Eco-Housing in the UK

Eco-housing, or houses built in accordance with the principles of sustainable development, which use resources and technologies that capitalise on renewability, are a fast-developing industry in the UK. These projects range from individual projects to whole estates, designed to accommodate and create a new community.

Individual or one-off projects, such as those detailed on other pages on this website such as example yurts, straw-bale houses or dwellings built underground, might reflect the owner or architects unique vision. Where as estates need to incorporate ecological design and ‘green thinking’ into projects and buildings that can appeal to a wider group of people. So how can eco-housing live alongside or even replace traditional housing units and estates in the UK?

This article will look at 3 examples of larger ecologically-built projects.

The Bed ZED Project, London

The Bed ZED Project, or Beddington Zero Energy Development, is the UK’s largest carbon-neutral eco-community in the UK. It was built in 2002 in Wallington, Surrey, Within the London Borough of Sutton, and comprises of 82 residential homes. The Project was developed by the Peabody Trust, a social housing initiative in London, that aims to fight poverty within the capital. The intention with this project, built in partnership with both an architect and an environmental consultancy firm, was to create a housing project that incorporates new approaches to energy conservation and sustainability, and also to build a thriving community to live within it.

The houses are equipped with key features, both technological and common sense – for example, designed in south facing terraces to maximise solar heat gain, that utilise renewable, and conservable, energy. A small-scale combined heat and power plant on site, powered by wood off-cuts, provides most of the energy to the estate. All buildings have a thick insulation jacket, made from recycled materials. The project has a legally-binding green transport plan, incorporating a car pool system for residents, great public transport links, and is linked in to a cycling network. For these, and many more social and environmental initiatives and technologies, Bed ZED has won many national and International awards for sustainability, design, Innovation and more. It is an inspiring achievement on a local and social level.

Slateford Green Housing, Edinburgh

A second public housing eco-project is the Slateford Green Estate, in Edinburgh. The project, consisting of 120 homes, was developed by a housing association together with the Scottish housing agency, in 2000, at a cost of £9.5 million.

It is a car-free estate, with the space that parking would have consumed, instead being used for gardens, allotments and a large children’s play area, around a large central pond with environment-friendly reed beds. The reed beds filter the quality of surface and storm water. This artificial wetland area has been planted with native, low maintenance species, chosen to encourage wildlife. Some of the features in the houses include insulation from recycled newspapers, photovoltaics, a recyclable aluminium roof, and a breathing wall membrane, layered upon an engineered timber structure.

The Findhorn Foundation Eco-Village

On Scotland’s north-east coast, near the town of Forres, is the Findhorn Foundation, an intentional community, based upon the values of spirituality and sustainable living. Part of its project is an eco-village, which consists of 45 ecologically-built buildings (so far, although the vision is much more). They have developed a unique construction system that is energy efficient and environmentally sound. All the buildings features are ecological innovations. Some of the original buildings are reconstructed whiskey barrels, bought from nearby distilleries; and there are also later-built straw bale houses and earth ships, which use recycled car tyres.

It is a wonderful place, well worth a visit, and the ecovillage project is a tremendous resource or education and information about building ‘green’.

These 3 examples are just the larger examples of eco-building in the UK. It is important to understand how these examples have placed both the concept of building with sustainable resources, and creating a vibrant human community at the core of their philosophy. These 2 parts form the central structure of the principle of sustainable development – for now, and for future generations.