planet Community.

The Low Carbon Building (LCB) Research Group of the Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development (OISD) and School of Architecture at Oxford Brookes University are pleased to offer a three-year full-time PhD Studentship starting in May 2015. The studentship is funded by Oxford Brookes University to mark its 150th Anniversary, Bioregional, Cherwell District Council and A2Dominon, under the umbrella of the Eco-Bicester Living Lab (EBLL). EBLL is a unique cross-sector and cross-disciplinary initiative established by OISD and Bioregional, in which novel ideas related to sustainability are tested in the urban realm with the explicit goal of learning for continuous feedback and improvement.

The successful applicant will receive an annual bursary of £11,000 for three years and the tuition fees will be paid by the University. The successful candidate will be based within the LCB Group, under the supervision of Professor Rajat Gupta (Director of OISD and LCB Group) and BioRegional.

Topic of research: Evaluating the actual performance of the NW Bicester Exemplar development against the aspirations set for an eco-town and one planet community

The first phase of NW Bicester eco-town development known as the Exemplar is currently on site and involves construction of 393 highly energy-efficient homes, creating UK’s first true zero-carbon community. The doctoral research study will be designed to address the overarching question: How effective is an exemplar development in meeting the design expectations of an eco-town and aspirations of a one planet community?

The underlying approach will be case-study based, adopting mixed-methods, drawing from building performance evaluation (BPE) techniques and carbon foot-printing methods, combining empirical quantitative data collection (physical monitoring, carbon and ecological footprint analysis) with qualitative methods (questionnaire survey and interviews).

As a successful applicant, you will join an internationally leading research group and will be expected to contribute to the wider research activities of the LCB Group and Eco-Bicester Living lab.

Eligibility: Applications are invited from Home/EU/International students. We are looking to recruit a candidate of the highest quality and who is capable of submitting a Ph.D. thesis within 3 years. Applicants are expected to have completed a relevant Masters degree prior to the Studentship start date. The Studentship holder may also be required to complete supplementary research methods training in their first year of study. Applicants should also be able to demonstrate strong research capabilities and be fluent in spoken and written English.

The selection criteria will focus on academic excellence, suitability of research experience and skills, subject knowledge and references.

Deadline: The closing date for applications is 17:00 on Monday 16 March 2015
Interview date:
Interviews will be held in the week commencing 30 March 2015
Start date: 5 May 2015
How to apply: If you would like to apply you should request an application pack from Ms Zane Kalnina, tdestudentships@brookes.ac.uk quoting ‘Eco-Bicester Living Lab PhD studentship’ in the subject line.

Housing minister visits NW Bicester eco-town

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis MP visited North West Bicester, the UK’s first eco-town and a One Planet Living Community, in December and saw the first timber frame buildings being constructed on site.

The visit on December 12 came just after the Government’s announcement  that Bicester would receive a multi-million pound award after meeting the criteria for a Garden Town.  Bioregional is working with NW Bicester developer A2Dominion and Cherwell District Council to ensure the first, 400 home phase of the eco-town and the remainder meet high sustainability standards. Mr Lewis met A2Dominion’s NW Bicester project director Steve Hornblow and strategic partnership co-ordinator Louise Caves.

John Knevett, Group Chief Commercial Officer and Deputy Group Chief Executive at A2Dominion, said:

“It is important to stress that the 13,000 homes announced have always been included in the local plan for Bicester and the 6,000 true zero carbon homes planned for NW Bicester is part of this delivery. We believe that the UK’s first eco town will contribute significantly to the garden city initiative. NW Bicester is already under construction with the first residents due to occupy their new homes by the middle of 2015.

“We believe there is no other scheme that incorporates such green infrastructure and energy-efficient design whilst protecting and enhancing the existing landscape and this makes NW Bicester a community of high quality homes that every generation can enjoy for generations to come. A2Dominion developments make it easy, attractive and affordable for people of all ages to live healthy, sustainable lifestyles without compromising the needs of future generations.

“As well as being a developer, we are also a provider of affordable housing. As such we will be involved on a long term basis at NW Bicester supporting residents across the wider development as it evolves.”


Eco-Bicester – best in Europe

The Eco-Bicester programme run by Cherwell District Council, with Bioregional, has won a prestigious European energy award after being nominated by the National Energy Foundation earlier this year.

It scooped the ACE Award Overall Winner in the category Energy Smart Municipalities.

