In terms of sustainable and eco-friendly construction, Zero Emission Neighbourhoods (ZEN) are an environmentalists ideal. They offer a standard that limits carbon emissions on a community level.
The Victorian government has developed the $6 million initiative in order to construct four to six prototype neighbourhoods, which began in 2009 and are due to be concluded by 2014.
The ZEN initiative incorporates eight different criterions in order to stay true to the zero emission model. The criterion are allocated to incorporate economic, social and environmental sustainability as key areas of focus. Sustainability Victoria ZEN guidelines use a point system that is allocated to each criterion in order to judge if ZEN status is appropriate.
Sustainable master planning is the first criterion. This area focuses on the actual planning of the facility and ways in which the planning process can be achieved in the most sustainable manner. Zero net emissions follow, a provision that emissions offset must be 100%. Green precinct infrastructure, social and cultural sustainability, community engagement, economic sustainability and other sustainability considerations make up the last of the criterion.
Although each of these criterion have extensive provisions and guidelines, they all come down to creating a community using the least amount of natural resources that can be sustained.
While Victoria is still in the preliminary stages of ZEN, eco-companies worldwide have taken this initiative a step further and have been generating this type of environment for some time.
Beddington Zero Energy Development (BedZed), located in Surrey England, is the country’s largest sustainable community. Completed in 2002, the now established community is a BioRegional and BDa Zedfactory initiative and was developed by Peabody, London’s largest housing association.
Through initiatives such as community cars (as well as living), visible water and gas indicators, conscientious recycling and food sourcing, along with many other ZEN ideals, BedZed has created a sustainable community.
In terms of energy usage they are 81% lower than the local average on heating and have made a 45% reduction in terms of electricity. Their water usage is 58% lower than average, as well as showing a 64% decrease in car mileage.
86% of residents buy organic food and 60% of all waste produced is recycled. In this short snapshot it is easy to see the environmental savings made whilst living this sustainable lifestyle. Not only do residents at BedZed live a healthier, more carbon neutral lifestyle, but they maintain a strong community spirit by living a socially sustainable lifestyle.
Stretching right across the globe, an extreme version of the ZEN initiative is taking place in China. Located 15km north of Shanghai on Chongming Island at the head of the Yangtze River, Dongtan, China’s first EcoCity is under vigorous construction. To be completed in 2040, Dongtan is expected to house up to 500, 000 residents on its 8,600 hectares of land and neighbouring wetlands.
Designed in 2005 by British engineering consultancy Arup, Dongtan was initiated by the Shanghai Industrial Investment Corporation after mounting population and environmental pressures. The city will focus its sustainabilityefforts in the five areas of energy efficiency, orientation (the positioning of the community) and solar, wind and waste energy.
Their sustainability goals are as follows; an energy consumption saving of 66%, renewed supplier energy of 100%, recycled solid waste of 80% and pollution free fuel celled and zero carbon transport.
With ZEN initiatives arising in both England and China, it is overwhelmingly clear Victorian government sustainability projects are simply the beginning of this overwhelmingly relevant construction movement.