Celebrate with CAT’s architects of the future

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”

New biomass teaching facility unveiled

Last week saw the launch of CAT’s new renewable heating teaching facility. The system will provide heat and hot water for several of our buildings, including the WISE education  and conference centre, whilst also being used as an example system for training heating engineers and plumbers in biomass installation. Display signs will help visitors and school groups to understand the benefits, and potential drawbacks, of using biomass as a fuel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Image: Launch of biomass boiler. Credit: Ian Care

Speaking at the launch event on Friday 7th October, CAT CEO Adrian Ramsay said: “The installation uses established and proven technology and fits well with CAT’s mission of helping people deliver practical solutions that can address the challenge of climate change.”

The system works on both wood chip and wood pellet – the first time the manufacturers have created this kind of combined fuel system outside of a laboratory. We plan to source fuel from local suppliers wherever possible, with much of the wood chip coming from a supplier based less than 1 mile from the CAT site in Pantperthog.

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

Zero Carbon Powys

Seven years ago CAT first published a vision for Zero Carbon Britain. Since then our research has developed to the point where we have a technically robust scenario detaining how we could achieve it. The research looks at how we use our land, the mix of renewable sources, food and diets, cutting energy consumption, electrification and balancing supply and demand.

This week that vision was made global as even the conservative IPCC said emissions will have to fall to zero globally to prevent dangerous climate change.

This weekend we will go the other way and look at how that goal of zero carbon could be achieved on the very local scale. The Zero Carbon Powys event, held at CAT but organised by the Powys Transition Network, will draw on the Zero Carbon Britain research and look at the implications for a rural county like Powys. Paul Allen, Alice Hooker-Stroud and Philip James – all researchers on the Zero Carbon Britain project – will all speak at the event.

Programme:

09.30: Reception, tea & coffee

10.00: Conference opens. Welcome. Introduction to PTLCC – Mike Membery Chair PTLCC

10.15: An extra-ordinary story of people and energy”………Paul Allen ZCB

10.50: Land use- rural implications–– Alice Hooker Stroud ZCB

11.25: refreshment break

11.40: Rob Proctor, Renew Wales

11.50: Energy – Power up; Power down-rural implications – Philip James ZCB

12.25: How can we reach new people, fight denial and build a shared vision? George Marshall (COIN)George will lead a discussion group afterwards with a working lunch. Copies of his book will also be available for purchase.

(Please note there will be a brief opportunity for questions after each morning speaker for burning questions but the majority will need to be noted for consideration in the afternoon)

13.00: Buffet lunch and networking, displays in the forum

(All delegates should have stated any special dietary needs at the time of booking)

14:00: Andy Bull Severn Wye Energy Agency

14:10 to 15:40 ‘Open Space Technology’ activity focussed on topics arising from the morning’s presentations, led by Transition Network facilitators

15:40 Plenary feedback, reports from Open Space groups, final questions

16:00 Tea and cakes, goodbyes.

For more information and bookings click here

Postgraduate Open Weekend: 17th- 18th May 2014

If you are an avid reader of CAT’s blog you will be well aware of the range of MSc Programmes offered by our Graduate School of the Environment. This May we are offering the opportunity for anybody interested in studying one of our courses, or anyone who wants to know more about the work of the GSE, to come and visit us to find out more about the unique experience of studying at CAT.

Based in a stunning setting in the Welsh hills, the Centre has been providing sustainability education for over 35 years and offers a range of inspirational postgraduate programmes. A unique combination of leading professionals, academics and authors teach and lead the the courses, offering GSE students the ability to develop not only their theoretical and academic knowledge, but also their practical skills.

Our two day event is no ordinary open day, with leading researchers sharing their work on climate change adaptation, practical activities on site led by students and an evening of pizza and entertainment, it promises to be a memorable and inspiring weekend that gives prospective students real insight into the experience of studying with the GSE.

The Open Weekend will showcase elements of our MSc Renewable Energy and the Built Environment course, as well as providing a first look at some of the issues and topics covered by our brand new MSc Sustainability and Adaptation in the Built Environment and MSc Sustainability and Adaptation: Transformation Planning courses.

REASONS TO STUDY AT CAT

  • Our programmes are designed to equip our graduates with the skills required to work in a sector of increasing importance and relevance and with high demand for skilled individuals.
  • The graduate school is a recognised CPD provider and its MSc Renewable Energy and the Built Environment is accredited by the Energy Institute.
  • Flexibility is at the heart of our unique on-site courses; students come on periodic 5 days attendances at the GSE, which could allow students to continue with their current line of work while studying.
  • The distance learning course uses a highly interactive, modern virtual learning environment with flexible contact times and high levels of student-tutor interaction.
  • All courses benefit from a diverse and experienced student community unlike anywhere in the UK.

Graduates from the programme can look forward to careers in a large architectural practice, local government, government departments, commercial companies, and within the education sector. Over fifty companies have been formed by alumni of the Graduate School of the Environment (GSE). Alumni include Stirling Prize nominees, members of government advisory panels, respected academics, authors, and award winning designers and contractors.

