Tag Archives: Energy

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.

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

Thought leaders demand action for a sustainable economy

In a new report out today, jointly published by the Aldersgate Group and An Economy That Works Alliance, independent experts set out policy proposals to make the UK economy work for people and the environment. Each is ripe for implementation by the next Government.

This new report from the “An Economy That Works” initiative hosts contributions from leading experts on one facet of six key themes: high employment, equality of opportunity, wellbeing, low carbon development, zero waste and enhancing the UK’s natural capital. Bioregional is a member of the Aldersgate Group and the Alliance. The measures outlined in the report would help move the UK towards One Planet Living. Contributions include:

  • A proposal by Susanne Barker of the manufacturers’ association EEF to set a goal to match the OECD average on government R&D spend to boost employment in the UK;
  • A proposal by Duncan Exley of the Equality Trust to put equality of opportunity at the heart of the UK’s industrial strategies to boost the economy’s competitiveness;
  • A proposal by Christine Berry of the New Economics Foundation to put wellbeing at the heart of business models and the UK’s economic policymaking;
  • A proposal by Ben Caldecott of Oxford University’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment for the UK Government to introduce a scheme to retire the UK’s remaining sub-critical coal power stations by the end of 2020 to tackle carbon emissions in the UK’s power sector;
  • A proposal by Prof Paul Ekins of the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources to introduce an environmental tax reform to boost the resource efficiency of the UK’s economy;
  • A proposal by Toby Roxburgh and Karren Ellis at WWF-UK to introduce a new programme to “stress test” the risks to the UK economy caused by the depletion of the UK’s natural resources, similar to the stress testing approach used in the UK’s banking system;
  • A proposal by Oliver Dudok van Heel of the Economy That Works Alliance to define clear headline indicators that will enable us to measure the UK’s progress towards an economy that works.

Peter Young, Chair of the Aldersgate Group, said: “This new report brings exciting new policy ideas from authoritative experts to deliver key benefits for our future economy, environment and society. If the UK economy is to prosper in the long run, the next Government needs to adopt synergistic policies like these to strengthen environmental and social drivers at the heart of a sound economic plan.” Oliver Dudok van Heel, Executive Director of An Economy That Works Alliance, said: “This report sets the tone for the next stage of the development of the Economy That Works Alliance, by turning our vision into concrete policy proposals that will enable the transition to an economy that delivers prosperity, competitiveness and sustainability to the UK: an economy that works. “In keeping with the collaborative nature of the initiative, each proposal was developed by a different expert in the field, building on their own work and the expertise of their organisation, in full alignment with the overarching aims of An Economy That Works.” Notes

  1. An Economy That Works (aneconomythatworks.org) is an alliance of organisations from across the economy whose fundamental belief is that a healthy economy is only possible if it addresses key social and environmental challenges. The campaign’s first report, “An Economy That Works”, shows why the UK economy will benefit and identifies six key characteristics of a sustainable economy that should be measured and become central to government policy making. The report also identifies four key enablers that are critical to ensuring a smooth transition to an economy that works.


  1. The Aldersgate Group is an alliance of leaders from business, politics and civil society that drives action for a sustainable economy. Its members include some of the largest businesses in the UK with a collective global turnover of over £300bn, leading NGOs, professional institutes, public sector bodies, trade bodies and politicians from across the political spectrum. We are politically impartial and champion the important role of the business sector in moving the UK towards a sustainable economy.

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.

Smart local grids

Bioregional has been working with partners to make green solar electricity connect easily and affordably into local electricity grids. The aim – carbon-free energy, lower power bills for householders and lower costs for housing developers.

Greening the grid

Bioregional has been working on a series of research projects and trials aimed at enabling more green, solar electricity to be used close to where it is generated instead of it being exported into regional and national power grids. 

