CAT’s Stupendous Summer Fair 9th-10th August 2011. A celebration of local arts, craft and food

The Centre for Alternative Technology is celebrating this August with a two day Summer Fair for all the family. The fair will feature a range of activities, workshops and stalls selling high quality local produce, arts and crafts. There will be a variety of entertainment including cooking demonstrations, craft workshops, children activities and live Music. Visitors can spend the day wandering the display circuit, relaxing on the lawn or take a seat in our wholefood restaurant and enjoy our delicious home-made food and drinks.
More information, tickets and details

The event has been made possible with kind support from the Cooperative Group.

“This event is a chance, not only to view some of the Wales’ finest artists and craftspeople but also to get some hands on experience in some of the specialist workshops that will be running throughout the Summer Fair. It will also feature a variety of extraordinary food and drink that has been sustainably and ethically produced” said Sylvie Fabre, Events Manager at CAT

Local artists displaying their work include: Gina Jewellery, Tweedies, Rustic Angels, Organic Textiles Wales, Catherine Cariad chocolates, Narna’s Luxury Handmade Chocolates, Loglike, Turnpike, Artist Liza Zannoni, Flourish, Garthenor Organic Pure Wool, Robert Price fine art, Siop Gardd, Preseli coffee, Trioni, Pili Pala Childrenswear, Jude Riley – Marbling on Paper and Silk, Toloja Orchards, Alex Allpress Ceramics, Art of Wales, Foxxbodyart, Benporium – Candy Fleece, Fizzy Popov, Merlin Cheeses, Peris & Corr, Adrift Gallery, Impress Designs…

For children there are loads of exciting activities and workshops that are suitable for all ages. CAT is a great place for kids to learn about sustainability through fun, creativity and experimentation, using sustainable and recycled materials. The activities run from 12pm until 4pm with four main sessions a day, each around an hour long, and storytelling to finish the day off.

Contact the media office: 01654 705953 /

Interviews are available in Welsh and English

Hi- res photos are available upon request

The utopian realism project – 2 artists working at CAT on their tour of radical projects in UK rural locations

Mair Hughes and Bridget Kennedy are two artists currently working together on a project in collaboration with CAT. The project started in May and is funded by the art council of Wales and the art council of England.

Mair and Bridget are visiting a variety of radical projects in rural locations in mid-Wales and in the North East of England. They are looking at two moments in time: the industrial revolution and now, looking how the resources of a place influence people’s activity.

Before coming to CAT, Mair and Bridget spent a few days in the Robert Owen museum. Robert Owen was the founder of the cooperative movement. There, they looked at the link between industry and philanthropy.

It is their third trip to CAT but this time they are staying for a week, living on site community, volunteering in a few department, so as to get a feel for the place. They will then come back in October to exhibit their work in the WISE building, as well as in Machynlleth.

You can follow their work on




Worm-based sanitation for developing countries – A new exciting project in our biology department

Over the past couple of weeks, we have had two new researchers in the biology department who are working on a new project looking at worm-based sanitation for developing countries. These are not compost toilets, they are have a flush mechanism, but they will use much less water than conventional toilets.

The purpose of the project is to design non-piped sanitation systems that don’t fill up quickly – which is a problem with the conventional pit latrines used by millions of people in developing countries. Biofilters are contained units typically consisting of an active layer near the surface, where worms (often tiger worms) and other organisms digest the solid waste as it enters the system. Beneath this is a filtration bed where the liquid waste is further treated by aerobic bacteria, resulting in a highly treated effluent which can be safely discharged into the environment. The unit can be linked to flush or pour-flush toilets, so there’s the immediate benefit of waste being removed from sight, compared with a latrine.


Research shows that worms such as tiger worms eat human poo, but experiments have to be carried out to work out exactly how much they can consume.

The first set of experiments will therefore look at how many worms would be needed for these new types of toilets.

The second phase of the project will be to design and test these new toilets. We should have a small prototype at CAT in a few months and will keep you updated on the findings following this project.

