Setting the Benchmark – A Look at the UK’s First Carbon Neutral Housing Estate

Setting the Benchmark – A Look at the UK’s First Carbon Neutral Housing Estate

BedZED (Beddington Zero Energy Development) is a unique development in Hackbridge, London. When it was completed in 2002, it was the first carbon neutral housing estate in Britain, and it has taught us important lessons about low-carbon living and how behavioural changes can go hand in hand with low-impact eco-buildings to have an effect on our lifestyles.

Low-Energy Features

BedZED utilises a number of low-energy features to help inhabitants reduce their energy use and live more sustainable lifestyles in comfort.

Grey water recycling is one of these. This allows rainwater to be captured and put to use rather than using water from the mains. For example, rainwater can be used to flush toilets, saving a significant amount of water on a daily basis.

A range of features, including high-quality insulation, south-facing windows and foundation walls that store heat in winter, are utilised in the properties to cut the need for central heating entirely, showing how intelligent design can be put to use to save vast amounts of energy.

Solar panels are one of the simplest ways to cut energy use in the home. In BedZED, the aim is to only use energy from renewables, and for that reason there are solar panels in use throughout the housing project.

Triple glazing is another simple way that the designers have provided the homes with excellent thermal insulation. South-facing windows also maximise heat capture.

The building materials are also renewable or recycled. For example, the steelwork was reclaimed from demolition sites. All the materials were also sourced from the local area to reduce the amount of energy used to transport them.

Emphasis on Sustainable Living

As well as the homes themselves, there is a greater focus on living sustainable lifestyles in the BedZED community. For example, private cars are not encouraged, and there is an emphasis on using public transport and bikes. When cars are used, car sharing is encouraged.

This emphasis on lifestyle changes alongside all the features provided by the eco-homes is where some of the largest benefits can be seen. At the end of the day, the project is encouraging behavioural change to maximise the impact of low-carbon living.

What Has It Taught Us?

Overall, BedZED has shown how sustainable living in comfort can be possible. Indeed, the One Planet Communities programme is using it as a prototype to learn lessons that can be applied to similar communities worldwide.

But although these eco-homes show what is possible, even standard homes can go a long way to reducing energy usage. Energy companies like are constantly providing useful tips to encourage households to cut their energy usage and bills, as well as providing information on free energy saving improvements for households that qualify for the government ECO scheme.

So whereas BedZED is about showing us what is possible, any household can take energy-saving measures to do their bit for the environment.

An Inspiration for Future Homes

When they started work on BedZED, the designers wanted to show how it is possible to live a more sustainable modern lifestyle without sacrificing comfort or quality of live. The community now serves as an inspiration for other low-carbon communities, and it will hopefully be used to teach lessons for other housing projects so that more similar projects can get up and running in the future.

Dylan Moss is a builder ready to meet the challenges of a changing construction environment. With an eye on green materials and eco gadgets, he enjoys writing about the trends, tech, and options available for today’s homes.