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Pioneering Sustainable Living

A British student develops a zero-energy house

I am a British part-time student, studying music technology - and a DJ in my spare time. Eighteen months ago I moved, with my family from a typical British semi-detached town house in the south of London to Bed Zed, which stands for Beddington zero-energy development, our new energy efficient house.

Simply put, Bed Zed uses no energy produced by fossil fuels - and consumes half the normal amount of energy. It is 'carbon neutral' and so does not add to the problem of global warming. It achieves this with a combination of renewable energy and innovative architecture. Electricity and hot water are supplied by a combined heat and power plant which meets all the development's needs, burning waste wood from a tree surgery, instead of oil or gas. Any extra electricity generated is sold to the national grid.

The development is specifically designed to generate and hold heat, and this helps give our house a unique character. The walls are 70 cm thick, so virtually no heat escapes through them - and we have window sills deep enough to sit in. The entire south-facing wall is made of glass, and so provides solar heat even in the dead of winter, like a greenhouse - and gives us a conservatory on both floors. We don't have to open windows for fresh air because there are brightly coloured 'wind cowls' on the roof collecting air, which is then circulated around the house. In winter cold air coming in is heated by warm air going out, in what is known as a heat exchange system.

Our water is metered and this has made us more conscious of our usage. A green water system is used for the lavatory and garden hose. The water is recycled in reed beds, which is more sustainable than treating it in the same way as drinking water.

My mother is a director of BioRegional Development Group, an environmental organization that developed the Bed Zed idea. She is also a single parent and leads a demanding life, but she does not own a car. At Bed Zed there is a communal 'car club': you pay a small cost for the mileage and time you use and there is a user-friendly internet booking scheme and swipe card system. On-site recycling banks and an organic fruit and vegetable delivery service are also available.

The success of Bed Zed rests on how easy it is to lead a sustainable lifestyle when given the opportunity, and the main force behind the community spirit here is a common belief that living this way makes sense.