This worm-centred approach is just one of several being explored by Sanitation Ventures ,a larger project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation working to find solutions to the problem of pit latrine filling. More information can be found here.

Three new exhibits coming to CAT to show how a healthy carbon neutral world is achievable

In the era of smartphones and digital ink, the word ‘technology’ has become synonymous with ‘electronic gadgets’, all too often overlooking mechanical devices and even abstracted methods and practices. Here at CAT we strive to show people how to create a sustainable lifestyle through appropriate applications of technology. This means that as science progresses we must study and research all options in order to continually reduce our environmental impact while improving our quality of life.

However, we must understand that science is merely a tool; the responsibility is in our hands to use it in ways that either protect or threaten our environment and our future . To live sustainably is to act in the present in order to ensure our great grandchildren’s world will be just as habitable as—if not more than—it is today. No more borrowing from the future.

The displays around CAT encourage visitors to learn about the complete picture. Among many things, it includes creating a zero-carbon world (no greenhouse gas emissions) by working for change at all levels of society: from the roots all the way to the very top. This summer we are hard at work to bring you not one, but three brand new exhibits to show how a healthy carbon-neutral world is achievable.

First, the Big Picture will allow visitors to orient themselves with the big issues surrounding us today, preparing you for the rest of the site. This includes our new exhibit in the Solar Dome, exploring and comparing the carbon costs associated with everyday activities.

Secondly, the Eco-Retrofit display is a new venture with CAT’s Graduate School for the Environment. Nearing completion, it was built by current architecture students, and it shows how visitors can use the local and sustainable materials internally or externally for insulating your home. It highlights a variety of building styles and focuses on money-saving solutions.

And finally, the Zero Carbon Britain exhibition will fill the whole upper floor of the Wind Pavilion (immediately above the Eco-Retrofit display). In a complete exposition, it will explain the context, reasons, policy decisions, infrastructure, behavioural changes, technology, jobs, skills and vision that is required for us to have a zero carbon society. It is the culmination of almost 40 years of experience, and it is the first fully integrated UK solution to climate change. We will be assembling it over the remainder of this year, so please come along and see it being created, ask us questions, read the zcb2030 report (download it FREE at, and support our efforts. We can’t wait to see you around the site!

Here are some nice things the architecture press said about us not making the Stirling prize shortlist

The Guardian’s architecture correspondent Rowan Moore said:

Then there’s the Wales Institute of Sustainable Education by Pat Borer and David Lea, a work of ingenuity and rammed earth in an old slate quarry. Its inclusion would have been an opportunity to recognise architects outside the London orbit of fashion and schmoozery.

Jay Merrick writing in the Independent said

Yet there was no place for serious environmental architecture, in the form of Pat Borer and David Lea’s universally praised Wise Building at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales.

Oliver Wainwright writing in the Telegraph commented:

It seems the Stirling Prize has become about paying lip service to the safe and generic, rather than celebrating the truly innovative or joyful. Where is the fun of MVRDV’s Balancing Barn, or the drama of Foster & Partners’ Faustino winery, or the experimental ingenuity of David Lea and Pat Borer’s Wise building at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales?

The WISE display – explaining the choice of the different building materials used for the construction of WISE

WISE is an evolution of all the buildings at CAT and this display shows the different building materials used for the construction of WISE and the reason for the choice of these materials.

Did you know that 50% of the UK’s carbon footprint comes from constructing, using and maintaining buildings?  We have monitored the energy used in construction from the energy it takes to extract raw materials right down to the fuel used by the builders getting to work. Now that the building is open, we are monitoring all the energy required to use and maintain it so we can look at ways to shrink the carbon footprint of buildings in the future.

Cement, for example, has very high embodied energy so we have used lime instead wherever possible. Most of the foundations use lime concrete (limecrete), and where standard concrete is needed for its strength, we’ve replaced 50% of the cement with ground upblast furnace slag, which is a by-product of the iron and steel industry. The building is also rendered with lime.

