BedZED Pt. 2: Designing for Kids and Community
September 22, 2016 4 Comments
The more I’ve researched and visited a range of sustainable housing projects from around the world the more I have come to the conclusion that the very best sustainable housing project have gone beyond just reducing the amount of energy and water each dwelling uses. They’ve taken sustainable housing to the next level by also designing for community.
BedZED is one these smart designs that combines a small ecological footprint with the enabling of community. First of all it is a diverse community with mixed incomes. Half of the homes are for low cost rent or shared home ownership.
Another key element of BedZED was designing the buildings so that everyone could get to know many of their neighbours.
I got to hear about this first hand as by coincidence some old friends of mine recently moved into BedZED. After a day of seminars, tours and discussions about the One Planet Framework we joined their family of four for dinner. They talked about how well the development worked for them as a family.
They said they’d got to know their neighbours even more quickly than when they lived in Fremantle – which we agreed is pretty special for its strong sense of community. Simply design elements like shared walkways, traffic calmed lanes and low fences means there is lots of opportunity for spontaneous neighbourly interaction. There was also a community space with a café overlooking the large shared green space. As a result BedZED residents say they know on average 20 of their neighbours by name; the local average is eight.
But perhaps the most important design element (which I also saw Freiburg’s fabulous Vauban and Reisfield) was keeping cars to the edge of the development. His enables the inner streets to be kid friendly and safe them to explore and play in and around without parental supervision. My friends who have two young daughters said they would have never previously (including when they lived in Fremantle) let them go out and play in the streets and neighbouring parks unsupervised to the extent they do now.
The influential mayor of Bogota, Enrique Penaloza, would say “Can you imagine if we designed our entire city for children?’ I got the sense this is what BedZED had done exactly this on a community scale. It does mean you can’t drive to right to your front door and that you will have to walk a short way to get your car at the edge of the development but, as my friends enthusiastically said, the community benefits undoubtedly outweigh these costs.
Interesting some of the planned developments in WGV like Thrive are also using this model to both create better green spaces and to enable community. I’m excited about the potential within the Knutsford Street redevelopment area of doing this on an even bigger scale and demonstrating the benefits of designing spaces for kids and community ahead of car movements in new developments.
Thanks to everyone involved in BedZED, fifteen years on you are still inspiring better housing around the world.