BedZED 7 Years On: Did This Pioneering Development Work?

Image credit: Bioregional Development Group
BedZED Residents' Footprints Analyzed
Back when TreeHugger was young, there was an awful lot of talk about BedZED - or Beddington Zero Energy Development - a groundbreaking housing project designed to reduce residents' impact through the holistic lens of ecological footprinting. It wasn't without its problems - BedZED's biomass regional heating system packed in, and there were rumors of a rift between the developer, Bioregional Development Group, and the architect, Bill Dunster. Whatever the details, BedZED still offered significant carbon savings - and now seven years on, a new report aims to record the lessons learned from the BedZED experience. Just how much carbon dioxide does BedZED save? BedZED Seven Years On is available in full from the Bioregional website, and is billed as invaluable for "architects, contractors, housing managers, and all those interested in practical measures to achieve sustainable construction and lifestyles." The report is based on interviews with 71 households, as well as thorough audits of everything from waste to transport patterns in an effort to get to the bottom of residents' environmental footprints.

A shorter executive summary of BedZED Seven Years On is available as a free PDF download. And it makes for interesting reading. Even though the district heating is running on gas not biomass, apparently the average resident still uses a whopping 81% less energy for heat than other residents in the area. Similarly, they use 45% less electricity, and less than half the water of their neighbors.

On transport they don't fare quite so well - driving far less, but flying more (possibly a socioeconomic thing?) - meaning their overall transportation impact is higher. Meanwhile quality of life ratings come out high.

But what is really interesting is how far we still have to go. The executive summary describes the average resident's carbon footprint as 9.9 tonnes (8.9 tonnes if the district heating was working as planned), - the UK average is 11.2 tonnes a year. 'Keen' BedZED residents that work particularly hard at reducing their impact registered emissions as low as 6 - but to be truly sustainable on a global level, it claims that number needs to come down to one!

So where's the disconnect? If we are cutting residential energy use by such huge magnitude, why do we still have such a long way to go? By the looks of things, the answer lies in all the external impacts resident's have - namely schools, work places, government infrastructure and retail purchases. To get where we need to go, we need community-wide solutions. But BedZED is a pretty good place to start learning how to do that.

Tags: Architecture | Carbon Footprint | Cities | London | United Kingdom