How we built Eden

See how we built the Biomes in 2000/01 and the Core in 2005.

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Designed by Jolyon Brewis of Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners, the Core is based on nature's architecture - what we call 'biomimcry'.

It incorporates a central trunk and canopy roof that shades the ground and harvests the sun. The most striking feature - the roof created from an intricate web of curved timber beams - is based on Fibonacci spirals, a pattern found in many natural forms including the seeds of a sunflower head, pine cones and snail shells.

At the centre of the Core sits Peter Randall-Page's monumental Seed sculpture based on these same natural patterns.

Sustainable construction

We worked with mechanical and electrical consultants Buro Happold to reduce the environmental impact of the building as much as possible. Innovative features include:


  • The walls are super-insulated with Warmcel, made from recycled newspapers
  • A lobby reduces heat loss through the front door
  • Underground tubes warm the air before it enters the building

Renewable energy

  • Photovoltaic panels on the roof provide electricity, although the building is mainly powered through a renewable energy tariff.

Ethically sourced materials

  • The beams are made of Forest Stewardship Council-certified Red Spruce. They're constructed using a technique known as Glulam (glue-laminated layers of timber), a strong material whose offcuts are used as a fuel.
  • The metal roof is specially sourced from a single copper mine, which marked a new approach in the mineral supply chain. Rather than sourcing copper on the open market (whose origin is mixed and cannot be determined), we worked closely with the international minerals company Rio Tinto to source this. The copper was tracked from a single source – a mine which had ISO 14001 environmental certification for environmental management systems – across the world and through various production processes right through to its installation at Eden. Find out more in our pdf report.

Recycled materials

  • 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 up of reclaimed wood.

Water saving measures

  • Automatic taps save water (by turning themselves off)

Concrete choices

Choosing the right materials actually starts with clever design. With the Core, 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.

For the cement that we did need 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.

We then 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. 

The Floors

The green tiles on the Ground Floor were originally Heineken bottles, and the cafe floor is made up of reclaimed wood. The Lab and top floor are made from Marmoleum, supplied by Forbo Flooring Systems UK, both for the original build and as an industry partner for Invisible Worlds. Marmoleum is based on a plant material, flax. It is made of 97% natural raw materials, 72% rapidly renewable, 43% recycled content. It contains no phalates, plasticisers or mineral oil. It is also biodegradable and burning it delivers a higher calorific value and thermal energy that outweighs the energy used in production giving a full life cycle circle. Installation offcuts and production waste is recycled ensuring optimal raw material utilisation.


Image © Hufton+Crow