Green living is the hottest thing on the real estate market these days, and BioRegional, an entrepreneurial charity based in London, is making sure it stays that way. The organization stewards the One Planet Communities; a growing worldwide network of deep green neighborhoods that are the cutting edge of sustainable development. So far only seven communities worldwide have met the rigorous standards of an OPC, though eight others have integrated the 10 guiding principles to a lesser degree, but still enough to receive honorable mention from the organization. These range from the 20-unit Westwyck EcoVillage in Melbourne to the 2.3-square mile Masdar City, a sustainable oasis under construction on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi.
10 principles guide One Planet Communities (OPCs) in the quest for improved stewardship of the Earth’s resources. At the top of the list are Zero Carbon and Zero Waste—it’s the goal of these communities to produce the energy they consume, and to ensure that all material resources are part of a closed loop cradle-to-cradle system. OPCs are exemplary in the way they conserve and recycle water, create pedestrian- and bike-friendly transportation networks and use locally-sourced and non-toxic materials in construction. They also attempt to grow a substantial portion of their own food. In other words, they don’t stop at just one prong of sustainable design and lifestyles: every facet of green living must be embodied to receive the One Planet designation.
BioRegional developed the OPC concept while building BedZed, Britain’s largest carbon neutral community that has become the prototype of all other OPCs that have been built since. Completed in 2002, BedZed is a live/work community of 220 residents, featuring rooftop gardens, passive solar design, onsite sewage treatment, rainwater recycling and its own biomass-powered heat and electricity generating plant.
Located on Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound, Grow is a net-zero, pedestrian-oriented community, just a 5-minute walk from the village of Winslow and a 35-minute ferry ride from Seattle. Residents can grow their own organic gardens, drive one of the shared solar-powered cars and live in one of 131 homes powered entirely by the sun. Grow is the first OPC to be built in the United States.
This will be the first OPC in Canada and it also happen to be on an island. Actually, the 37-acre eco-village planned for Canada’s capital city will span several islands dotting the Ottawa River within sight of the Parliament buildings. A homes, shops, offices and community spaces planned by the Windmill Development Group will sit on the form industrial site at the base of Chaudiere Falls; one of Canada’s greatest ecological wonders.
The developers of SMV also claim to be the first OPC in America, yet they are a long way from being fully built out. The scale of this eco-village is more city-like, covering 200 acres in the rolling northern California wine country. They’ve concentrated on building jobs first, with the residential neighborhoods planned for the next few years. There is a giant LEED Platinum Comcast facility and numerous other eco-employment centers at the site, all powered by solar energy.
A well-funded, eco-futurist suburb of Abu Dhabi, the capital of Middle Eastern oil wealth, Masdar is by far the most ambitious development using OPC guidelines. Time will tell if the plans live up to their potential, but it is already producing a lot more energy than it consumes (via photovoltaic panels) and boasts a 54 percent reduction in water consumption over conventionally-designed developments of a similar type (via greywater recycling and ultra-efficient plumbing fixtures).
OPC doesn’t discriminate against the lifestyles of the rich and famous or against the Disneyland crowd. In fact, it sees the big profits to be made on both and tries to channel those dollars into eco-playplaces. Just down the street from Disneyland Paris, the EuroDisney corporation is building a massive eco-water theme park/resort. The water will be heated geothermally and the surrounding 400 acres will include an interactive organic farm, nature trails and conservation areas nestled among the condos, hotels and vacation homes.
The other eco-resort on the OPC list is in Portugal, south of Lisbon. This one is still early in the planning stages, but, if all goes as planned, will include 13,000 acres of forest preserve and domiciles for 30,000 vacationers. There will be fancy golf clubs, hotels and numerous themed resorts, all powered by alternative energy, self-sufficient in water and built with sustainable materials.