They’re not much greener than this in 2002 and there still isn’t: an impressive ‘zero-energy’ development on a ‘brownfield’ site (a former sewage works), providing 82 dwellings in a mix of flats, maisonettes and ‘town houses’, plus 2500 sq. m. of workspace and community accommodation, including a health centre, cafe, nursery, etc. (Density is 187 people per hectare.) All this is set out in five long, south-facing rows of 3-storey buildings with narrow spaces between the rows (the ‘gardens’ have become ‘sky gardens’ on the south face; town houses have a small bridge to a roof-top garden on adjacent units, similar to the Branch Hill project). Walls are 300mm wide, stuffed with insulation; other construction is in concrete, bricks and blocks. Rainwater is used, baths are low-volume, toilets are double flush. . . and the entire scheme is served by a central heat and power plant. Nothing, it seems, has been overlooked in promoting a sustainable way of living (including schemes for community electric vehicles).

Wherever possible, natural, reused and local materials and contractors were employed — argued to increase local employment, cut down on transport costs, reduce pollution and reinforce local identity. (Grand claims crying out for justification, but BedZed takes itself very seriously e. g. everything is carefully researched and materials are sourced, whenever possible, within a 35m radius.) The roofs provide photovoltaic panels and are topped by cowls that scoop in fresh air and discharge used air (employing a heat-exchanger in the process — a functional but rather Mickey Mouse feature that proclaims the development’s green credentials). This is, by the way, a Peabody Trust development and many of the houses are part-owned or rented.

A few years on (the brief was given in 1998) Dunster and BioRegional, their associated consultants, have gone on to all kinds of similar schemes, although the client — the Peabody Trust — sadly feels reluctant to experiment further in this direction.

29 Waterside

This is the office as house of a large corporate family wearing security badges – an independent, autonomous and self-sufficient place referring to a global community. The design is the sibling of a similar building in Stockholm, both of them being a village of office pavilions strung along a shared mall. They are both impressive, but the BA building takes the conversation further, integrating the spatial concepts into contemporary strategies of space-time management, non-territorial working patterns, cultivated cafe-work, and similar themes that make up a latter-day theory of office practices. The central street is a huge success and a place whose ambience only the Ark, in Hammersmith, can compete with. However, the interiors of the office pavilions leave something to be desired and are not so radical. On the outside, design excellence continues in the form of extensive landscaping whose idyllic qualities are only disturbed (not inappropriately) by the roar of aeroplanes taking off.

Updated: 5th November 2014 — 4:29 pm