Ten years ago, BioRegional development Group opened BedZED, a “zero-energy” housing and business development in south London. The development has been tremendously successful, possibly the most energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly and sustainable site of its kind to date. Springing off of BedZED’s success, BioRegional has partnered with the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) to create One Planet Living, a brand and organization slated to build a network of sustainable communities around the world.

The first One Planet Living community, Mata de Sesimbra, is currently in planning to be built outside of Lisbon on Portugal’s Costa Azul. The project will integrate sustainable architecture, eco-tourism, a nature preserve and a reforestation project with cork forests, making it the first development to integrate land conservation with habitable development. Mata de Sesimbra is being built by Pelicano architects, who plan to make “normal-looking” homes (i.e., they don’t scream “eco” but are highly sustainable while being attractive and comfortable).

Mata de Sesimbra will span 13,000 acres and house 30,000 residents, as well as golf courses, swimming pools, hotels and more. On the surface, it will be a luxury playground like any other, but the standard amenities will be run in unconventional ways. Golf greens will be maintained with treated gray water and buildings will utilize recycled steel and zero carbon concrete.

There is no shortage of controversy over the “greenness” of the development. Environmentalists from the green group Quercus are supportive of the conservation efforts but snub the development, claiming that the degree of human impact on the formerly undeveloped coast will be detrimental to the land. It’s a typical catch-22 in the booming eco-development and tourist industry, where doing the same old thing in a new way isn’t always a true solution for environmental degradation. But reading over the list of projected features and amenities in this eco-estate, it’s hard to argue that BioRegional and the WWF aren’t at least starting off with the best of intentions. It’ll take a few years before the results become clear.


Thanks to Rupert Eden