Sustainable construction at Eden
We're proud of the iconic architecture at Eden – and just as proud of how the buildings were made.
Together with visionary architects, engineers and suppliers we've made lots of choices about materials and designs to try to keep the environmental impact of these buildings as low as possible. Here are some of the things we've tried to do:
We pioneered the use of a really good insulating material to keep our plants warm in the Biomes. The hexagonal cushions on the steel structure trap air between two layers of ETFE (short for ethylene tetrafluoroethylene) which act as a thermal blanket.
To keep our visitors and staff warm, we've insulated our buildings with recycled newspaper. We also created a green roof on top of one our staff buildings behind the scenes, which helps keep it warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Birds and insects like it too.
We have prioritised lowering our energy consumption rather than simply installing renewable energy technology for the sake of it. However, we did include photovoltaic panels on the Core roof to be able to demonstrate to our visitors just how powerful these natural sources of energy are. Learn how we're tackling energy use at Eden.
As well as reducing our water use in the first place, by installing low-flush toilets, and taps which turn themselves off, we harvest our own water to flush the loos and water the plants. Read more about our approach to water.
Designing buildings that let in lots of natural light can mean electricity savings (if the windows are well insulated) as well as happier, more alert people.
Sustainably sourced materials
There's a lot to think about when choosing construction materials – how they're made, how far they have to travel, how long they'll last. There's no one-size-fits-all solution; instead, at Eden, we try to opt for the best material in each case, weighing up different considerations, including:
You can find some innovative examples of recycled building materials in the Core: the green tiles in the floor were originally Heineken bottles, the entrance mats are made from recycled truck tyres, and the cafe floor is made of reclaimed wood.
We talk to our suppliers about how they've manufactured the materials we buy – and in some cases have even asked them to consider doing things differently for us.
For example, the metal roof of the Core comes from a copper mine with one of the highest environmental and social standards in the world, the Bingham Canyon, owned by US-based Kennecott Utah Copper Company. We worked closely with our partners at international minerals company Rio Tinto to source this specially. Find out more about our responsible mining programme.
When we can, we go for products whose manufacturing doesn't create unnecessary waste. The beautifully curved beams you can see in the ceiling of the Core were constructed using Glulam (glue-laminated layers of timber), a strong material whose offcuts are used as a fuel.
Our buildings were designed to need as few construction products as possible. For example, the Biomes' hexagons copy nature’s honeycombs: maximum strength using minimum materials.
Construction materials can result in a lot of carbon emissions, either through an energy-intensive manufacturing process or because they have to be transported a long way to the point of use. Furthermore products sometimes aren't durable, meaning they'll need to be replaced in the near future. Check out the choices we made when choosing the concrete for the Core, below.
A good example of how we choose products is the concrete in the Core, our education centre. Firstly, we tried to reduce the amount of cement needed in the first place, because we know that producing cement is a carbon-intensive process. So the project team designed it out where possible; for example, removing the need for concrete support pillars.
Secondly, we opted for Portland cement, because the producers were committed to the ongoing reduction of CO2 in the manufacturing process and because the cement could be delivered by rail.
Finally, we sourced a recycled aggregate to make up the remaining 90% of the concrete (only 10% is actually cement). This was local China Clay industry waste, which came from not far away at all.