But don’t just take our word for it; come and see for yourself!

For more information on attending the Open Weekend, please contact gsmo@cat.org.uk.

If you would like to take the opportunity to stay in one of our lovely WISE rooms on the night of Saturday May 17th, please contact joan.randle@cat.org.uk for prices and a booking form.

4th International Hemp and Lime Conference

CAT will be hosting the 4th International Hemp Building Symposium on the 9th 10th April. The venue for the symposium is on of the most ambitious hemp and lime buildings in the UK, the WISE building at CAT. The two day event promises to be a most inspiring experience with talks from leading experts and builders in the industry divulging into discussions about the future of hemp industries.

International Hemp Building Association Poster (http://bit.ly/1nBibu0)
International Hemp Building Association Poster (http://bit.ly/1nBibu0)

Hemp itself is crop useful in adapting to climate change and can be sustainably grown. If used in buildings, it sequesters carbon dioxide, can be easily grown without the use of large quantities of chemical fertiliser or pesticides, which helps biodiversity. Hemp and lime is useful in retrofitting older buildings because it is breathable – allowing moisture to escape from the walls. The crop also has  scope  to be used for a wide range of other applications including clothing and nutrition.

You can book to attend the event which includes lunches and an evening meal with a tour of the hemp building and the option to stay on site. The accommodation and venue is CAT’s WISE building, which demonstrates environmentally conscious building techniques including rammed earth internal walls, a large timber frame structure and hemp and lime external walls.  Among the speakers at the conference are Ranyl Rhydwen, a senior lecturer at CAT who is currently setting up our new masters degree in Sustainability and Adaptation. Several former CAT students will also present their work alongside an array of other experts in the field such as Dr Anna Arizzi  from the School of Geography and the Environment Oxford UK and Paolo Ronchetti from Equlibrium Italy. For the full programme and list of speakers visit the International Hemp  Association website.

WISE building at CAT

Click here to find out details about booking for the event

Lines Drawn: A weekend to shake up architectural education

The Centre for Alternative Technology & the Architecture Students Network (ASN) presents Lines Drawn, an exciting event on the future of architectural education. The conference will start off at 12 noon on Saturday the 15th and end 2 pm 16th of March 2014. It promises to be a memorable occasion and is set in the stunning WISE building at CAT.

ASN Flyer (2)

The debate will center around changes to the architectural education system in line with a new EU directive.  It will discuss whether part 1, 2 and 3 should be dramatically shortened or completely scrapped, what emphasis and titles there should be on professional practice and what the new EU directive might mean for architectural education in the UK.

CAT is already an innovator in architectural education. The professional diploma in architecture run at CAT lasts for a continuous 18 months, saving six months on the traditional part II course. It also contains an emphasis on practical experience, alongside academic content.

RIBA has estimated that it takes about a decade for an architect to be be fully registered and is often laborious putting a great deal of people off. Former RIBA president. Jack Pringle said “drastic change” is needed adding that its ”crazy, it can’t take that long to go into one of the poorest-paid professions.”

WISE Building

The event will take place in the WISE building, a unique structure using timber frame, rammed earth and hemp and lime in an  environmentally conscious design showcasing cutting-edge green building techniques. Book asap to be guaranteed a space.

 

This week at CAT; Radio 4 programme Any Questions

The Centre for Alternative Technology is delighted to welcome the Radio 4 program, Any Questions to its sustainable education centre WISE on the 7th of June 2013.  Any Questions, hosted by Jonathan Dimbleby was first broadcast in 1948. Every week it visits a different part of the country with a panel of 4 speakers who answer questions from the audience. The programme provides the opportunity for people to challenge politicians, policy makers, writers and thinkers.

The current panel for the evening is Ann Clwyd, Owen Paterson and Leane Wood. Ann Clwyd Roberts is a Welsh Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Cynon Valley since 1998. Owen William Paterson is a British Conservative Party politician who has been the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs since 2012 and the Member of Parliament for North Shropshire since 1997. Leanne Wood AM, is a Welsh politician and the leader of Plaid Cymru

The quality of the questions that the audience ask is crucial to the success of the programme. The producers look for questions on the most stimulating, moral, political and social issues of the day- the issues that get people talking.  At CAT the Any Questions box will be at the reception when the public enter from 18:00 and the audience can fill in their questions then.

For more information and for free tickets please contact kim.bryan@cat.org.uk/ 01654705957

 

 

 

The Work that Reconnects: spiraling towards sustainability

 

What makes CAT special? CAT is so many things to so many people, but in the two months I’ve volunteered here every answer to this question seems to come back to those three words: inspire, inform, enable. Last Saturday these words gained new meaning for me when I went on a bit of a personal journey through ‘The Work that Reconnects,’ a workshop at CAT based on Joanna Macy’s work and superbly facilitated by Jenny Smith and Jenni Horsfall. This was an intensely personal process, and it was inspiring to see people trust each other with their vulnerabilities – so here I’ll only be talking about my own experience. But be warned, tears were definitely involved.

