Building your own home? Come and see our free live demos and loads more self-build info at Build It Live Bicester

Find out all you need to know about building your dream home with a visit to Build It Live Bicester self-build show and see live demonstrations from CAT. 11-12th June.

The Centre for Alternative Technology, in association with Build It Live, are offering pairs of FREE tickets (worth £24) – just by following this link.

Build It Live self-build show will take place on 11 & 12 June in Bicester, on the borders of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire. The latest addition to the Build It show calendar, Build It Live Bicester is brand new and is being run in association with Graven Hill – the UK’s first large-scale self-build project. Graven Hill has outline planning for 1,900 new homes, along with a primary school, local pub and shops and lies just 5 minutes’ drive from the exhibition.

watching a seminar
Main Stage at Build It Live

Many of us dream of creating our own little eco home, somewhere where we can live a greener life in a space that we’ve designed and built ourselves. But finding the perfect spot and gaining planning permission isn’t always easy. It’s with this in mind that the Graven Hill project has been developed in Bicester, Oxfordshire.

Spearheaded by Cherwell District Council, the project has outline planning permission for 1,900 new homes, and offers opportunities for a range of different sized projects, including detached, semi-detached and bungalow designs, using a mix of kit homes and self-build projects. There’s the potential for groups of people to work collaboratively, for example by creating a terrace of eco homes, and a primary school, local pub and shops are also planned.

All properties will be built to high environmental standards, complying with Passivhaus principals for energy efficiency, and there’s the flexibility for individual designs to incorporate higher environmental standards, so this could be a useful route in for anyone wanting to create an eco home of their own.

Join CAT at Build It Live

Whether you’re interested in a plot at Graven Hill, thinking of building a home elsewhere, or if you’d like to retrofit an existing property, come to Build It Live Bicester on 11 and 12 June to meet experts in a range of building materials and methods.

Taking place just a few miles away from the Graven Hill site, the show is an opportunity to discover thousands of cutting-edge and traditional products and meet over 150 of the UK’s most innovative suppliers. There are around 30 free seminars and workshops, developed to address specific problems and inspire confidence when taking on a building or renovation project.Here’s a flavour of what’s on offer:

At the Build It Manchester show earlier this year, CAT’s carpenter Carwyn Jones demonstrated eco-friendly building techniques and upcycling with pallets.

Eco friendly building techniques: Come along to see CAT doing talks and live demonstrations covering a range of topics including environmentally-friendly building techniques, renewable energy, eco-sanitation and woodland management. There will be a daily demo programme and experts on hand to answer your questions. Also see the free seminar on Building a Sustainable Home, at 3.30pm daily.
Graven Hill zone: Find out about opportunities to build your own home on Graven Hill and join the live Q&A to discover how to reserve a plot.  Speak to the Graven Hill team and listen to their keynote session in the main seminar theatre at 11.10am each day. See the various homes that can be built and learn about the Design Code.
The Naked House: See a section of a new build as it comes together – a fascinating insight into how things are installed, from underfloor heating to roof trusses and floor joists.
Find a builder: Talk to the Federation of Master Builders who can guide you through the process of finding the right contractor for your project. Access their database of trusted builders in your area.

Self builders’ stories live: Gain inspiration and confidence from people who have realised their self build dreams. Hear their stories in the live theatre, on the show floor.

Graven Hill

The brown-field site was previously used as an ordnance depot by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and acted as the main supply base for the British Army’s operations during the Second World War. Materials from the demolished MOD buildings will be recycled for use in the construction works.

The project team have worked with ecologists to ensure their plans protect and encourage biodiversity, and more than half the site will be set aside as community woodland and open space. Allotments, cycle paths and sports pitches are also planned.

Later this year sees construction of the first ten ‘pioneer’ homes, one of which has been designed by Ed Green, joint programme leader on CAT’s Professional Diploma in Architecture, who is keen to develop self-build designs that can be delivered at a lower cost than more mainstream building projects.

For more info on Graven Hill, see

FREE Tickets

To find out more about the show, and to book free tickets saving £24 simply follow this link.

Two Architecture Events at CAT 5th – 18th May

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.

The WISE building at CAT where the events will take place Photo: Tim Soar

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

Ceri Davies Photo: AHMM

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.

Student open space day tackles barriers to Zero Carbon Britain

Students from the Centre for Alternative Technology’s (CAT’s) Graduate School of the Environment held an interactive Open Space day to discuss barriers to bringing about a rapid transition to a low carbon economy. The outcomes of the day are being fed into the Zero Carbon Britain – Making it Happen research currently being undertaken by CAT.


