Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

We Wish All Suburban Developments Looked Like This

We’ve long extolled the virtues of high density, urban living. By keeping things close, you can walk or bike most places, which is better for both physical and planetary health. Density leads to more social interaction, easier distribution of goods and foods. And so on. But we also understand why people are drawn to the suburbs. It’s nice to have a little more personal space and maybe even a yard. In 2002, architectural and development firm ZED Factory completed their BedZED, a unique housing development that fuses the best of urban living with suburban comfort.

The word zed, for those unfamiliar with anglo-numerical nomenclature, means zero. In this case, BedZED, located in Wallington, a commuter suburb located 10 miles outside central London, is the “UK’s largest mixed use, carbon-neutral development.” It achieves this zero-ness through solar power and a “biomass combined heat and power plant, an onsite sewage treatment and rainwater recycling system,” according to ZED Factory’s website. Many of the building materials were reclaimed or sourced within 50 miles of the site to keep embodied energy low.

One of the more remarkable aspects of the development is its diversity housing types and uses. According to ZED’s website, “BedZED comprises 82 affordable dwellings in a mixture of flats, maisonettes and townhouses, and approximately 2500 m2 of workspace/office, and is built on a brownfield site [repurposed industrial site].” In addition to housing diversity, there is demographic diversity, with one third “social rent [subsidized low income], one third shared ownership [coop] and one third private for sale”–a structure that promotes a variety of people at different stages in their lives. Residents share the complex with ground floor businesses, whose spaces can be easily configured to accommodate large or small businesses.

Putting aside its considerable eco and urban planning cred, the place looks great. Units are bathed in light (as much as they can be in the UK) and the interiors enjoy an industrial chic look carried over from the building’s previous life. Small, verdant walkways and wend their way through the complex and almost every unit having its own terrace or garden. If this is the suburbs, we want in! 

Image via ZED Factory

  • So nice.

  • “It’s nice to have a little more personal space and maybe even a yard.”

    Exactly. I don’t see that in any of the pictures. A tiny balcony with grass doesn’t count as a yard for most suburbanites.

  • Pontifikate

    I’d be curious to find out about rent or cost to own a small unit here, but I don’t see any info on that.

  • Jenni Komarovsky

    ZED equals zero in British English? Really? I thought that when I said it I meant the last letter of the alphabet! 🙂