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BedZED

Sarah Wigglesworth

  • Suggestion
The BedZED estate

As an architectural practice committed to sustainable design we make people-centred places that are joyful, inventive and resourceful.

While we were designing and constructing our own contribution to green architecture at Stock Orchard Street, we learned about another future-oriented development taking place in the south-west of London. This ambitious mixed-use scheme was a collaboration between client Peabody, sustainability advisor Bioregional, whose One Planet Living was an early wake-up call to all of us, and its designer, the visionary Bill Dunster. While Zero Energy Development is a common goal now, at the time (late 1990s) it was rare to find a project of such ambition and scale backed by a mainstream client body. Dunster has gone on to develop designs for many more ZEDs.

The BedZed estate
The BedZed estate © Paul Miller (resident)
The colourful chimneys

Beddington Zero Energy Development or BedZED takes a holistic approach to sustainability. Not only are the buildings designed ecologically, with natural ventilation, solar-heated winter gardens, energy generation and a highly insulated building envelope, the scheme embeds social sustainability within its planning and ethos.

“With its generous external areas, communal shared spaces and activities, it represents a green lifestyle that is a vision for the future before its time.”

The development is organised around car-free streets and encourages public transport and walking, offers on-site workspaces and shared activities such as produce-growing spaces. With its generous external areas, communal shared spaces and activities, it represents a green lifestyle that is a vision for the future before its time. Furthermore it used reclaimed and recycled materials and sourced local labour long before social value became a watchword.

By taking to its conclusion the logic of the green shift our society needs to make, this revolutionary project both looks and feels different. It may not be to everyone’s taste but that’s the point: it breaks the mould. As so often it is in the public sector that the innovation is supported, and its pivotal successes is its championing by one of our major social housing providers, whose commitment, as long-term landlord and freeholder, has seen it thrive as a result. In our risk-averse building world this is an extraordinary achievement. Interestingly it has not been repeated on such a scale again.

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