The open space style of the event meant the day started with 40 people but no agenda. The participants came up with and held 16 smaller group discussions on a diverse range of topics during the day. This 2-minute film gives a flavour of the day.

The 16 discussions covered a broad range of topics, but the structure of the day allowed each session to be focused, and useful for developing the research. Topics covered included:

  • Reaching a wider audience, including reaching out within workplaces
  • Using the resources of new build property developers and retrofitting existing buildings
  • Community energy, and how you create strong community groups
  • Political action, both local and wider
  • Creating an inclusive movement, that is founded on equality and diversity
  • Looking at a more individual level, at setting personal goals, behaviour change, valuing resources and handling both ‘eco-guilt’ and bad news on climate change
  • Values and learning from nature
  • Having a hopeful vision that inspires us

If you are interested about finding out more about CAT’s next research project, you can read about Zero Carbon Britain: Making it Happen initial findings online, or come along to our short course on the 28-29th April, which is just before the Machynlleth Comedy Festival, meaning you can combine the two for a stimulating long weekend in Machynlleth.

The Heathrow 13: Airport expansion or a taming of the few?

On 24 February 13 protesters against airport expansion, already convicted of ‘aggravated trespass’, will be sentenced.

The Plane Stupid protesters, who occupied Heathrow’s north runway for 6 hours in July last year, are likely to be jailed for 3 months for protesting against airport expansion and its impact on climate change.

Photo credit: David Leiser

Regardless of the outcome of this case, expanding Heathrow is thought to be at odds with meeting the UK Government’s legally binding targets under the Climate Change Act. The Government in 2009 set a target to get aviation emissions to 2005 levels by 2050 (37.5Mt CO2). The Climate Change Committee looked at options for this target and considered it achievable with various technical measures together with an overall 60% increase in passenger demand by 2050 compared to 2005 levels.

However we are not on course to meet even these generous targets. Carbon dioxide emissions from out-bound aviation have doubled since 1990 due to increased passenger demand, and are forecast to increase further due to a projected doubling in passenger numbers by 2050. As other sectors decarbonise, aviation is set to become a quarter of total UK greenhouse gas emissions.

While the Airports Commission have suggested that expanding Heathrow is compatible with meeting the Government’s climate target in 2050,  the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, who took evidence on this in 2015, showed this depended on a number of theoretical policies and there were serious doubts about whether this could be achieved in practice. The Committee recommended the government set out its strategy to deliver on its aviation emission target no later than Autumn this year.

As part of CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain: Making it Happen project we are looking at aviation emissions and how to overcome the barriers to reducing them. There are so many reasons why this relentless growth in flying is so difficult to stop. Studies show we place a strong value on holidays and the freedom of choice that flying offers. Frequent and distant travel provides social status. The weekend travel supplements are full of exotic or must-see destinations, skiing holidays and Caribbean beach resorts. People are funnelled into air travel through a combination of cost and convenience, reinforced by practices within the tourism industry, which makes slow travel less appealing. Other research has shown that individuals who are environmentally conscious in other areas justify flying as a trade-off for their behaviour at home.

Yet this growing demand for flights is surprisingly disproportionate. We were very struck by the research commissioned by the campaign group A Free Ride that reveals that a staggering 70% of flights in the UK are taken by 15% of the population, while over half of the population took no flights at all in 2014. The majority of UK flights are not business flights or family holidays but leisure trips taken by a small group of wealthy frequent flyers. Other studies verify that the bulk of aviation emissions are generated by a small minority of people and it is thus suggested by researchers Christian Brand and Brenda Boardman that we need a taming of the few. There are even suggestions that ‘binge flying‘  is a new form of addictive behaviour. The research for A Free Ride also reveals that per capita emissions from air travel are higher in the UK than any other country, and twice those of the USA!

So how to get the political and economic elites who are contributing most to carbon emissions from flying, to change their travel habits?

A Free Ride has come up with a solution in the form of a frequent flyer tax to replace Air Passenger Duty, which helps address the disproportionate impact of a relatively small proportion of wealthy individuals. Under this proposal a levy is set at zero for the first outbound flight and then increased progressively for each subsequent flight (eg £20 for the second flight, £60 for the third reaching £420 by the ninth flight). This is estimated to prevent passenger demand from increasing by more than 60% in 2050 in line with the Committee on Climate Change recommendation, and will obviate the need for airport expansion.

Simple, ingenious and fair.

Elsewhere in Europe groups such as Taming Aviation are lobbying to remove the tax exemptions currently given to the aviation industry which mean that we are all subsidising cheap flights whether we like it or not. The aviation industry is receiving tax exemptions in fuel duty and VAT (for plane tickets) estimated to be around £10 billion in 2014, which dwarfs the revenue from Passenger Air Duty of £3 billion/year.

