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Peabody reveals BedZed grass may no longer be greener

A lead research manager at the Peabody Trust has slammed key elements of Bill Dunster's award-winning BedZed eco-development.

The fundamental problems highlighted by Claire Bennie include 'contaminated' run-off water from green roofs, underperforming photovoltaic cells and a lack of privacy for residents.

Speaking at AJ's Designing for Sustainability conference, Bennie's outburst pre-empts an official report into the success of the scheme, which is due out in June.

The £15 million carbon-neutral development was opened with much fanfare in 2003. However, a post-occupancy survey by the trust seems to show all is not well in Surrey's Wallington wonderland.

One of Bennie's main criticisms was that good design had come second to environmental concerns. This had led to houses being built to maximise the amount of sunshine entering them, which in turn meant their backs faced the street.

The high density of the scheme also resulted in a lack of privacy. According to the survey, one resident said: 'I don't like the fact that visitors see the most private areas of our home first.'

In addition, the survey revealed some residents were demanding increased car parking, in particular for guests, family and friends.

More unusual problems include the homes' distinctive roof cowls groaning in the wind and acoustic problems between the flats.

Bennie also admitted there were teething problems with the environmentally friendly combined heat and power plant - especially the costs associated with taking 'a great big pile of ash to landfill every month'.

The green roof did not escape criticism either. Bennie confessed it had not been installed very well and was producing too much run-off, none of which was usable, according to Thames Water.

The amount of energy being produced by the site's photovoltaic cells was also called into question. Bennie added that 'we're not getting much electricity to be honest'.

However, Dunster denies many of those living in BedZed are disgruntled and believes any problems can be overcome.

He also stated that he had just finished developing a new stealth cowl and added: 'Those residents that use their conservatory properly, shutting the internal glazed screen, and planting the well-ventilated sunspace, both stay cool in summer and achieve inexpensive privacy.'

by Richard Waite

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