In an idyllic location in West Wales, a house is being built. However, this is no ordinary house. In what is believed to be a world first, its walls are being built out of Miscanthus bales.
Would you like to live or work in a warm, draft free, healthy space that is easy and cost effective to heat?
Transforming our leaky buildings to make them clean, green, healthy and affordable to heat is a big project, but we have all the knowledge and tools we need to do it – and it offers us many additional benefits. Here is a selection of good ideas on how we can transform our existing buildings and build new ones in much more energy efficient ways, so we have better places to live and work, and support the shift to a zero carbon future. Continue reading “Building for a zero carbon future”
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”
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:
Two Architecture Events are taking place at CAT in May as part of the Wales Festival of Architecture. An exhibition will take place 5th – 18th May whilst Architect Ceri Davies will speak about her work on Tuesday 10th May.
Exhibition: Added Dimension
5th – 18th May | Visitor Centre open daily 10am – 5pm
WISE Foyer, Centre for Alternative Technology
Click for visitor centre prices and further information
Exhibition showing the work of local architects’ practices, highlighting the special contributions that Chartered Architects make to this community and to civic life.
Talk: Ceri Davies, AHMM Architects
Tuesday 10th May | 7pm
WISE Lecture Theatre, Centre for Alternative Technology
Includes an evening opportunity to view the Added Dimension exhibition
Holyhead-born Architect at Stirling Prize-winning firm AHMM Ceri Davies will discuss her work. Ceri’s wide-ranging project experience includes the successful competition bids for Walsall Bus Station, Kentish Town Health Centre, the refurbishment of Grade II listed Royal Court Theatre Liverpool and a mixed-use student accommodation scheme along Regent’s Canal in King’s Cross for Urbanest. Her strengths lie in formulating ideas grounded in place and purpose at concept stage and ensuring these are built upon during the life of a project. Recent and current projects include the White Collar Factory at Old St Yard and the fit-out proposals for Google HQ.
We are so excited about our tiny house courses – new from us to you!
Running three times this year, spaces are filling up fast.
Learn how to make a beautiful and bespoke tiny house from the ground up: including the timber frame structure, interior and renewable systems.
Carwyn Lloyd Jones, our very own master craftsman (and TV star!) will guide you through an inspiring and practical week where you’ll learn how to:
• Build a timber frame tiny house (approx. 6ft x 10ft)
• Clad the walls
• Build different roof shapes (including pitched roofs, curved roofs and green roofs
• Install windows and doors
• Fix the structure to a trailer base
• Create simple, functional and smart fitted furniture
• Integrate Solar PV and thermal for electricity and hot water
• Harvest rainwater
• Include a compost toilet
Jam packed with practical hands-on exercises and talks from experts, this course will give you the skills and enthusiasm to build a tiny house of your own – whether it’s a little off-grid home, outdoor workspace or a glamping pod for summer getaways.
Carwyn will also give you a tour of his very own tiny house caravan as seen on George Clark’s Amazing Spaces.
Book here, before it’s completely sold out!
Need more inspiration? Read this blog, written by a CAT graduate who is building a tiny home on wheels in Australia.
Andrew Lees studied MSc Architecture: Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies at CAT (this course has now been replaced with MSc Sustainability and Adaptation in the Built Environment). He graduated in November 2015, and I took the opportunity to catch up with him and speak about his experience on the course.
Kit Jones: What was your background before this course, and why did you decide to study at CAT?
Andrew Lees: I’m an architect, and I signed up to the course wanting to do more green architecture. I was surprised by the diversity of other people on the course when I first started – people form all different walks of life and not just Architecture, even though there is a lot about buildings in the course. It has led to some good conversations because people have very different experience to bring.
I suppose I felt I wasn’t living up to my own expectations about what I wanted to be doing, as an Architect. I wanted to be able to diversify the work I could do.
KJ: Have you been able to do that? Have you been able to use what you have learned?
AL: I’m still in the same job, but it has definitely made a difference. I feel I have more in depth knowledge and I am more able to talk to clients, contractors and other consultants about sustainable options for buildings.
In a broader sense, I have also been able to flesh out my concept of what an architect is – or should be. It would be useful if everyone else had the same view! People have a very boxed in view of what an architect should be. As buildings get more complex architects have become coordinators rather than thinkers; we have deferred to engineers on how the building functions. This course makes you more of a thinker. So now I want to be able to lead that more. I’m about to apply for a job in a higher position, which I think would give me more freedom to do that. Part of my intention is to strike out on my own one day.
KJ: What was the experience of studying at CAT like?
AL: It has a totally unique atmosphere – that was the draw in the first place. I have definitely been challenged by it. I’m not a natural scientist; I got by, but I found scientific essays challenging. In conventional architecture education the emphasis is not on scientific writing. So I had to get my head around things like rigorous citation and brevity. I would say I enjoyed being a scientist though – I’ve discovered the joy and creativity of scientific discovery!
KJ: What did you do for your thesis?
AL: I used computer simulation to look at insulation in solid wall, terraced housing. I was coming at the issue from two angles – bringing together the technical issue of building fabric improvement and the human one of thermal comfort standards, questioning the usual standards. I explored the energy and carbon savings of varying the thickness of insulation at different internal temperature set points, and forecasting how likely it was that occupants would be comfortable at these temperatures.