Our goal is to help:

  • Keep a lid on rising household electricity bills
  • Give households and communities more control of the power they generate and consume while cutting their carbon emissions
  • Tackle a fundamental obstacle to the growth of zero-carbon photovoltaic (PV) electricity generation.

When a landlord, a developer, a community organisation wants to install a large quantity of PV panels on the roofs of homes and other buildings, it often encounters an impasse.

There will be times when the PV panels generate more power than the buildings beneath them require. The costs of reinforcing and adapting the local electricity grid to cope with the resulting exports of solar electricity are charged to the development project. When these costs run into £100,000s or more they can destroy its commercial viability.

One solution is to consume as much of the PV power as possible locally, using batteries to store it on site. When the sun shines, surplus low voltage direct current (DC) from the PV panels is used to charge up the batteries. When there is high power demand and little or no sunshine, the batteries can be used to supply household electricity and even export power into the local grid for neighbouring buildings. 

The electricity from the batteries can be turned into the standard alternating current used in our homes, or remain as low voltage DC used to power highly efficient LED home lighting  and to run or recharge electronic devices such as smart phones and laptop computers.

The system relies on computer software to control the flows of power between the PV panels, the battery storage, the household switchboard (or consumer unit) and the local grid.  It cuts peak levels of solar electricity exports from homes while reducing imports from the grid.

Through a £1.2m partnership project led by smart DC pioneers Moixa Technology and funded by government innovation agency Innovate UK, Bioregional participated in a 33 month project examining how solar-generated electricity can be stored locally. It took place in Rose Hill, a community with high levels of deprivation in east Oxford.

A primary school, the local community centre and 84  homes (48 from Oxford City Council, 28 from housing association GreenSquare Group and the remaining eight owner occupied) took part in Project ERIC  (Energy Resources for Integrated Communities). It installed PV arrays,  batteries and the accompanying computer and web technologies required to keep track of the locally generated and stored electricity plus imports and exports.

Bioregional facilitated the partnership which brought the project to Rose Hill and was responsible for all of the community engagement aspects.

The project demonstrated that solar PV combined with battery storage could increase the amount of locally-generated solar electricity used within the community rather than being exported. In summer 51% of the electricity generated by the PV panels was used within those homes, with the remainder being exported.  The batteries increased this ‘self-consumption’ of solar power by 6%.

Project ERIC also helped demonstrate the potential for homes with PV panels and storage batteries to trade electricity with nearby homes without PV panels. Both sides of the trade could benefit from  being part of a virtual local electricity grid, saving money compared to buying (or selling) power from (or to)  the grid. This could be especially helpful in neighbourhoods where flats are mixed with houses, where the flats are short of rooftop space for PV panels. 

The findings have been evaluated by a team at Oxford Brookes University. A summary of the learning from Project ERIC is available here: Project ERIC – learnings summary document

About our partners
Moixa Technology is a leading pioneer of Smart DC (Direct Current) technologies which aims to change the way we produce and use electricity. Its ambition is to power the future efficiently and affordably, to help keep the lights on and electronics online, at the lowest possible price and carbon use.

The Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development (OISD) at Oxford Brookes University is one of the UK’s largest research institutes dedicated to sustainable development research in the build and natural environments.

Oxford City Council provided homes for Project ERIC, financed the installation of PV panels and took on the  batteries as long term assets. 

ReEnergise are energy consultants and project managers who analysed the finances of PV panel and battery installations for this project.

Innovative office retrofit

Bioregional has given an old office building in a conservation area a radical but sensitive refurbishment using pioneering energy saving technologies. This has slashed heating bills and made it more comfortable for staff.

Innovative carbon savings in a traditional setting

Bioregional initiated, developed and won full funding for this advanced office upgrade project from the UK Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change – then managed its delivery with partners in 2014.

Bicester Town Council’s offices in Oxfordshire are situated in the Garth, a large 1830s hunting lodge in a conservation area off the town centre. The building needed major energy efficiency improvements but the heritage had to be respected.

