As well as for its exceptional schools, Sutton is recognised for pioneering eco-development and could soon be London’s most sustainable suburb due to its dedication to become a One Planet borough by 2025. If you’re wondering what a One Planet borough hopes to emanate, this is what Sutton Council has to say: “If everyone in the world lived as we do in Sutton we’d need just under three planets’ worth of resources to sustain us. We need to reverse this trend by getting our consumption down to a One Planet level’.

A notable green success in Sutton is the BedZED, the UK’s first large-scale mixed use sustainable community. BedZED stands for Beddington Zero Energy Development and is an environmentally-friendly housing development designed to create zero emissions. BedZED uses many innovative technologies and has attracted global interest since it was built in 2002. It was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize in 2003.

Image: © Bioregional, 8 April 2016.

I recently visited the BedZED, where I met a lovely resident called Pat who’s been there since it first opened and described it as the best place she’s ever lived. I was impressed by the design, layout and plots of garden space accessed by a curvy bridge.

Location

Around 500 yards from Hackbridge Railway Station, BedZED is located in Wallington, Sutton.

The Brief

Architect Bill Dunster and engineers Arup wanted to create a zero-carbon eco-village aiming to achieve big reductions in climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions and water use. They wanted to make it easy for people living there to have a low-impact lifestyle, rely less on private cars and generate less water.

At the time, Sutton Borough Council was selling a plot of undeveloped land open for housing development near Beddington Farmlands and so became the perfect match. Alongside Developers Peabody Trust, the land was secured and construction began. The project was the first construction project where local authority sold land at below market value to make sustainable development economically feasible.

What is BedZED?

As noted on the Bioregional website, “It is the first large-scale ‘carbon neutral’ community – i.e. the first not to add to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and is an excellent example of creative use of brownfield land…The design is to a very high standard and is used to enhance the environmental dimensions, with strong emphasis on roof gardens, sunlight, solar energy, reduction of energy consumption and waste water recycling.”

The project was completed in 2002. It comprises 82 homes and 1,405 square metres of work space, a college, community facilities and abundant green space.

Notable Features

Some of the BedZED features include

  • Multi-coloured wind cowls which provide passive ventilation.
  • The project is designed to use only energy from renewable sources generated on site. For example, there are 777 square metres of solar panels.
  • Energy efficiency– The houses face south to take advantage of solar gain, are triple glazed, and have high thermal insulation.
  • Low-impact materials – Building materials were picked from renewable or recycled sources which were within 50 miles of the site. This was to minimize the energy required for transportation.
  • Transport – The development works in partnership with a leading car-sharing operator, City Car Club. Residents are encouraged to use this eco-friendly option to private car ownership which are available to use on-site.
  • A strong sense of community, with a higher quality of life.

 

Positive Results

Huge energy savings with lower bills, abundant green space, a friendly community and above-market sale prices retains the exemplary BedZED village as an inspiration for zero-carbon homes globally.

In 2003, results post-monitoring showed that BedZED had achieved many reductions in comparison to UK averages, for example in space-heating requirements (88% less) and hot-water consumption (57% less).

Awards

BedZED has received many awards, including the 2004 Civic Trust Sustainability Award; the Housing Design Awards in 2003; and the Building Energy Globe Award in 2002. BedZED was also a finalist for the 2003 Sterling Silver Prize.

Summary

BedZED continues to attract thousands from across the globe. It remains one of the most ambitious attempts at all-inclusive sustainability in a major new housing development.

BedZED’s most important success, however, is that it remains an inviting and popular place to live, demonstrating that a large shift towards sustainable living doesn’t necessarily warrant sacrifice and discomfort.