Climate change is the world’s biggest threat and growth in passenger air travel is outstripping any reductions in carbon emissions from aviation due to technological improvements. We cannot build our way out of this problem by expanding airports; instead we need to suppress demand for air travel through financial disincentives and by making it socially unacceptable to be a frequent flyer. In particular we need to change the habits of a disproportionate few who we are subsidising at the expense of the planet.

Lisa Hopkinson



Roundwood Timber Framing course at C.A.T. – guest blog from the team at Ty Pren

Roundwood-timber-framing-1Last year was full of firsts for us and a great coming together for all involved in the company. The first residential self-build frame for the county, the honing and strengthening of skills and relationships, and a great new website!

The movement towards low impact living is really gaining momentum with more and more people looking for alternatives to the mainstream. Questions about how we can live a more carbon neutral lifestyle are being asked, and there are so many people doing amazing things to answer them.

It always takes time for new ideas to filter through, and one of the aims of Ty Pren is to bridge the gap between self-builders and local councils. Roundwood timber framing provides a strong framework for affordable, low impact homes that are sustainable, beautiful and a big step in the right direction towards  a zero carbon Britain.


With this in mind Jamie and Ray will be teaching a five day roundwood timber framing course at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth in May.


We’ll also be at a number of festivals over the summer doing workshops and talks, so keep an eye on our blog for more details.

Have a great 2016.

The Ty Pren team.

CAT responds to cuts to the Feed in Tariff

Statement from Adrian Ramsay, CEO of the Centre for Alternative Technology, in response to government cuts to support for renewable energy

“With the ink barely dry on the historic deal to keep global temperature rise well below 2 degrees C, the UK government has this week shown just how meaningless the agreement could become.

“Today’s announcement of substantial cuts to the Feed in Tariff threatens the UK’s ability to provide a clean and resilient energy supply, risking locking us into an energy system reliant on polluting fossil fuels, and wiping out thousands of jobs in the renewables industry.

“With these changes being announced just one day after MPs voted to allow fracking under National Parks, the direction of travel of UK government policy is clear – and it’s not towards a safe climate future.

“The science is clear – we must drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions if we are to avoid dangerous climate change. The technology is available – CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain research has shown that we can reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions using technology available today. What’s needed is the political will. The deal agreed in Paris signalled that the world’s governments are finally acknowledging the urgency of the problem – now they need to make their policy match their rhetoric.”

What’s happening at the climate talks in Paris

150 world leaders and a lot of inspiring speeches- but what is actually happening in Paris. We have been scouring the news and recommend the following sites to keep up with what is happening at the UNFCCC conference.


One of the key ways to keep up with what is going on at the Paris climate talks in through virtual particpation. The UNFCCC has numerous social media outlets and a live webcast where you can watch the main meetings.


Rolling coverage of events inside the conference including a useful at a glance list of key points.  Many of the world leaders have now left the summit  and now it’s time for the negotiators to try  to turn a 50-page text into a deal that 195 countries can agree on, in less than a fortnight

Greenpeace- Energy Desk

Screen Shot 2015-12-01 at 11.44.39 AM

The Greenpeace 1st day round up looks at speeches from leaders of the world’s biggest economies and includes this rather amusing tweet from Geoffery Lean. Greenpeace are providing a handy daily digest with the main news condensded into an easily readable format.


Carbon Brief

Provide a fantastic daily briefing on climate change and related news. Their coverage from yesterday includes  John Key, prime minister of New Zealand presenting Chrisitne Figueres with the official communique from the fossil fuel subsidy reform group made up of non G20 countries. They also look at the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), a coalition of 20 countries from Afghanistan and Bangladesh to the Philippines, Rwanda and Vietnam, who issued a declaration calling for the Paris agreement to include a 1.5C temperature limit.

The Guardian

Has an excellent range of articles covering all aspects of the climate summit, from the leaders speeches, to side events to what’s happening outside. If you are a footy fan we recommend this guide to the Paris climate talks understood through football teams.

New Internationalist

Meanwhile outside the main conference centre the New Internationalist is providing rolling coverage of civil society events. Notably indigenous communties held a healing ceremony for Paris in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks last week. Furthermore despite bans on demonstrations and marches many are going ahead. Filipino climate campaigner Leon Dulce explains why he will be resisting the bans.



CAT celebrates the next generation of graduates ‘making it happen’

Graduates from the Centre for Alternative Technology celebrate their academic successes at ceremony.

