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Bright Green Futures: Water Lilies Eco Self-Build Housing Community

Minimising the negative impact of over-exploitation, land use change, and other threats

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  • What we know
  • What we’re doing
  • What it’s worth

What we know

Bright Green Futures’ mission is to put people and planet at the core of housing, and this is demonstrated through the Water Lilies development. Water Lilies is a 33-home self-build housing community in Bristol.

Bright Green Futures aimed to provide a solution to tackling climate change through net-zero carbon housing that innovates with leading-edge technology and building design and facilitates sustainable lifestyles. The scheme provides residents with high performance timber frame building shells and enables them to design homes that meet their needs now and in the future.

Nestled on the edge of a conservation area, Water Lilies knits together with the surrounding landscape and raises the biodiversity and amenity value of the site with a large community garden owned and managed by the residents.

What we’re doing

For Water Lilies, Bright Green Futures is implementing its ‘Beyond Zero Carbon’ approach. Firstly, Bright Green Futures minimises the energy needed in homes through high performance building fabrics and passive solar design and uses mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) to optimise indoor air quality and temperature.

Then, the remaining energy required for heating and power is generated using on-site low carbon and renewable technology including air source heat pumps and solar PV panels. Surplus energy is stored in a Tesla battery and usage is optimised through a community micro-grid. Finally, timber, as a natural carbon sink, is used as the main structural material.

Bright Green Futures is also taking steps to go carbon negative. The company pledges to offset twice the carbon embodied in the lifecycle of the building materials used by investing in biodiversity projects, which will enable partner communities across the world to live off and protect their forests and enhance their local biodiversity too.

illustration of three birds in navy

What it’s worth

Water Lilies has a positive effect on biodiversity on the macro- and micro-scale.

Firstly, the scheme minimises its impact on climate change – one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss – and demonstrates a scalable model of private housing that can achieve net-zero carbon and inform future environmentally sustainable projects.

Secondly, Water Lilies considers the potential impact of land use change, and through careful planning and design, will enhance local biodiversity. An un-vegetated metal-roofed reservoir at the centre of the site is being transformed into a community garden above the car park, which is designed to increase biodiversity and provide amenity value. It will include a water lily pond and wildflower meadow, as well as fruit trees and native shrubs.

Other parts of the site, which were dominated by sycamore and bramble, will have gardens and a greater range of planted trees. Fruit trees will be planted in hedges to promote ecological connectivity across the site, further enhanced by lines of planters.


I am Steffie Broer, the founder of Bright Green Futures. I started Water Lilies with the wish to develop a new housing model that can make a substantial contribution to solving the core global environmental and social problems. For every decision we make, the underlying question is always: what do we do to have the biggest net impact? Our next big challenge is to make Water Lilies scalable.

Steffie Broer Founder, Bright Green Futures