This week is Ecobuild – the event of the year for people in the built environment industry who are interested in sustainability. It will be going on 7th-9th March in the Excel Centre in London. Continue reading “Sustainable Building Demonstrations at Ecobuild”
Since the Paris climate agreement, there has been increasing acceptance that we must move towards a zero carbon future, and that we have all the technical solutions to do so. But another question remains: how do we make these changes happen? Continue reading “Introducing Zero Carbon Britain: Making it Happen”
After 18 months of intensive study and hard work CAT’s 5th year Architecture Professional Diploma students laid out their final projects for us all to see.
Transforming their classrooms the students created sleek exhibition spaces to show off their detailed plans and intricate models. Continue reading “Congratulations to CAT’s Architecture prof dips!”
CAT’s Architecture Professional Diploma students celebrate the end of their studies with a private view of their work and a party at CAT on 20th January.
This unique event invites industry VIPs, students, local people and friends of CAT to view the final projects of these up-and-coming architects after 18 months of intensive study. Transforming study rooms into exhibition spaces their inspirational designs and models will be available to view with the students themselves on-hand to talk guests through their visions. This will be a unique insight into the ideas of the architects of our future. Continue reading “Celebrate with CAT’s architects of the future”
Landscape archaeologist and CAT MSc student Jemma Bezant looks at how messages from the past about human adaptation and resilience can resonate today in the face of coastal erosion and rising sea levels. Continue reading “Can archaeology save our seas? Borth coastal defence scheme and human adaptation”
Can you spare a few minutes to help CAT in the development of our strategic planning?
We are reviewing how best we can maximise our impact towards our mission of delivering practical solutions for sustainability. As a result we will set our objectives for the next three to five years.
If you are a CAT supporter or a customer using one of our services we would like to ask you to complete this short online survey: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/CentreAltTech
The survey should take about 10 minutes to complete and is being managed on CAT’s behalf by ACEVO, an umbrella organisation for charities which specialises in supporting strategic development.
All responses will be treated as confidential and anonymous.
Responses to this survey will be crucial in helping CAT to establish its future priorities and objectives over the next few years. We would be really grateful for your help.
A team of CAT’s Part II architecture students and tutors are building part of a house to take to Glastonbury Festival this week; using it to look at practical solutions to the housing crisis. The project builds on work that CAT’s joint architecture programme leader Ed Green has been developing for more than five years, winning a series of national design competitions looking at construction systems for affordable housing.
Ed Green said:
“We have developed a series of designs using shipping containers, structurally insulated panels, steel portal frames and straw bales. The slightly surprising and disappointing thing we have found is that all of those approaches generally result in building housing that costs about the same money as volume house builders – around 70,000-100,000 pounds per house… We have decided that the only way to make meaningful inroads into those costs is to look at genuinely self-buildable housing. So our latest designs look at stripping a house back to the absolute basics, building it all in timber, using skills people can learn very quickly and using materials they can get off the shelf.”
Construction is underway this week and will begin on site at Glastonbury on Monday. If you are at Glastonbury, come and find us in the Green Futures Field. Here is a video about the project:
The timber frame is now up and the team have moved on to constructing the floor and roof:
— Centre for Alt Tech (@centre_alt_tech) June 16, 2016
Climate Change and Sustainability are very complex issues. The range of themes CAT students cover is incredibly varied – ranging from how to measure the heat loss from a building to heterodox economic theory. This week, humanitarian architecture takes centre stage. Students on the MSc in Sustainability and Adaptation (Built Environment/Planning) are joined by Jamie Richardson of Shelter and Construction to look at emergency buildings.
Learning about construction in these extreme environments is as connected to sustainability as everything else CAT does. The project is designed to give students the opportunity to engage with the task of building suitable shelters for refugees in times of conflict or disaster.
The module looks at the broad range of considerations needed for this kind of work: anthropology, logistics, materials, community consultation, the role of the NGO, thermal comfort and wellbeing, diplomacy and, of course, the sustainability of solutions among many other connected issues. It aims to equip students to be able to go into the field and make a difference to people’s lives. While the types of buildings that we might see on the news that are used to house refugees may seem like simple structures, the thought and logistical complexity that goes into their construction is considerable. There are three overarching considerations that shelters need to provide: durability, dignity and safety.