The key innovation for this £840,000 project is WHISCERS (Whole House In-Situ Carbon and Energy Reduction Solution). This begins with laser measurement of each room, with the data then fed into a computer which is used to precision-cut large pieces of internal insulation and dry lining. These pre-cut panels are then installed on site, room by room, as if assembling a huge jigsaw on the inside face of the exterior walls. It was the first time this process had been used in a non-domestic building. It cuts wastage of material, costs about 30% less than conventional internal wall insulation and is far less disruptive for building occupants.

Also installed were ultra-thin aerogel floor insulation, air tightness measures, and secondary glazing. The project was completed with a ventilation system using both natural ventilation and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery. Oxford Brookes University is monitoring the building in depth for a year to evaluate energy saving and the comfort of office staff.

About our  partners

Innovate UK, formerly the Technology Strategy Board, is the UK’s innovation agency which funds, supports and connects innovative businesses to accelerate sustainable economic growth.

The Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development (OISD) at Oxford Brookes University is one of the UK’s largest research institutes dedicated to sustainable development research in the built and natural environments.

Ridge LLP is an award winning multi-discipline property and construction consultancy with offices across the UK and delivering projects worldwide.

BEPIT – a better building toolkit

Bioregional is leading a £1.3 million, four year long research project to radically narrow the serious performance gap between the energy and carbon savings promised by new housing designs and what is actually achieved when they are built.

Building better sustainable homes with BEPIT

Bioregional has been leading a partnership which aims to deliver big improvements in the ways in which major new housing developments are constructed. We are providing a dedicated, on site research engineer.

This project is using the first phase of a large housebuilding project in Oxfordshire as a research laboratory.

In 2017, with the research phase of the BEPIT (Building Energy Performance Improvement Toolkit) project drawing to a close, Bioregional is launching a new service to share the lessons learned with housebuilders.

We’ve been carrying out the research in partnership with housebuilder A2Dominion, construction contractor Wilmott Dixon and Loughborough University’s School of Civil and Building Engineering. The project is funded by Innovate UK, the government’s innovation agency.

The BEPIT project has analysed design, procurement and construction processes for energy-efficient new homes in order to understand the causes of the performance gaps. Using process mapping, monitoring and testing, the aim is to gain an in depth, all round understanding of how new homes are built in the real world, what parts of the process impact most on their performance and what can go wrong.

The aim is to deliver significant improvements and spread the lessons through the construction industry. Bioregional’s new BEPIT service offers housebuilders and their contractors an intensive and effective focus on reducing the energy performance gap in the new homes they are building.

About our partners 

Innovate UK, formerly the Technology Strategy Board, is the UK’s innovation agency which funds, supports and connects innovative businesses to accelerate sustainable economic growth.

A2Dominion is a leading housing provider and property developer in London and the South East of England. It offers high-quality sustainable homes for sale, shared ownership and rent and owns 34,000 homes with over 4,600 new properties in the development pipeline.


Things are hotting up in Bicester

A pioneering scheme to heat up to 6,000 homes in the UK’s first eco-town has taken its next leap forward, with the appointment of engineering design and consultancy company Ramboll  to undertake the technical and commercial feasibility study. The scheme will involve the installation of an insulated hot water pipe system to transfer heat generated from Viridor’s Energy Recovery Facility at Ardley to properties at north west Bicester.

Earlier this year Cherwell District Council received a grant of £83,000 from the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s Heat Network Delivery Unit to fund a feasibility study exploring the possibility of using Viridor’s Energy Recovery Facility at Ardley to heat the north west Bicester eco-town which is located about one mile away. The decision to appoint Ramboll was made by representatives of Cherwell District Council and partners from Oxfordshire County Council and BioRegional who will all be involved in the delivery of the project.

An update will be given to key stakeholders at a meeting in December and an interim report will be presented in February 2015. A final report on the proposal will then be submitted by Ramboll in summer 2015.