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The Prototype: BedZED


BedZED is the prototype for the One Planet Communities programme

BedZED is one of the UK’s largest mixed use sustainable communities, and can be considered the prototype for the One Planet Communities programme. From it, BioRegional learnt the relative importance of lifestyles and infrastructure in comparison to green buildings in creating a sustainable community and have since sought to apply these lessons to developments around the world via the One Planet Communities programme.

Completed in 2002, BedZED was initiated by BioRegional, developed in partnership with The Peabody Trust and designed with Bill Dunster Architects. BedZED is now home to around 220 residents living in 100 houses and apartments. In addition there is 2,500 m2 of commercial, which is home to BioRegional’s offices and community space.

The name Beddington Zero (fossil) Energy Development encapsulates the vision behind the project – i.e. to develop the first large-scale carbon neutral or zero fossil energy development, aiming to meet all its energy demands from renewable energy generated on site.

Key strategies

Key initiatives and strategies to achieve this vision included:

  • Planning gain – increased density through provision of gardens on rooftopsThermal efficiency – reduce space heating by 80% over conventional homes through passive solar heating with south facing conservatories, triple glazing, super insulation and passive ventilation through wind-driven cowls on the roof
  • Increased energy efficiency  – fitting of energy efficient appliances as standard, visible meters to raise residents awareness of consumption, good daylight design
  • Increased water efficiency – water efficient appliances, rainwater collection for toilet flushing, irrigation, treatment of waste water on-site
  • Green travel plan – with pedestrian/cyclist priority, reduced availability and car parking reduced from 160 spaces to 100 spaces,  residents’ car club and promotion of public transport
  • Renewable energy – meet all remaining, reduced energy needs through onsite generation of renewable energy using an experimental wood-fuelled combined heat and power system and photovoltaic panels
  • Construction – consideration of the environmental impact of the construction process and materials used was considered, sourcing of reclaimed and recycled materials and local sourcing policy to reduce haulage carbon emissions

The results

BedZED wind cowls

The distinctive BedZED wind cowls provide ventilation into homes while minimising heat loss

Monitoring has shown that BedZED households use 2,579 kWh of electricity per year which is 45% lower than the average in surrounding area. On average, households use 3,526 kWh of heating per year – 81% less than the average in Sutton and carbon emissions from energy use in the home are reduced by 72% compared to similar homes built at the time.

Unfortunately the experimental biomass Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant was not successful because its scale is too small to run technically and financially.  There are now plans to replace this with a wood-fired boiler.  On the other hand, the Photovoltaics have been very successful (although expensive) generating about 19% of total electricity requirements.

Nonetheless, BedZED was influential in the genesis of the UK government policy that all new homes must be zero carbon by 2016 and in this sense the project will have an impact on all cities in the UK. Our experience with experimental CHP would caution against a requirement for on-site renewable energy generation in all cases.  We have come to see how important it will be for the government and utility providers to take responsibility for developing a renewable electricity grid with local, decentralised electricity regeneration to be considered and introduced as an important part of this strategy.

The importance of lifestyles

Although all BedZED residents do make savings, it is only when they fully engage in lifestyle changes such as joining the car club that large benefits are seen such as reducing the carbon emissions of their whole lifestyle by 50%. This has influenced the way that BioRegional has approached future projects, such as encouraging behavioural change through governance and estates management.

At BedZED the introduction of the first car club into London, in partnership with City Car Clubs, has led to car mileage being reduced by 65%. Monitoring has also shown that residents only use 72 litres of mains water per day, topped up by 15 litres of recycled or rainwater. Water consumption is therefore 58% lower than the local average. Through waste audits we found that 60% of waste by weight is recycled or composted, which is about twice the recycling rate in a typical development in the UK.

Quality of life

BedZED village square

BedZED's pedestrian priority streets take the garden city ideal into the 21st century

BedZed’s colourful and contemporary style make it a landmark development both visually and in terms of its social and environmental sustainability credentials, and its ‘pedestrian priority’ streets and provision of balconies and gardens for every home are features which take the garden city ideal into the 21st century.

At BedZED the dominance of the car was de-emphasised with the road and parking placed at the edge of the community and pedestrianised areas in the centre. Children can safely play outside and as residents walk about they can meet and chat with their neighbours without having to compete with traffic noise. Through this design, on average a BedZED residents know 20 of their neighbours by name when the average in the surrounding area is 8 – greatly increasing social capital.  One resident was able to name 150 of her neighbours! Overall 84% of BedZED residents report an increased quality of life.

For more information on the strategies used at BedZED and for a full evaluation of the development please follow the links below: