While Australia bumbles along under the mismanagement of our various governments, falling further and further behind the rest of the world in taking action to create a better future, there are exciting things happening on the other side of the globe. As I mentioned in our Newsletter on Dec 14, 2014, the conservative government in the UK under David Cameron has already mandated that all new homes are to be built ‘carbon neutral’ starting next year. Exactly how this will be measured, regulated and achieved will be interesting to follow. Meanwhile, we here in NSW are still suffering under the useless BASIX system which adds layers of red tape, complexity and expense to our planning and approval process without doing anything worthwhile to improve the performance of our buildings.
You only have to look at any new subdivision with its rows and rows of brick and tile McMansions that are too big and totally inappropriate for our climate (or any climate for that matter) to see that our building codes and regulations are failing to adequately protect us, let alone move us towards a positive and sustainable future.
And you only have to look at the rush-hour traffic jams in our cities or the constant stream of cars and trucks on our highways to see that our broad-scale town and transport planning is also completely failing to cope with our wasteful and consumptive lifestyles. So it’s with great relief and a sense of hope that I read about projects like North West Bicester in the UK.
A Carbon Neutral Community
The first phase of the North West Bicester (NWB) development is currently underway. Called ‘Exemplar’ this will provide the first 400 of a planned total 3500 new homes in a development with very ambitious Triple-Bottom-Line goals which aim to improve the environmental, social and financial outcomes of any venture.
‘At North West Bicester, we’re creating a new kind of development, one that’s designed to be good for the environment, the economy, and most important of all – is a great place to live.
We’re doing that by creating vibrant and sustainable neighbourhoods where:
- Families can afford to live
- Jobs are created for local people
- Children can play outdoors safely
- Wildlife can thrive
- And there’s a strong community spirit’
Doesn’t that sound like something we could use in Australia right now?
I won’t go into too much detail but here is a quick list of just some of NWB’s goals (and you can click on this link to learn more):
- A zero carbon community
- Jobs, businesses, shops and services located close to people’s homes
- Super energy efficient homes
- PV on all homes so whole town becomes a solar power plant
- Real-time information system in all homes for managing energy, tracking public transport, etc
- 40% green space with integrated food growing areas
- Combined heat and power plant
- 30% affordable homes
- Walking and bicycling prioritised, then public transport, then electric cars
- School within 800m of all homes
- Bus stop within 400m of all homes
- Reduce embodied carbon by 30%
- Zero waste to landfill during construction
- Commitment to use local trades and suppliers
‘It is also one of a handful of One Planet communities around the world. The One Planet scheme was set up by sustainability charity BioRegional. It aims to find ways for people and societies to reduce their level of consumption to an extent that is sustainable based on the amount of resources that one planet can provide.’ Source http://www.gizmag.com/north-west-bicester-eco-town/36764/
The NWB development has a lot in common with an idea that I presented in our Dec 16 Newsletter for an Eco-home Display Village. What is most exciting about North West Bicester is that it is already being built, with the first residents slated to move in later this year. It gives me hope because we can use it as an example to help persuade our own developers and regulators that this sort of thing is not only necessary but also achievable. Let’s face it, if they can build a carbon neutral town in England’s gloomy climate, it should be very easy for us to do it here in the sunshine.