Gallery: BEDZED: Beddington Zero Energy Development in London


The Beddington Zero Energy Development (BedZED) may not be new news, but is a fabulous example of innovative, zero-energy, sustainable housing on a multi-unit scale. The residential and workspace development in the London borough of Sutton is a carbon-neutral community with plentiful green spaces, recycling facilities, water saving features, and a legally binding green transport plan. It’s the whole kit-and-caboodle of sustainable living, and has been a flourishing green community since its conception in 2002.

Designed by architect Bill Dunster, BedZED was conducted as a partnership between the BioRegional Development Group, the Peabody Trust, Bill Dunster Architects, Arup, and Gardiner and Theobald as cost consultants. The 82 houses, 17 apartments, and 1,405 m² of workspace were built between 2000-02, and the project was later shortlisted for the Stirling Prize in 2003.

The BedZED Development design meets very high environmental standards, with a strong emphasis on roof gardens, sunlight, solar energy, reduction of energy consumption, and waste water recycling. In terms of materials, BedZED is built from natural, recycled, or reclaimed materials. All the wood used is approved by the Forest Stewardship Council or comparable internationally recognized environmental organizations.

Using passive solar techniques, houses arranged in south facing terraces to maximize heat gain from the sun. Each terrace is backed by north facing offices, where minimal solar gain reduces the tendency to overheat and the need for energy-hungry air conditioning. A centralized heat and power plant (CHP) provides hot water, which is distributed around the site via a district heating system of super-insulated pipes. Should residents or workers require a heating boost, each home or office has a domestic hot water tank that doubles as a radiator. The CHP plant at BedZED is powered by off-cuts from tree surgery waste that would otherwise go to landfill.

One of BedZED’s unique community considerations is its take on transportation. The entire development has been designed to encourage alternatives to car use. A green transport plan promotes walking, cycling, and use of public transport. A car pool for residents has been established, and all these initiatives have helped to provide a strategic and integrated approach to transport issues. BedZED’s target is a 50% reduction in fossil-fuel consumption by private car use over the next 10 years compared with a conventional development. BedZED was the first low-car development in the UK to incorporate a car club, “ZEDcars.” A “pedestrian first” policy with good lighting, drop curbs for prams (strollers) and wheelchairs, and a road layout that keeps vehicles to walking speed.

Additionally, designers took great consideration of the development’s embodied energy, a measure of the energy required to manufacture a product. To reduce the embodied energy of BedZED, construction materials were selected for their low-embodied energy and sourced within a 35-mile radius of the site when possible. The energy expended in transporting materials to the site was therefore minimized.

And these highlighted features barely scratch the surface. BedZED boasts a laundry list of green innovations that were cutting edge in 2002 and continue to set a good example.

+ Beddington Zero Energy Development
+ The Peabody Trust
+ BioRegional Development Group


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  1. Frodo4LYF June 1, 2012 at 5:26 am


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  3. agbomanyi freeman kwame April 10, 2008 at 11:45 am

    that is a very creative design. it is one of the most regious design i have come across as an architect. it is an act of holiness

  4. Amanda February 28, 2008 at 7:30 am

    I believe it is important to pioneer new technology and innovate new methods in construction. However, my point is whether or not it is ethically viable to award a development with zero carbon or of a sustainable status when implementing unproven technology?

  5. Stevie T January 30, 2008 at 1:12 pm


    I would like to agree with some of your commments, you are the firstperson I have heard say that the PV cells are at the wrong angle, I understand they are capable of providing power for electric cars, how many other estate even have such charging points. With regards to the houses being small. Have you ever been in a new build house in South London? The houses at BedZED are large by local standards.I should know I live in one!

    Without BedZED, and Peabody Trust the whole eco living agenda would still be stuck on the starting blocks, but ask your self this, where do I move to next? There is not a lot of cutting edge Eco design going on in the UK – we need more people like Bill Dunster, a true visionary

  6. Mel January 28, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Pioneers are never appreciated until someone takes THEIR idea and improves it. I commend everyone involved in this ‘old’ project. One doesn’t learn to ride a bicycle without some bruises or skinned knees or both. (At least most of us don’t.) If others didn’t follow the lead given here, it’s because they lack the courage and/or the imagination.

    And as for Andy, what have you done that’s better? Or do you just make yourself feel better by badmouthing others as so many ‘critics’ do?

    Remember – If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.

  7. simon seasons January 20, 2008 at 4:42 am

    Andy hits the nail with “The cowls on the roof work but there are less obtrusive ways of achieving the same effect, hence icon, they are there so the build can be recognised as a Bill Dunster/ ZED Factory project”.
    When ego is allowed to predominate then the appropriate solution to site analysis will not be found except by accident, Design on Bill Dunsters terms is that the final product should look like ‘his design’. In terms of building this is a determinist aproach instead of determined. By that i mean that rather than be influenced by site specific needs or in other words, true enviromentally sustainable design, he is determining without referance to the site what a sustainable design is. It like putting a solar panel on the wrong aspect because it looks better from the street or cooking a vegetarian meatloaf. There is no point designing sustainably if it is in fact not sustainable. Google my name and “the art of architecture” for a fuller explanation of the problem of designers imposing their egos onto problems of design.

  8. max o lindegger January 20, 2008 at 2:10 am

    I have been involved in the design and inplementation of a number of Ecological projects. Crystal Waters is probably the best known. BEDZED and others ( as well as CW) need to be looked at as pioneering projects. Crystal Waters is now more then 20 years old and yes, I could do better now ( and others , more talented could do even better). But without Village Homes, BEDZED and others which have all good and not so positive aspects we will not progress.
    As designers and developers we have probably focused to much on technical fixes. I’m not sure if I would still instal the PV panels ( 36 in total! ) , but I would always integrate a garden, fruit trees, rainwater collection, “waste water “systems ( we use a Biolytix which works exceptionally well) and using Rammed earth was the right decision for out climate as well.
    Personally I’m thankful to all the pioneers who have inspired me and allowed me to learn from their successes and mistakes.