If you wanted a place to be introspective and thoughtful, you could hardly do better than go to the Brook Trust room in WISE. With its big bay windows and pale ash walls, it seemed to concentrate the sunlight into a calming glow.

Unlike the Douglas fir, CAT's birch trees show the rejuvenation of native flora in the quarry

From the south facing window I could see a small Douglas fir pushing its way out of the steep slate scree: a symbol of local natural triumph just as surely as it reminded me of the global wave of human-distributed non-native species. Over the course of the day I found my eyes returning to that evergreen, as if I could call forth from its needles and the surrounding landscape a message of purpose and hope.

Because let’s be clear: from the moment we started the Work that Reconnects spiral by giving gratitude, I was kind of an emotional wreck. This spiral progresses from gratitude, to honour our pain, to seeing with new eyes, to going forth. On an intellectual level I found much to admire in these phases, but in the moment something about the group’s openness smashed down my walls of rational control and paved a road from my gooey emotional centre straight to my tear ducts. Crying off and on all day was frankly exhausting, and I’m still trying to put my learning into words. But I know the workshop helped and changed me, and I’m happy to let the answers emerge organically. In the meantime, you’ll find me reading some of Macy’s books for more inspiration – and hopefully dry-eyed.

There’s much about the workshop and the Work that Reconnects that I haven’t described here, but there’s a whole network to fill you in on the details. One exercise I found particularly useful for thinking about next steps and new projects was called “the creativity cycle,” using the seasons as a metaphor for change. This sort of thinking may not be for the faint of heart, but if you’re willing to step outside your comfort zone I highly recommend it. So many of the problems facing our world – climate change, environmental destruction, poverty, disease, war and so on – are so overwhelming in their scale and awfulness it can be hard to imagine a positive future. But feelings of panic, fear and loss are nothing new, and  the Work that Reconnects reminded me that we are not alone – and that we can turn our pain into new strength.

The 13th century Persian poet Rumi wrote a poem called “Intelligence and Tears” that Jenny read out at the beginning of the workshop. Not even Rumi had all the answers, but poetry seems to me as good a place as any to begin the final part of the spiral, the ‘going forth’ into the world again:

Till the cloud weeps, how should the garden smile?
The weeping of the cloud and the burning of the sun
are the pillars of this world: twist these two strands together.
Since the searing heat of the sun and the moisture of the clouds
keep the world fresh and sweet,
keep the sun of your intelligence burning bright and your eye glistening with tears.

Three of a Kind: Two Missions: One School of Architecture: CAT

 

The Centre for Alternative Technology is delighted to be displaying work from three of its Professional Diploma in Architecture students at the first ever Wales Festival of Architecture.

Running six weeks long from 23rd March to 4th May, Aberystwyth Arts Centre is playing host to the to the new festival. Organisers aim to stimulate discussion about architecture, providing an opportunity to demonstrate and discuss the wide range of economic, social and environmental benefits that well-designed buildings can bring to a community. The Festival will provide a forum for architects, planners and other professionals and the public to share views and knowledge about the built environment.

The exhibition of CAT work entitled ‘Three of a kind, two missions, one school of architecture: CAT.’ is on display in the main foyer of Aberystwyth Arts Centre and features work from three of CAT’s students as well as a sample from this year’s diploma show.The exhibition showcases the innovative and dynamic forms of teaching post-graduate Architecture students that CAT uses which is unique in the UK.

The professional diploma course at CAT places an emphasis on sustainability and encourages students to explore the themes of transition and the vital role the building design plays in environmental impact. There is a huge potential within the architecture profession for environmental change and this is pivotal to the entire sustainability debate. This is a time of great debate about the future of architectural education in the UK where many want to see architecture get out of its bunker mentality; they want it to rethink the relationship between practice and education, and to embrace the challenge of  radical climate change by reconsidering the level of design intervention and thus resource use in any given situation. The Professional Diploma course at CAT is addressing these issues and is about to embark on a whole new chapter of its experimentation,” said Patrick Hannay, Tutor, Professional Diploma in Architecture.

” What is remarkable is how many students domiciled in Wales are forced to go out of Wales for their architectural education because places are limited in in the Welsh School of Architecture in Cardiff. Wales urgently needs that talent to return, and thus coming back for their post-grad learning to the very heart of Wales at Machynlleth  on such a unique learning experience, in such a fine environment, would ensure that the best of talent would remain in the service of Wales.”

The Centre for Alternative Technology has won a number of awards for its building the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education including the Dewi-Prys TomosThomas Prize and the RIBA Awardsshortlist. For the last 40 years the organisation has been at the forefront of radical ecological experimentation and building design.

The Wales Festival of Architecture will open on the 23rd of March and will be opened by Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas.The launch is a free event, starting at 6pm in the Aberystwyth Arts Centre cinema.

To arrange interviews with any students or staff of CAT please use the following contact.

  Patrick Hannay  077960 65764
  patrick.hannay@cat.org.uk