[ONEWORLD] Building the future


24 Jul 2002. Imagine a housing development constructed from sustainable resources that uses no fossil fuels, produces no net CO2, recycles household waste, provides a crèche, sports club, and solar-powered electric car, is located in a desirable area — and is affordable. Sounds too good to be true? The truth is that this futuristic place already exists, in southwest London. Beddington Zero-Energy Development (BedZED) is sustainability in practice. This ground-breaking, energy-efficient eco-village comprises some 80 homes and enough office and work space for 200 people, all tucked away in the south London borough of Sutton, UK.

The pioneering initiative was born from an idea conceived and initiated by the BioRegional Development Group — which has a vision of local sustainability — and leading architect Bill Dunster. BedZED was developed by the Peabody Trust, which is committed to providing high-quality, affordable housing for people on low incomes. The Trust has partners from the mainstream engineering, construction, and quantity surveying companies Arup, Ellis and Moore, and Gardiner and Theobald.

The conservation organization WWF also supported the project from the beginning. Work began on the brownfield site in May 2000. In the words of the developers, the aim was “to make sustainability easy, attractive, and affordable”. The overall objective is to enable people to live in a sustainable way — within an “ecological footprint” of two hectares, the per capita environmental space available globally — but without sacrificing the comforts and advantages of a modern, mobile lifestyle. This approach paid off, and by July the same year the project had won a prestigious Royal Institute of Builders and Architects (RIBA) award for excellence in housing design. BedZED is now nearing completion, with the first residents moving in. Apart from producing no net CO2 from energy use and using no fossil fuels, BedZED addresses a range of environmental, social, and economic concerns. For example, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified timber and reclaimed steel were used for construction. In addition, most construction materials were sourced within a 60km radius of the site, reducing pollution and environmental damage by minimizing freight transport. BedZED derives all its energy from renewable sources. The homes are highly energy efficient: heating is reduced by 90 per cent and total energy consumption by 70 per cent compared to conventional homes. The development also incorporates combined heat and power generation as well as state-of-the art photovoltaics for solar electricity. In addition, a solar electric car pool has been set up for use by the householders. The development harvests rainwater, uses water-saving appliances and systems, and recycles sewage water through a reedbed “Living Machine”. Household waste is also recycled. The homes are for sale at comparable prices to conventional houses in the area, with 60 per cent of the homes retained by The Peabody Trust for people on low incomes. By using local materials, the project has supported local economic development and at the same time created a number of new jobs related to maintaining the water treatment systems, power plant, woodchip supply, car pool, and local food deliveries. In addition the eco-village will have a range of community facilities such as a healthy living centre, sports club and playing fields, village square, crèche, and café.

As a result of the success of this pilot project, WWF, BioRegional, and Bill Dunster Architects have teamed up with the Midrand EcoCity Project and a number of business partners* to make a twin BedZED in South Africa. The “Zero Energy Development” (ZED), located in Ivory Park in the Johannesburg area, has the full support and involvement of the local community, which has land and planning permission for an eco-village development of 30 homes and a community centre. Working with South African architects and engineers, the ZED team will adapt the design strategies for application in South Africa. The aim is to build low cost, very high environmental performance buildings that reduce energy needs, maximize on-site opportunities for renewable energy, and minimize water consumption. The project will also include water recycling facilities. The returns from energy efficiency and renewable energy are particularly great in South Africa, where electricity supplied by the national grid is generated by inefficient and polluting coal-fired installations. This is just the beginning of what could prove to be a worldwide housing revolution. The existing partners are interested in rolling out the concept, initially at a regional level and subsequently developing a series of twinning projects across the globe. The future is ZED! (731 words)

*Jean-Paul Jeanrenaud is Head of Business and Industry Relations at WWF International, and Pooran Desai is Director of the BioRegional Development Group.
*Lafarge; Body Shop Foundation; ARUP; Global Forest Products.

Further information:

WWF’s mission
WWF’s mission is to conserve nature and ecological processes, to seek the sustainable use of natural resources, and to promote the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption whilst recognizing and respecting human needs and livelihoods. WWF’s aim is to slow down, and eventually reverse, the accelerating degradation of our planet’s natural environment; and to help build the future in which people live in harmony with nature.

The BioRegional Development Group
Established in 1994, the BioRegional Development Group
is founded on the green ideal of local production for local needs. The
Group takes a market-led approach to sustainable development and
promotes the application of appropriate technology. Their vision of the future is a network of regional industries based on sustainable
land-use, providing fulfilling employment and maintaining biodiversity.

The Peabody Trust
The Peabody Trust
is London’s largest charitable housing trust, and a registered housing
association, providing over 19,500 homes across the city. Unusually, it has its own Act of Parliament, stipulating the Trust’s objectives to
work solely within the London region for the relief of poverty. The
Trust is also a leading force in the regeneration of London, working to provide people with affordable housing in thriving, sustainable

Ecological footprints
Ecological footprints
are a conservative measure of the environmental impact of human
activities. An ecological footprint represents the biologically
productive area required to produce the food and wood people consume, to give room for infrastructure, and to absorb CO2 emitted from burning fossil fuels. The ecological footprint is expressed in “area units”, where each unit corresponds to one hectare of biologically productive space. Each person can use up to two area units a year for all their activities without damaging the environment.

Forest Stewardship Council
The Forest Stewardship Council
(FSC) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization
committed to good forest management worldwide. Founded in 1993, the FSC supports environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and
economically viable management of the world’s forests.
The main activity of the FSC is to accredit organisations that certify
the quality of forest management. Certification is the process of
inspecting forests to see if they are being managed according to an
agreed set of principles and criteria. These include recognition of
indigenous people’s rights and forest workers, long-term economic
viability, protection of biodiversity, conservation of ancient natural
woodland, long-term responsible management, and regular monitoring.

Living Machines
Living Machines are man-made systems that simulate the water
purification observed to take place when polluted water is led into
naturally occurring wetlands. A complete system for wastewater
treatment, they can be used for domestic and municipal sewage treatment and also for industrial effluents. The treated water can be recycled for non-potable uses or discharged directly to the environment.

Midrand EcoCity Project
The Midrand EcoCity Project
is a partnership between Johannesburg City Council and the
non-governmental organization, the Midrand EcoCity Trust. It was
established in 1999 by the Midrand Town Council and is now ‘owned’ by the Johannesburg council and driven by the Midrand EcoCity Trust. The project is a needs-driven people’s programme that addresses poverty alleviation through local economic development.

TAGS beddington-zero-energy-development BedZED body-shop-foundation global-forest-products pooran-desai WWF royal-institute-of-builders-and-architects architecture-RIBA forest-stewardship-council award-FSC ZED-team peabody-trust peabody bio-regional-development-group architect bill-dunster development-durable housing development recycle solar-energy eco-village environmental comforts resources CO2 household waste electric-car futuristic-place energy london UK united-kingdom lifestyle world earth ecology ecologie building water pioneering design low-cost worldwide concept award modern mobile

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