  9. andy January 19, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    I visited BEDZED and several other sustainability projects as research for my fourth year civil eng project; design a carbon neutral office block. Nick you’re right they are sedum but when its only a few inches thick for most of the roof the added value ecologically and thermally are minimal.

    PV should be perpendicular to the sun for the greatest efficiency, yes I realise the sun moves but there is a range which it moves within and the angle of the panels does not fall in within the parameters. The PV is placed within the glazing (the PV is in a tartan pattern) which reduces solar gain whilst allowing natural light into the dwelling placing the PV behind glass lowers its efficiency, because the UK has lower light levels than say the middle east we need to do everything we can to make the panels cost effective. It may have been better to place the PV on a wall or roof and use smaller windows, tinted windows or solar shades to achieve the same effect at a lower price.

    We were told everything we wanted to know about the site on the tour, ranging from everything that works and has been done to higher specs than UK standards, ie insulation levels, through to all of the problems such as the CHP. The cowls on the roof work but there are less obtrusive ways of achieving the same effect, hence icon, they are there so the build can be recognised as a Bill Dunster/ ZED Factory project

    The reason I’m negative about this project is because is very old, I’m not aware of such a large scale project since which has the same high aspirations, and all of the wonderful things which BEDZED have been touted for seem to be very superficial, like the SEDUM roofs or the PV which doesn’t really provide the site with much elec. The shared electric powered car scheme never took off, the layout of the site is poor and reminds me of labyrinth council estates from the eighties etc.

    I do want to see more of these projects, and am hoping to be involved in the design build aspects but they must work otherwise its just a con

  10. simon seasons January 19, 2008 at 8:48 am

    Hear hear PJ Nery. Any thing sustainable in its intentions is better than none at all. HOWEVER. as an artist designer I noticed that the latest project at Cornwall bears a remarkable resemblance to the one listed here. That is to my notion of a sympathetic response to site, a big failure of sensory openess. One has a design ethos and then one has a design hang up. If you can’t come to a new site and envision a new reponse then your not looking at what is in front of you. you are imposing what you ‘like’ upon that which you see It never works and maybe that is the source of a lot of the problems that Andy and Nick allude to. A response to site in sustianable terms is far more than a response in ‘design’ terms. If the design is earily similar to that of another site, then i question the designers ability to see what they are actually looking at. beyond what they thenselves want to see.

  11. PJ Nery January 18, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    Nick’s comments above were quite level headed, while some others read as just plain whiny. The project may have had issues, but what ground-breaking development doesn’t? I applaud Dunster, and all others involved, for having the vision, courage and determination to get it built. I know he’s contributing on a huge scale to making improvements to our carbon footprint and the sustainability of our built environment. Three cheers for ZED Factory.

  12. John January 18, 2008 at 8:52 am

    @ andy,

    Don’t you think you ought to substantiate all of your negative claims?

    You say the cowls are only an icon. What is the basis for this statement?

    You say “the onnsite CHP plant doesnt work”. What is your basis for saying this?

    You say “the solar panels are with the double glazing and at the wrong angle reducing their efficeincy.” Can you explain this? This seems like it would be very easy to do correctly.

  13. Anonymous Coward January 18, 2008 at 8:03 am

    Would be great if any of it actually worked…..

    I know people at the firm who have the maintenance contract, its always breaking down.

  14. Nick Simpson January 18, 2008 at 6:55 am

    Andy’s right in most of what he says, although I should point out that without developments like this one we’d be much further behind in the design of sustainable housing. A lot has been learnt here. Just as a note, the roofs are sedum at the very top, not moss. The lower sections of roof are actually covered in grass, or whatever the occupants want them to be, as they’re used as gardens. Unusually, your garden (if you’re in the upper maisonette) is the garden in front of you, above the live/work space you face over the mews lane. You can see the bridges over to your garden in the photos.

    Anyway, they were unlucky in a lot of areas – CHP has worked well in a lot of other places and they’re apparently replacing the one at BedZED it with a much better model. Either way, Dunster (who I’ve met and is miserable as sin) has used much of what’s been learnt and is doing some pretty exciting new projects which are worth a look. Overall, some parts of BedZED worked, a lot didn’t, but we’re all a lot better off for it having been built.

    Here’s an article about what went wrong, worth a read. Oh, the Zedfactory website is below that too. If you like sustainable architecture, the practice are at the forefront so it’s definitely worth having a look…

  15. peter frank January 18, 2008 at 2:22 am

    wow, a 100% natural enegery operated house, I wonder when they will be in several homes ?, I found a great article related to this here,

  16. Dave January 17, 2008 at 7:49 pm

    Looks like a good addition for the Island of Sodor. Now all they have to do is make Thomas the Tank Engine run on Hydrogen.

  17. andy January 17, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    this project is so old now. an nothing that i’m aware of has been built with the same aims of “zero (fossil) emmision dwelling” (ZED) on such a scale since. everyone praises this project but the onsite CHP plant doesnt work and the peabody trust forced the CHP company to go bust trying initially to make it meet the specs in the brief and then later on to fix the plant. the buildings are tiny inside and whilst built to a high quility, the green roof is simply moss an so has no higher thermal qualities. the solar panels are with the double glazing and at the wrong angle reducing their efficeincy. the cowls are an icon more than a usfeul addition. these houses are not much better than anyother standard well built home in the UK. i do believe we need more projects like this, but they must work otherwise its pointless, and expensive.

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