The energy-saving Eco-Bicester programme combines a town-wide energy efficiency programme with the building of a new 6,000 home eco town – the only true zero carbon large scale housing development in the UK. Work began this year on the first ‘Exemplar’ phase of the eco-town with 393 homes, one of Bioregional’s nine One Planet Communities.

The energy efficiency programme in the existing town of Bicester has engaged over 30,000 residents through discounted insulation and boiler replacements, energy saving workshops and six demonstration sites, including a PassivHauss home and a leisure centre and swimming pool powered by a biomass boiler and solar panels.

The awards were announced in the Netherlands at the Ace Awards Finale, one of Europe’s most high-profile events for achievements in renewable and sustainable energy. Cherwell District Council competed in the category of Energy Smart Municipalities against other European local authorities who have developed pioneering or innovative approaches to promoting sustainable energy.

Leader of Cherwell District Council, Councillor Barry Wood, said: “The Eco-Bicester initiative is using zero carbon development to change people’s behaviour, ensuring the entire Bicester community benefits from the changes that are taking place. We hope that through this award we can inspire other councils to see energy transition as a means to create better places to live and work in an eco-friendly way.”

Nicole Lazarus, Bioregional’s Bicester Eco-Town Programme Manager, said: “This award is richly deserved. Cherwell showed real foresight in bringing energy saving benefits to the whole town of Bicester while setting out to develop a pioneering eco-town extension. We’re very proud and happy to have been so deeply involved in this Eco-Bicester programme.”

Ace is a renewable energy initiative spanning several North West European countries which promotes the importance of renewable energy in the lives of citizens, businesses and local government.


BedZED is the UK’s first large-scale, mixed use sustainable community with 100 homes, office space, a college and community facilities. Completed in 2002, this pioneering eco-village in south London suburbia remains an inspiration for sustainable neighbourhoods and our One Planet Living Communities across the world. It is also Bioregional’s headquarters.

A world famous eco-development
BedZED continues to attract visitors from around the world. This award winning development was designed to achieve big reductions in climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions and water use. It sought to make it easy for people living there to have a greener, lower impact lifestyle, relying less on private cars and producing less waste. Most importantly, BedZED has turned out to be a great place to live.

The project was initiated by Bioregional, developed by The Peabody Trust in partnership with Bioregional  and designed with architects, ZEDFactory (also based in BedZED) and Arup  engineers. Peabody is one of the largest and longest established providers of social housing in London. The 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.

  • Bioregional developed its ten One Planet Living principles out of our experience in planning, building, working and living in BedZED. Now we apply them to all of our work. This pioneering eco-village has influenced and inspired a new generation of One Planet Communities and eco towns.
  • 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.
  • On average, BedZED homes sell for about 5 to 10% more than homes of the same size in the surrounding area.
  • Even though BedZED is, by suburban standards, 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.

Cutting household carbon & energy bills

Based on our practical experience of working on existing housing as well as new build, we advocate changes in government policy which would see millions of UK homes given energy saving upgrades.

Policies for greening Britain’s homes

Houses last for decades, even centuries.  The gas and electricity we use to heat, light and power our homes accounts for nearly a quarter of the UK’s climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions. So if we want to cut carbon, it’s not enough just to make new homes low or zero carbon. We have to retrofit the existing stock of heat-leaking homes, because most of them will still be with us by 2050. They need to become much more energy efficient and get more of their energy from clean, renewable sources.

There’s also fuel poverty. The UK is a wealthy country but far too many people on low incomes, many elderly, struggle to afford their energy bills and keep warm in winter. Making their homes waste far less heat is a large part of the answer.

Over the years, Bioregional has run several partnership projects to retrofit existing homes with energy saving measures and renewable energy supplies. We want to use the lessons learnt to change national policy so that the entire existing stock of homes can be retrofitted over the next two decades, slashing carbon emissions and fuel poverty.

Two of these projects related to the Government-backed Green Deal, a loan scheme launched in 2013 which allows people to pay off the cost of a major energy saving package of measures through an extra charge on their electricity bill. The fundamental idea is that the savings in electricity and gas bills following a Green Deal retrofit more than outweigh the loan repayments.

