Zero-Carbon Development Saves Residents £400 on Energy Bills

Permaculture Magazine
Wednesday, 3rd April 2019

The Bicester development, Elmsbrook, has been confirmed as the UK's first large-scale true zero carbon development, with residents saving on energy bills, enjoying a healthier lifestyle and an improved sense of community.

International sustainability charity, Bioregional, has confirmed Elmsbrook in Bicester, as the UK's first large-scale true zero carbon1 development.

With savings of almost £400 per year2 compared to the average Bicester household, Elmsbrook residents are benefitting from super insulated fabric, more efficient appliances and renewable-energy generation. Elmsbrook is the initial exemplar phase of NW Bicester developed by A2Dominion.

The combined impact of these eco-features in homes, primary school and eco-business centre have ensured that the site as a whole is achieving true zero carbon. Elmsbrook is saving 300 tonnes of CO2 per year when compared with a new build development of a similar size.

According to Bioregional's monitoring results, Elmsbrook residents used 57% less heating and hot water than their Bicester neighbours and 28% less electricity than the Bicester average, saving 1,189 KWh of electricity during the year.

Lifestyle improvements

Annual monitoring from Bioregional has shown that the site is not only carbon footprint neutral, but that residents are benefitting from the eco features and enjoying them. While 40% of residents purchased as a result of the eco town concept, almost half (47%) have said the most liked design features are eco related, including PV, better insulation, triple glazing and rainwater harvesting. Some 57% said the eco features were what they most liked about the development.

There are also improvements in the health of residents. The ample green spaces at Elmsbrook have proved hugely popular, with half of residents making daily or weekly use of the green spaces and on average exercise 4.5 days per week. Some 81% of residents surveyed said they feel healthy or very healthy compared to the national average of 57.8%. A sense of community has also been noticed, with residents greeting neighbours and engaging in community governance activities such as onsite clubs and groups.

The development also includes sustainable travel options, such as the electric car club, free Bromptin bicycle rental and free installation of electric vehicle charging points for those who go electric within the first two years. This area still needs developing as only 20% of residents currently use the low-emission bus service and only 48 residents have signed up to the electric car club.

Bioregional co-founder and CEO Sue Riddlestone OBE said: "We are really proud to have worked with A2Dominion on this monitoring work, and to have worked in partnership with them for many years to help ensure that Elmsbrook achieves its zero-carbon ambitions while also being a great place to live.

"Clearly there's scope for further work to ensure that residents make the most of all the other opportunities to minimise their impact on the planet. But to succeed in preventing catastrophic climate change we need to see many more Elmsbrooks emerging across the country - and fast."

A2Dominion's Head of Special Projects, Steve Hornblow said: "The successful findings of this report, coupled with the anecdotal feedback we are hearing from residents, is a huge milestone for the scheme. As a test bed, exemplar scheme, we are very proud of the achievements at Elmsbrook."


1 True zero carbon covers all household energy use, regulated and unregulated

2 This saving arises when maintenance, gas safety checks and eventual boiler replacement are factored in - included in standing chargers.

Useful links

Book review: Drawdown - the most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming

Can we make our cities sustainable with permaculture?