context: in every country in the world, the built environment normally constitutes more than half the total national capital invested, and construction represents as much as 10% of GDP. In many developed countries it accounts for up to half of all raw materials taken out of the earth’s crust in terms of weight, as well as producing a considerable waste stream (although fortunately a significant portion of it is recycled). In Europe, about 40% of energy use comes from the built environment; this percentage rises to as much as 50% in some countries when construction activities (including material production and transport) are also taken into account. The construction industry could therefore be considered among the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, representing at the same time both a challenge and an opportunity.
reasons for change: the modern buildings we live and work in rival such well-known polluters as cars and factories as sources of harm to the environment, adding greatly to deforestation, global warming, overuse of water and energy, carbon dioxide emissions… A 1995 report by the Worldwatch Institute found that:
sustainable building refers to those buildings that impact least on the built and natural environment both in terms of the building itself, its immediate surrounds and the broader regional and global setting. It also involves the evaluation of the entire life cycle of building, taking environmental criteria, functional utility and future value into account. To construct in a sustainable way, some basic rules need to be followed: (a) minimisation of non-renewable resource consumption; (b) enhancement of the natural environment; (c) elimination or minimisation of toxic emissions.
- 55% of wood cut for non-fuel use is destined to be used in construction;
- 40% of global materials and energy is used by buildings;
- 30% of newly built or renovated buildings suffers from ‘sick building syndrome’, exposing occupants to stale, mouldy and chemical-laden air.
the zero-energy concept: the 2003 winner of the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Journal Sustainability Award - a prestigious prize about building for future generations without destroying the world they will grow up in and given in recognition of the importance of sustainability in architecture today - was awarded to BedZED solar urban village by Bill Duster Architects.
BedZED (Beddington Zero Energy Development) is an environmentally-friendly, energy-efficient mix of housing and work space in Beddington, Sutton. The project is being developed by the Peabody Trust, one of London’s largest housing associations, working with environmental consultants BIOREGIONAL and architect Bill Dunster, who jointly developed the zero energy concept. Bill Dunster Architects is an innovative practice specialising in low energy, low environmental impact buildings and landscape design. Within the wider context of sustainable development, the architects’ team is committed to high-quality design based on the careful analysis of end user needs. One of the most peculiar qualities of their work consists in giving high priority to achieving the right balance between human issues and technical disciplines.
Bill Dunster’s aim in designing BedZED is to create an attractive urban village, reflecting and enhancing the local style and using local materials as much as possible. In BedZED, he has designed a model of sustainable development with minimum environmental damage, showing the way for urban housing of the future without the need to build on agricultural land or green-field sites. Its skill lies in the way it brings together a number of proven methods - none of them particularly high tech - for reducing energy, water and car use.
housing the future: BedZED aims to answer the demand for housing in the 21st century. It is an excellent example of creative use of brown-field land. Its mix of living and work space cuts down on commuting and helps boost the local economy. On-site facilities, which might include a shop, cafe and a health centre with childcare facilities, will further reduce the need to travel. The developers are negotiating an internet shopping link with a local supermarket, with regular co-ordinated deliveries, to reduce the miles travelled for bulk shopping. The mix of homes, for sale and rent on subsidised and market terms, will attract high and low incomes, which is the basis of socially inclusive communities.
This is far more than simply a demonstration project for the sustainability message. It is a powerful incentive for the housing industry to change its way of thinking and building. It shows that an eco-friendly lifestyle can be easy, affordable and attractive.