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A Zero-Carbon Community

By August 23rd, 2020No Comments

We explore a zero-waste aspiring community in South London.

by Blue Fletcher/9th-August-2020


For this week’s blog post, I was intrigued to discover the UK’s only zero-carbon community, BedZED. Completed in 2002 by Bill Dunster Architects and environmental consultants BioRegional,


BedZED to this day is the UK’s most sustainable place to live.

The building itself accommodates around 250 people in residential flats, with added facilities such as office space, communal zones, exhibition areas and a children’s nursery. When the structure was first erected, it was of high importance that their sustainable ethos would be continued throughout the construction process. This resulted in over half (52%) of the construction materials (by weight) being sourced within 35 miles.

Alongside this, 3,400 tonnes of the materials used (15% of the total used in BedZED) were either reclaimed or recycled.

These statements highlight the emphasis Bioregional put on creating a carbon-neutral environment in support of the ongoing fight to prevent climate change.

However, not only is the building sustainable, but also the lifestyle that comes along with it. It was discovered in 2019 that transport is responsible for nearly 30% of the EU’s total CO2 emissions, of which 72% comes from road transportation.

In efforts to reduce this figure, BedZED introduced the first-ever car club to England, involving car shares to reduce the resident’s carbon footprint further.

This has since been very successful as car journeys have now been reduced by 65%, allowing the car club network to expand in London and other large cities.

“BedZED was designed to achieve big reductions in climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions and water use. We wanted to make it easy for people living there to have a greener, lower impact lifestyle, relying less on private cars and producing less waste.” – Bioregional

Images of BedZED : The outside facade exposing a lot of natural light and ‘openness’. The basic recycling in the building as shown in an illustration below

What impact does zero-emissions living have?

To maximise BedZED’s energy-saving abilities, an on-site water treatment plant and woodchip fuelled combined heat and power plant was installed, however, this is only the start of the green lifestyle lived out by the residents. BedZED’s electricity efficiency was increased through energy-efficient appliances, solar panels, visible electric meters (to heighten the residents’ awareness), and good daylight illumination –
the solar panels alone contribute to 19% of the electricity consumption  (which allows BedZED’s usage to be 45% lower than residents in the surrounding area).

Their water efficiency is controlled through efficient appliances, collection of rainwater for flushing toilets, and local purification of wastewater – minimizing the water consumption to 58% lower than the local average.

Their green transportation was encouraged by prioritising the car club, bicycles and walking, reduced parking – overall reducing car journeys by 65%.

And lastly, the heating efficiency was increased through solar heating, insulation including triple glazing, and passive ventilation via the intricate cowls on the roofs –

meaning that BedZED’s heat use is 81% lower than the Sutton average, resulting in a colossal 72% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions (from energy compared with similar locations at that time).

Images of BedZED : The rooftops of BedZED have passive ventilation via the intricate cowls on the roofs and the difference in co2 footprint per person

Who were the brains behind BedZED?

BedZED was founded by Sue Riddlestone and Pooran Desaim, after success with their award-winning social enterprise and sustainable charity, Bioregional. Both figures have extremely commendable backgrounds, with a huge amount of knowledge and passion behind them. Sue Riddlestone admirably won the title ‘SE region Winner of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year’ in 2011, long after BedZED was developed. Since then she has also been awarded an OBE by the Queen for her accomplishments within sustainable business, London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Alongside Pooran Desaim, they make a tremendous team. With Pooran having experience within green real estate, sustainable forestry, and organic farming, he is known to be a serial entrepreneur. Alongside this, he has been involved in writing three books and has won awards in the likes of ‘Officer of the Order of the British Empire’.  This gives the pair a huge reputation within the sustainability sector, allowing then to diverse their projects, creating a huge impact within environmental developments.

So, what has BedZED achieved?

Not only has BedZED attracted thousands on international visitors, but it’s arguably viewed as the most ambitious attempt of all-round sustainability within a major housing complex. To support this mindset, the eco-village has won the ‘Housing Design Award for Sustainability’ from the Royal Institute of British Architects in 2001, later going on to be shortlisted for the reputable ‘Stirling Prize’ in 2003.

Above all of this, what makes it successful is the value of life it brings,  according to 84% of residents, their quality of life has increased since they moved in. Demonstrating the true success of the development.

“There’s a real sense of shared values as well as a strong community feel at BedZED. Combined with the green space nearby and the layout of our streets, it makes it a special place to live, and unique to London living.” -Dave Tchilingirian, resident of BedZED

BedZED rooftops and the natural ventilation System designed within the structure of the building

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