BedZED Blog - October 2005
BedZED is just over three years old now. Clematis, rose and golden hop plants are beginning to hide some of the metal and brick and making the place look a bit more lived in. It's aging well I think and I still get a kick out of the architecture - especially on perfect blue-skied days like today. The low sun gives the whole place a warm orange glow as it reflects off the brickwork.
A Japanese delegation is having a look around. I was just hanging out my washing when I noticed I was being filmed. I just hope it wasn't for primetime.
So I suppose the good news about BedZED is that there's no real news. It hasn't turned into a disaster. It isn't a white elephant that nobody wants to live in - quite the opposite, properties seem to shift fairly quickly when they do come onto the market. It seems to tootle along quite happily with little innovations gradually adding to the sense of community.
For example we now have an email group as well as a BedZED newsletter. There are regular yoga classes starting up and on a more impressive level Bill Dunster is planning on opening up a renewables shop on site where you can turn up and buy solar panels or mini wind turbines off the shelf.
My only complaint would be that the Friday evening bring-your-own bar has become a bit less frequent but I think I might try and get that up and running again as I'm hopefully going to work from home a bit more in the future.
It was interesting watching the Stirling Prize on telly last weekend to see how mainstream sustainability now is in the architecture world. The FT also ran a supplement at the weekend about sustainable housing‚Ä¶ although theirs was at the (how can I put it?) upper end of the housing market.
I think BedZED has definitely been part of the shift towards acceptability of sustainability (it was nominated for the Stirling in 2003). The problem, of course, is the 'volume' house builders who seem to be doing everything possible to avoid putting sustainability into practice. And at a time when the Government is pushing for hundreds of thousands of new homes in the south east, that's very worrying.
Bill on BedZED
Bill Dunster, the architect behind BedZED where I live, has an article on openDemocracy this week. I like the phrase 'solar urbanism'.
BedZed Blog - part 3
Ive been living in my new flat at BedZED for just over two months now. I have most things you need: furniture, stuff to cook with, Playstation 2 (okay maybe you dont need one of those) and I have to say Im loving it.
Of course theres the fact that you do get a bit bored of seeing your house in the newspapers and on the TV. I turned on BBC1 yesterday to see Sue Riddlestone (co-director of BioRegional one of the organisations who made the place actually happen) on the Politics Show and thought the background looked familiar. Then I realised there was an outside broadcast unit parked just outside the flat and Sue was on the balcony opposite being interviewed live.
There are still a lot of people coming on guided tours even though the development has been open for two years now. This week it was the turn of an important looking Spanish delegation. Oh, and my mum and dad who were down to visit and tagged along to have a look around the show-home. I havent been yet but apparently I need to go and check out the recycled coffee tables.
Like every housing estate the world over there are a few problems. Last week I got a bit annoyed with the fancy energy saving electronics when a beeping noise started in the service cupboard just near my flat. It was just loud enough and often enough to mean that I could dose off for a few seconds before being woken up as it beeped again. To be fair, Peabody Trust did get it sorted pretty quickly when I called them though.
I dont think Ive mentioned the playing field saga yet. Just across the way from my flat theres an open area which was originally planned to be a junior football pitch. It then got dug up so that a gas pipeline could be put through it and never really recovered so was empty for a while. Now the grass has just about grown back but for some reason a lot of stones have come to the surface and its pretty dangerous to play on so still isnt being used. The discussion in the bar of a Friday night is about what we can do about it.
Tune back next month for an update
BedZed Blog - part 2
So I've been living here at BedZED for a month and have now gotten round to taking a photo. When I say it looks a bit funny, this is what I mean...
On sunny days like today all the windows are and doors are open and kids are running around. There are also a few people in suits peering round corners. They've come from companies and government departments around the world to look at us labrats living in this place.
I've started using the car share scheme this week and it all seems to be hunky dory. Very handy for popping down to the shops. I haven't quite got used to having a card rather than a key to open the car yet and I did get sort of told off for not leaving the car in quite the right place when I'd finished with it yesterday but I'm sure I'll soon learn.
BedZed Blog - part 1
Last Saturday I packed my life into the back of a van and headed for a new home. From Stoke Newington in north east London, where Iíve lived for the past three years, I drove south Ė past the glass and steel of the City, over the slow meandering Thames, through the urban grit of Elephant, Brixton and Streatham Ė and eventually popped up in the green suburbs of south London.
The flat Iíve moved into is a bit special and you canít really miss the development that itís part of as you approach. Peeping out from between the roofs of the surrounding conventional late twentieth century flats and semidetached interwar houses are brightly coloured curved chimneys. Technically theyíre called Ďcowlsí and are actually heat reclaimers, harnessing energy from the warm air that rises from the flats and houses below. On a day like today they sway gently in the wind, lining up as if theyíre all looking at the same thing on the horizon.
The development is called BedZED (short for Beddington Zero Energy Development) and isnít far from Sutton. Iíve known about it since I was working at Forum for the Future; I remember going to a packed out talk given by architect Bill Dunster just as they were starting to lay the foundations. I was always excited by the prospect of housing that was environmentally sustainable but actually great to live in but somehow didnít imagine that Iíd be able to live here.
Itís now been open for two years and general consensus seems to be that it Ďworksí. Thatís certainly my experience so far (the AAA energy rated washing machine is my favourite gadget of week one). Itís also just a very lovely place to be and very friendly. Yesterday evening I got to meet some of the other residents for the first time at a BedZED barbecue held around a campfire on the allotments.
Things are still a bit chaotic for me as I donít really have any furniture yet and the piles of boxes are only slowly getting emptied. I have managed to borrow a tiny bit of wifi from somebody else though until mine gets installed in a week or so.
As time goes on, Iíll try to give you a picture of sustainable living from the perspective of someone living here at BedZED. There have been countless TV and newspaper appearances for the place (a neighbourís garden was done for a TV makeover show just yesterday) but hopefully Iíll be able to give a slightly more considered commentary over the months and (hopefully) years.
In the meantime, you can find out more at these three sites: