BedZED Pt. 2: Designing for Kids and Community

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.

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About Mayor of Fremantle Brad Pettitt's blog
City of Fremantle Mayor

4 Responses to BedZED Pt. 2: Designing for Kids and Community

  1. dianaryan1 says:

    Oh come on, Brad – three’s buggar all real life, real situation, addressing society as it really is info about the “low income/shared housing” here, just like we have no idea really who is getting the [affordable, more affordable, said to be affordable/more affordable] housing supposedly that should be in Freo right now!

    When are you going to stop piss farting around on this issue? You got your home the bog standard way, and before prices went sky high. Then you qualified for subsidies/incentives from everyone’s money to make your home more power, water, efficient and I think it is highly likely as a single male, often out of his home, and on artificially high feed in tariffs you are making a nice pot of money from what’s being generated from your roof that you were assisted in to .

    Its not like you have had to try that hard, not like people have to today.

    So YOU are fine, and have long been but still the blah, blah goes on and on about affordable this, supposedly more sustainable that, and the examples you are bringing back are, in all reality, not new, not unique, it is not as thought they aren’t being played out in one way or another in a million different ways. Truly this gets lame and you have nothing to show for it.

    You benefited from business as usual and GOVT SUBSIDIES, Brad Pettitt. YOU, as an individual. You didn’t go native in some tree house, you didn’t throw out every thing you owned to squash in to a Tiny House, you had it easy (a lot of peeps buy a rundown house to start with, in a good area, heck, what there’s so much old stock now of course they aren’t all going “home theatre, games room, room for a pool and a pony” and today you don’t have to compromise in any way I can see but others are expected to – except they can’t afford a lot of things now in order to be able to afford today’s fortnightly mortgage payment.

    You even get to have more money left over at the end of each fortnight to be and do more things than so many more people now. That’s how much luckier you are. You benefited from a cheaper time, lots of subsidies and incentives and now you even have more disposable cash. That’s how unfair it was ten years ago, five, two and yesterday and tomorrow.

    Constantly getting on a plane to find a place the financial of which we have absolutely no idea about is the fine time you get to have, but others have desperately urgent real life affordability issues now. They may or may not agree to reduce cars long term, or grow vegies like mad as their life changes.

    You know damn straight Pinakurri (if it got spelling right) was more or less designed the same as BedZED- or are we going to bet picky on this) and for a long time its biggest squabbles are about who gets to have the limited carparking space, when Dept of Housing, who financed it, were told this was not going to be a problem.


    SHACS (artists housing co-op) is still largely A GOVT PRODUCT and the rentals won’t be cheap and they’ll still be rentals.

    WGV stuff is not that amazing, so many plans shout these benefits, and it is getting MILLIONS IN GOVT ASSISTANCE in various ways and the very last thing it will be is zero carbon. Worse, it looks very expensive to buy in to, to me.

    Car-free environments BedZED, tend to house/cater for overall quite small communities, so its clearly not an answer for the many more people we actually have and clearly not an answer for many at all.

    All I see is you taking more flights and the reality is all of this has “gone around the world” but remained circular. What’s going on in Freo is not amazing, its costs a bomb, and tons of people choose to live there highly unsustainably (including in how much they expect to sell their house for)…….

    I don’t even bother to write this anymore, you just keep it circular, but YOU’RE fine, Brad, and you were helped by all of us, when push comes to shove, to be more “sustainable” and “resilient” and to reduce the costs of owning a home huge numbers of people can’t even remotely get close to now.

    If I were you, I would just stop getting on these flights. You are not bringing home new info any more. There is no reason, especially with the money you are removing from investment accounts, or assets you are selling off, why CoF can’t just re-create a local version of Rudd’s NRAS and build 10 units, for people on the same set of verifiable ranges of incomes from low to moderate, and allow people to live in them for 3yrs a piece at 20 – no better make it 30%, its largely unaffordable Freo, less than market rate and require people to save a sizeable home loan deposit in that time, and not own a car.

    You really don’t have to worry about “car free” interiors, solar all over the place, buying and selling solar, vegie patches, etc, just provide a decent home at a decent price with the proviso they must save while they receive excellently located housing. Heck, experts say moderation and efficient products, mindful practices save more money, so why not require them to meet water and power usage targets that require minimisation and mindfulness, rather than gadgetize them when they may not keep it up when they leave/ or be able to afford to and see if they can also be economic in their lifestyles/footprints too?

    Assuring those who most need help across the income ranges get in is taken care of, an assured (as best you can) outcome is achieved, and rather than fuss endlessly over providing a “world first” when it won’t be and shouldn’t be the primary outcome, you encourage economic responsibility and rigour.

    Most of all, flippin’ affordable housing, no matter what and no matter who (more or less) is assured, coz, you, the council, built it, and it had a limited living span to it, so they make the best of it for the best possible outcome.

    I just don’t think we have the time to waste, with so many people still talking about home affordability, forms of sustainability, etc, when it has gone on for years now, so many flights, so many articles, so many talks and often from those who don’t urgently need hope themselves, yet still so few people overall are really helped – and Govts can afford only so much.

    Billions were used up subsidizing those who already had mortgages to be more resilient. I’m not sure that really worked out, but I know we won’t see that money again now.

    Brad, you know we can’t keep taking flights, and doing seminars and flogging the word “innovative” to death. Its just a word, not a legacy. If I were at BedZed. I’d probably find stuff to Q. People must have homes now, no matter what their income.

    • Diana
      there is a lot to potentially respond to here. You are correct to say i was fortunate enough to buy my White Gum Valley cottage when housing was more affordable. I think more people should have that opportunity. Housing is a big challenge not just in WA.
      As Prof Peter Hall says in Good Cities, Better Lives: How Europe Discovered the Lost Art of Urbanism the key challenge of housing can be seen in four clear challenges:
      “First we are not building nearly enough new homes. Second, we are not building enough of the right kinds to meet expected demographic changes. Third, and associated, we are not building them in the right places. Fourth, we are not yet building them to the right standards of best design especially to meet future environmental standards.”
      What we are trying to do in Fremantle is offer greater housing choice and options so there is more housing types, more affordability and an more diverse community as a result.
      We are innovating and slowly getting results I think but lots more to do.
      cheers, Brad

  2. maquismail says:

    I noticed the same consideration of children and family needs in the Vauban district of Freiburg, Germany – another icon eco-precinct. it’s an aspect of built environment design that is frequently overlooked IMO – perhaps because there are not a lot of well known benchmarks that can be called on to test designs.

    And if I could put my 2 cents in – having become a father recently and wanting my boy to have good options as he grows up – what we need is not more new houses feeding the insatiable investment market, but good houses – high performance houses that provide healthy, comfortable, safe environments for a diversity of occupants. This will require good design, progressive leadership, and the replacement of ill-informed cynicism with a healthy, constructive skepticism.

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