Elmsbrook Eco Village is the UK's first eco town. It is a pioneering development with 400 highly energy efficient homes and buildings, creating one of the UK's first truly zero carbon communities.
Elmsbrook Eco Town is the UK's first zero carbon eco-town! Based in Oxfordshire and using cutting edge technologies including solar power harvesting, water collection and recycling, eco building materials and practices, and conscious transportation programs and incentives, the creators of Elmsbrook have made sure that the residents can live and thrive as sustainably as possible.
So What Makes a Town ‘Eco’?
Before diving into the wonders of Elmsbrook, it’s important to understand the concept behind the eco-town. North West Bicester (NW Bicester) is one of four eco-towns that were originally given the green light by the government in 2009 to act as examples of sustainable communities within the UK. Some of the policies within the NW Bicester plan included:
Zero-carbon standards, requiring that all buildings are self-sufficient.
Solar panels for all residential and non-residential buildings
A reduction in local car journeys via public transport improvements
Enhanced green spaces
In 2020, we also had the opportunity to visit BedZED Eco Village, a sustainable housing development in South London that is driving change in the country’s capital city. Elmsbrook, however, is way ahead of the curve.
Elmsbrook: The Start of Something Green
Born from the NW Bicester project, Elmsbrook is truly one of a kind. This pioneering development is made up of nearly 400 highly energy-efficient homes, forming the UK's very first zero-carbon community. Amazingly, the town also has a mission to make 40% of its land dedicated purely to green spaces. This includes:
Sports and recreational facilities
A country park
Acres of interconnected cycling and walking pathways.
Given the shocking statistics surrounding biodiversity loss in the UK, we are long overdue on upping our conservation status and Elmsbrook is doing just that, making this town one of the greenest towns in England.
Why is This Community So Unique?
Elmsbrook’s intelligent integration of innovative eco-initiatives results in exceptional modern living standards as well as the ability to lower household expenditures. Meaning every house was designed with the future in mind.
They were specially designed to reduce energy waste and increase efficiency by keeping homes naturally cool in the summer and warm in the winter. This can be attributed to the use of highly energy-efficient doors and eco roof insulation to limit heat loss.
Solar Panel Paradise
Solar panels transform the sun's rays, the single most sustainable kind of energy, into usable power. They are clean, renewable, can be used infinitely, have the ability to power the world, and have proven to be key players in the transition to renewables.
We spoke with Lewis Knight, a sustainability expert and project manager at Bioregional, the parent company of Elmsbrook, on our visit.
Regarding the town’s energy supply, Lewis mentioned, “When it's very sunny [the residents] will actually be getting their electricity in their home direct from the solar panels...over the course of a year when you add up everything, the carbon benefit of the combined heat, power and all of the solar generation, that gets you to net zero.”
This is fantastic news for the eco-town of Elmsbrook and really highlights just how much they are pioneering for the planet. At Elmsbrook, solar panels are positioned on the roof of every home, and once this project is completed it will be the UK's largest residential solar array.
Taking Transportation To A New Level
Even before they are burned for energy, the use of petroleum products like petrol and diesel are the primary force driving climate change. Extracting them from the soil requires a lot of energy, and can cause great harm to local ecosystems. Shipping fuel also consumes a lot of energy and can create environmentally catastrophic events like oil spills which harm our precious ecological systems we are trying so hard to protect.
At Elmsbrook, the residents are being encouraged to adopt more sustainable modes of travel, and to refrain from using fossil-fuel vehicles. These eco-friendly transport methods are put in place to help people make better choices when it comes to living-greener.
Some of the ways that Elmsbrook are enhancing eco-transport:
Interconnecting cycle and pedestrian routes
A bus stop within 400 metres of every home
Live timetable updates in each home
Charging points for electric vehicles
An electric car club
A local, electric bus system
“If everyone lived as we do in the UK we'd need three planets to support ourselves."
Changing the way we look at transport is crucial if we want to see drastic changes in our ecological footprint.
Open For Eco-Business
Elmsbrook has also created an eco business centre, operated by Town Square, located in the centre of town. This provides a base for businesses to hire space, as well as a co-working space for locals to network and share ideas. We met with Lucy Wenden, the Community Manager at Town Square Bicester, who told us a bit more about how the eco centre runs.
Lucy explained that the Elmsbrook eco business centre provides collaborative workspaces to help people grow their businesses, and to support the residents in working locally to minimise the use of personal car transport.
Getting people to minimise their car use by working locally aims to support the residents in navigating a low carbon lifestyle.
In 2019, it was also the first PassivHaus Plus-certified workplace in the UK, meaning that it actually creates more energy than it uses. It has 143 solar panels on the roof, and generates more energy than it needs in order for the excess energy to go back to the grid. And if you’re wondering about heating, the centre maintains a constant temperature of 20 degrees throughout the year.
The eco-town of Elmsbrook serves as great inspiration for the design of future developments so that they too can be constructed in a way that ensures the long-term sustainability of communities around the world and the environment. Is Elmsbrook somewhere you would like to live? Let us know in the comment section of the video below!