  • In 2010/11 Bioregional, Sutton Council and B&Q were commissioned by Government to trial the Green Deal. Home owners were given interest-free loans to make energy saving improvements to their property and could also benefit from a 40% grant towards the cost. Nearly 70 households took part and the average capital spending was around £13,000 each.
  • In 2013 Bioregional joined with Cherwell District Council to run a Green Deal promotion scheme in Bicester, Oxfordshire funded by the Government’s Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). This delivered 100 free Green Deal appraisals – energy surveys which are the essential first step in choosing a Green Deal package. We went on to install energy saving measures in 14 homes and two small businesses including enhanced insulation, new gas-fired boilers, LED lighting and solar energy.

Using this experience, we identified major shortcomings in the Green Deal which were obstacles to its success. UK-wide uptake through 2013 and 2014 was very low compared to earlier government expectations, and in 2015 the Government withdrew its support.

Working with the Association for the Conservation of Energy (now the Association for Decentralised Energy), we wrote a report which analysed these problems in depth and proposed feasible solutions. We shared the findings of our Retrofitting the Green Deal report with Government and  leading energy efficiency stakeholders. 

The need for a massive home energy retrofit programme remains as strong as ever – we support the campaign for this to be  a national infrastructure priority.  Millions of householders could benefit from installing energy saving measures which would pay back the upfront cost within a decade through cuts in their energy consumption and their energy bills. They just need the right incentives and support to trigger that investment.

In 2015 Government commissioned us to write a report examining what policies work in encouraging households to adopt energy saving measures, products and services. We researched and wrote it with experts from the Universities of the West of England and Birmingham.  Read more.


One Brighton

Two cutting edge apartment buildings in the heart of Britain’s premiere seaside resort have brought sustainable living into the mainstream and achieved commercial success.

Mainstreaming One Planet Living

One Brighton builds on the lessons learnt from BedZED, our pioneering suburban eco-village, and is the first One Planet Community to be completed in the UK.

Developed by Crest Nicholson and BioRegional Quintain, this complex of 172 apartments plus offices, community space and café in two multi-storey blocks next to Brighton’s main train station is saving its residents money, giving them a greener, healthier lifestyle and radically reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and water consumption.

One Brighton also turned a profit despite going on sale during the depths of the recession. And it has provided 54 affordable new homes in one of the most expensive UK housing markets outside of London with 31% of its apartments allocated for shared equity or social housing. A further 11% were built as low-cost “Eco-Studios” offering people a first rung on the housing ladder.

Bioregional used the ten One Planet Living principles to draw up a sustainability action plan covering all phases of One Brighton’s life – from early design and planning through construction into its occupation and use in 2010. In 2014 we published a review into its performance against challenging One Planet targets set for 2020 and the lessons learned.

Among the headline results are:

  • Successful planning consent and marketing of UK’s largest private car free development
  • Pouring of greenest concrete frame in UK – post-tensioned concrete comprising 50% ground granulated blast furnace slag and use of 100% secondary aggregates
  • A 67% reduction in operational carbon emissions compared to the UK’s existing housing stock, with potential to achieve an 89% reduction by 2020, approaching the (near) Zero Carbon target for One Planet Communities.
  • Successful introduction of the first designed-in rooftop mini-allotments, inspiring the local planning authority to introduce an award-winning Planning Advisory Note on Food and Planning.

One resident was quoted as saying: “We moved into One Brighton, sold our cars and adopted a healthier lifestyle. In 18 months we lost 35 kg between us.”

The highly insulated, triple glazed buildings designed with architects Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios and built by Denne under a design and build contract are heated by woodfuel pellets. Electricity is sourced from a green power provider through the development’s own energy services company.

Bioregional has also published a detailed life cycle carbon footprint for One Brighton carried out by Australia-based life cycle analysts eTool.

Carbon savings would be even higher if the biomass boiler fulfils its potential and operates for 90% of the time. There has been significant downtime when gas back-up has supplied the heat instead of wood pellets. We are now looking to improve boiler performance so that operational, year to year emissions are cut by 89% compared to the typical UK home, in line with our target for near zero carbon emissions.

An independent assessment also demonstrates that One Brighton’s re-sale and rental values outperform local benchmarks.

About the developers
Crest Nicholson Bioregional Quintain was a special purpose vehicle initiated by Bioregional with financial backing from leading London developer, Quintain Estates and Development PLC in a joint venture with one of the UK’s top ten house builders, Crest Nicholson PLC. Crest Nicholson is a leading UK house-building firm which aims to be the market leader in the design and delivery of sustainable housing and mixed use communities.

Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios are an award-winning UK architectural practice with an international reputation for design quality, for pioneering environmental expertise and a radical architectural approach.