The main lecture theatre inside WISE is made in rammed earth. Earth wall provide good thermal mass, helping to even out high and low temperatures by absorbing and releasing heat as temperatures change. Earth has an extremely low embodied energy (i.e. the energy it has taken to make something) and is often produced as a quarry waste material.)

All the exterior walls are made of a hemp and lime mix. The lime based binder is mixed with the hemp fibres and water. This mix is then sprayed around the timber frame. Hemp and lime walls are breathable, air tight and provide excellent insulation without the need for standard insulation techniques.


Radio 4 afternoon play “getting to zero”. A play based on CAT’s report Zero Carbon Britain

Click here to listen to the play on BBC iPlayer

GETTING TO ZERO By Sarah Woods With George Monbiot, Paul Allen and Peter Harper.
Have you got what it takes to get to zero carbon? Our expert panel set one average family the task of eliminating their carbon footprint… and living with the consequences. Originally broadcast in March 2009.

Sue ….. Kate Ashfield Ian ….. Don Gilet Chloe ….. Poppy Lee Friar Jack ….. Ryan Watson Bill ….. Malcolm Tierney Meter ….. Jonathan Tafler Narrator ….. Janice Acquah Delivery Man ….. Stephen Hogan
Producer/Director: Jonquil Panting.

The green schools revolution: a chance for Key Stage 2 pupils to visit CAT and learn about sustainability

Schools across the UK have been invited to participate in the  Green Schools Revolution, a project initiated by the Cooperative. The project aims to inspire young people to make sustainable changes to their schools, homes and communities. One of the benefits of registering to take part on this project is schools can receive a free trip to CAT during the week 7th – 11th November for key stage 2 pupils. At CAT we will be running workshops for the schools, helping to broaden pupils’ understanding of sustainability, and suggesting easy to initiate solutions to environmental problems. The workshops have been designed to complement the three themes suggested by the Coop – healthy living, energy and water.

Green Schools Revolution

Food Footprints supports healthy living and will be a wide investigation into the food we eat, pupils will discover how a climate friendly diet can also be better for your health. The Green House  takes a deeper look at energy in the home with an interactive decision making activity allowing pupils to choose their own lifestyle changes whilst reducing CO2 emissions. Water Footprints looks at everyday products and how they impact on our water consumption and production.

The day will complete with an Eco Quest around CAT taking in various demonstrations and exhibits, with investigative challenges along the way. One of our primary educational aims at CAT is to facilitate the uptake of knowledge and skills for building a sustainable future, so pupils, teachers and visitors can leave a visit to CAT feeling empowered and able to make changes they feel necessary in their own school, workplace, home and community.


Our work in the education department reflects this and we are always looking at new ways to communicate and facilitate the uptake of sustainability through interesting, dynamic projects. If you are interested in talking to us about any of our on-going projects, or you have a project you would like to let us know about, drop us an email

The whole house display – how much electricity do your appliances actually use?

There is a lot of emphasis on reducing the energy consumption of our houses,  but sometimes it is difficult to know exactly which appliance uses more or less energy. Which ones make the biggest difference?

This display is a representation of a whole house equipped with common appliances, each appliance has a button that allows you to turn it on or off. the total energy used for the house in Watts (in red on the picture) is displayed at the top of the display. In green numbers show the cost per hour of the current settings as well as the cost per quarter.

This display thus allows you to play with different appliances and find out which ones use more or less electricity, which ones make a noticeable difference on your electricity bill.

In this house, the radio is the appliance that uses the least power while the shower is the one using the most electricity.



The oscillating water column or how waves can generate electricity

This display shows how waves can be used to generate power. In this set up, you can pull on the rope to move the blue weight up and down, thus displacing water and producing waves. The waves then force air through the turbine, making it spin. The spinning turbine powers the generator, which produces electricity.

This technology can be applied to capture the energy of ocean waves and transform it into useful energy in large scale set up. There are many different types of wave power devices, which are categorised by the method used to capture the energy of the waves. This display shows the method known as oscillating water column