For the purpose of this module, students are given two contrasting scenarios in which they will be expected to engage with the theoretical and practical issues for each specific situation. The first situation the students faced was the aftermath of an earthquake in Nepal, with large numbers of people affected. This scenario was designed to demonstrate how a crisis might play out in a rural setting. Students looked at the location, available materials and logistics and then went out and built what they considered a viable shelter for people involved in the disaster. The second scenario, Gaza, offered students the opportunity to think theoretically and practically about shelter provision in a war affected, urban setting where practical considerations about the availability of materials, as well as safety, are paramount. The value of the module is that students not only get the theoretical background on emergency shelter provision, but then can put that theory into practice by actually constructing shelters and getting feedback on their efficacy.
Over the next few days, students will be working on a practical research and development project for a modular, scalable design for a two story building that can be rapidly constructed using the small timbers available in Gaza. The basic design is already in use in Gaza. The designs make use of only 2” by 1” timbers and 1/2” inch plywood to construct various designs of I-beams suitable for floors, roofs and walls. The work student are carrying out this week will build on this existing design, testing new detailing in the construction of the floors and building some I-beams and other elements that will be load tested by Oxford Brookes University.
It is a compelling example of how the principles of sustainable architecture can be brought into this immediate and complex problem. Given that the world is seeing an unprecedented amount of forcibly displaced people globally, the skills taught on this module are able to positively contribute to a serious and growing problem.
One of the great things about the Centre for Alternative Technology is the sheer quantity of architectural and design features around the site.
Indeed, it’s a rare treat to see modern design juxtaposed with the rugged Welsh landscape.
All of our buildings, old and young, demostrate how ecological design pays attention to both form and function.
These buildings serve as practical exhibits which show ways that ecological architecture and design take care of both the environment and wellbeing.
For more information about our short courses: https://courses.cat.org.uk/sustainable-building
and graduate level courses:
Sara Tommerup is a graduate from the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT). Here she writes about the work she has been getting up to since graduating, including setting up the Agroecology Land Initiative.
Since 2006 I have apprenticed and learned about natural building in different parts of Europe and also in the US. In 2010 I decided to do the AEES course at CAT (now replaced with MSc Sustainability and Adaptation in the Built Environment) which complimented my hands-on training well. The course gave me the analytical tools to go deeper into the theory and engineering of sustainable building and the wider environmental issues. Due to my convictions I really appreciated to be able to study seriously in an environment removed from conventional campus life and I think this was one of the main reasons I chose CAT. Today there are many more study options when it comes to sustainable studies – but not at such a peaceful, environmental friendly and exemplary place as CAT’s Graduate School of the Environment.
I am now working as self-employed but continue to train to expand my skills and their applicability. I am originally from Denmark and now being in the UK I have picked up quite a few new natural building techniques which are traditional to this area, such as roundwood timber framing and stone walling. This year, I will be doing a stand-alone module on settlements and shelters in disaster areas which I hope to work with in the future, both as a trainer and a field worker. Having both practical as well as academic skills is something I can’t recommend enough!
Although building appropriately is important, I have realised that without land we can’t build anything nor choose the lifestyle we want. In 2014 I co-founded the Agroecology Land Initiative, an organisation with the aim to help people from all walks of life gain access to land. The ALI has so far set up its first land project in Carmarthenshire. Do have a look at agroecology.co.uk if you want to hear more about what we are up to. We also offer both short and long term volunteer opportunities.
My MSc thesis was not about building but rather on adaptive co-management in regards to social ecological systems. What I learnt from my thesis has served me well as it enabled me to understand how complex our world is and how we are better off creating societies that are adaptable instead of rigid and attempting control. I am therefore really pleased to see that the AEES course has adapted into its new form, namely the Sustainability and Adaptation MSc, a course that seems ready to take us further still.