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.
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.
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.