CAT Graduation
CAT’s CEO Adrian Ramsay addresses Graduates and their families in the rammed earth lecture theatre

Over 40 students from the Graduate School of the Environment at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Machynlleth celebrated the successful completion of their studies with an award ceremony on Saturday 14th November.

The evening also included a buffet dinner, a welcome from CAT’s chief executive Adrian Ramsay and a keynote speech by Professor Herbert Girardet, leading environmental commentator and author of several books including the seminal “Blueprint for a Green Planet” (1987) and “Creating Regenerative Cities” (2014).

class of 2015
The class of 2015 – CAT Graduation

The event saw students graduate from all of CAT’s postgraduate programmes: MSc Renewable Energy and the Built Environment, Professional Diploma in Architecture, MSc Architecture: Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies and MSc Sustainability and Adaptation.

Adrian Ramsay, CEO of CAT, said they were the people who would be ‘making it happen’ in the transition to a zero carbon future:

“The world faces many challenges in the transition to a zero carbon future. The knowledge and skills that our graduates learn by studying at the Graduate School for the Environment equip them well to be the people making it happen. We are very proud of this year’s CAT graduates and look forward to hearing about their successes as they take the knowledge gained from their time at CAT into their careers, communities and home lives.”

Five students received particular awards for excellence in their dissertations. Helen Nicholls received an award for her dissertation comparing the impact of different waste water treatment systems on climate change. Lee Eyre received an award for his research into the role of metaphor in the world views of environmentalists. Elgan Roberts’ award-winning study looked at the greenhouse gas emissions from small scale hydroelectric schemes in Wales. Anne-Clare Landolt received an award for her dissertation on storing heat to improve greenhouse growing conditions. Lucy Jones also received an award for her technical report on a more sustainable alternative to supermarkets.

graduation buffet
CAT congratulates the class of 2015 with a buffet dinner

This year’s graduates join over one thousand people who have graduated from CAT’s postgraduate courses and are working for sustainability in their work and communities across the UK and around the world. CAT graduates have taken their skills to many professions which need expertise in sustainability and many companies have been set up by CAT graduates, bringing innovative solutions to environmental problems.

Photographs by Eveleigh Photography

graduation bar
Celebrating in the bar after the ceremony

Is it time to switch your energy supplier?

Green electricity is generated from natural and renewable energy sources that have less of an impact on the environment than fossil fuels. Energy produced using solar energy, wind energy and water power (hydroelectricity) are all renewable forms of energy, so called because unlike fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, green energy sources will not run out.

More and more consumers across the UK are switching to a greener energy supplier, like Good Energy! Green electricity suppliers invest in renewable energy and match their customers’ demand with electricity that comes from sunshine, wind and rain.
The Centre for Alternative Technology and Good Energy have been partners for over a decade, and recently sponsored our new electric vehicle Evie. This blog post, adapted from information on their site, provides some tips in switching to a green energy supplier.

1. Don’t put up with bad service
Smaller suppliers often provide much better customer service. In the latest Martin Lewis Money Saving Expert poll for customer satisfaction, companies like Good Energy were voted top, beating all other energy suppliers.
2. Get a fair deal
Many of the smaller companies offer fair deals for consumers based on the costs of the product they supply. Make sure you are paying a fair price. Check out different energy suppliers and look for ones that have a green tariff. This website can help you look for the best deals

3. Choose a tariff that supports the future of the planet
Companies like Good Energy offer one electricity tariff and it’s 100% green. For every watt you use, they feed a watt from sunshine, wind and rain into the grid.

4. Buy local
Companies like Good Energy are British and generate and buy all of it’s renewable power here in Great Britain. They reinvest money from the company into their own wind and solar farms and purchase cleaner, greener electricity from a network of more than 1000 independent generators such as Worthy Farm (home of Glastonbury Festival) and Hafod y Porth in Snowdonia.

5…Switch to Good Energy today!
It only takes 5 minutes to get a quote and make the switch to Good Energy. You can also give it’s award-winning customer care team a call on Freephone 0800 254 0000.
Best of all you can help support the Centre for Alternative Technology by making the switch and signing up to Good Energy. Quote ‘CAT’ when switching to our 100% renewable electricity or dual fuel tariffs and we’ll give you switch and Good Energy CAT £30 to help in their in our work.

Make the switch!
Choose an electricity supplier that’s changing UK energy for good. CAT has been working with 100% renewable electricity provider Good Energy for over a decade. There are so many good reasons to switch, not least of which is that when you use the link below they’ll give £30 to CAT!

Switch quoting CAT