What does good sustianable development look like?

Do you see cockerels or is it just me?

Do you see cockerels or is it just me?

Earlier this week I arranged for some colleagues and I to visit BedZED, BioRegional’s iconic offices in Hackbridge. The reason for the visit was cooked up when Matt Wood (their Energy Innovation Manager) and I met at an Ashden Alumni workshop a couple of months ago. There seemed to be a number of ways the National Trust and BioRegional could learn from each other or work together, such as how we can better manage our woodlands and improve the supply chain of timber. Mostly though, we were there to get a better understanding of what ‘good’ sustainable development looks like, and more importantly, how to do it.

Although BedZED is now about 10 years old, the buildings still seem futuristic. As well as their offices, the 1.8 hectare site (built on an old sewage works) has 100 apartments and boasts cutting-edge (well, it was at the time!) sustainability features like SUDs, rain-water harvesting, 777 m2 of solar PV and the UK’s second car club. All materials were sourced within 35 miles from the site and each apartment has their own roof-top allotment. The most striking features are their colourful wind cowls (I thought they looked a bit like cockerel heads), which help to ventilate the buildings without having to use electricity. Sue Riddlestone, CEO, highlighted the importance of having these quirky features if you want your development to be memorable.

NIcole Lazarus shows us round, with colleagues Rick, Adam and Karin

Nicole Lazarus shows us round, with NT colleagues Rick, Adam and Karin

It was good to see how BioRegional are also working beyond their boundaries, engaging with the council and local communities to improve other areas of Hackbridge and the wider Borough of Sutton. Their good development practice has also helped inform policy, with their recent development OneBrighton resulting in the council recommending that all new developments across the city include roof-top allotments.

OneBrighton: proving that sustainable developments can look 'normal' - and was built within normal build costs

OneBrighton: proving that sustainable developments can look ‘normal’ – and can be done within normal build costs

Undoubtedly there are a few things they probably wouldn’t repeat if they were to build BedZED again – such as large south-facing windows (the flats were very hot on the day we visited) – and it’s these lessons which are probably more valuable to pass on than the things that have worked. Thanks to BioRegional for an informative and inspiring day out.

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2 Responses to What does good sustianable development look like?

  1. “777 m2 of solar PV” – What I still don’t understand is why anyone would first try and turn solar light into electricity at a huge loss instead of using thermal collectors which havbe a thre to fourfold efficiency over photovoltaic elements, the energy can be stored and most energy consumption is thermal anyway?

    • Keith Jones says:

      thanks for the reply.

      1. as a visitor business our electricity use profile is a perfect match to PV. we export nothing (this is on top of the 40% cut we have gained through energy efficiency) we have low hot wate heating demand in summer but high electricity. high heat need in winter but low efficiency on solar thermal unless you go into huge areas
      2. most of our PV is off building. 300 to 700m away. the heat main cost and storage would be astronomical for a solar thermal.the wind uplift, building fabric adaptation, new distribution system and so on within a mansion is best avoided and off building is safer and more cost effective
      3. large scale solar thermal on grade 1 liated building and the ammount of starge needed would cost a fortune
      4. we do have localised solar thermal (Chirk Castle for example) where we supply flats in the mansions (to avoid day time distribution losses on domestic hot water supply)
      5. We are aiming for all of our mansions to be off oil by next year and so heat is either from heat pump or biomass. the area of solar thermal needed again not economic in conjunction with main heat source especially given our winter profile and ‘unique’ heat distribution systems eg a radiator can be part of the listed aspects in a castle ( 600,000kwh for Plas Newydd for example and mostly in winter)

      i am a fan of Solar thermal but we fistly had to understand our energy need and then decide on the technology. we have changed quite a bit but we cant get over our tourism electricity need and conservation heat need profile

      all the best


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