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.

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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