Build a tiny house…

tiny house1We 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.

8096918469_1098dc91a6_mCarwyn 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.

Power in the Land

alana_quilt-detail-230x170We are excited to hear that the North Wales arts collective X-10 are opening their new show Power in the Land this weekend.
The dynamic, diverse and multi-talented group of ten artists were inspired by the closure and decommisioning of the last nuclear power station in Wales – Wylfa in Anglesey – at the end of 2015.

The resulting work – two years in the making – is an engaging medley of work in video, sound, performance, installation and in graphic and photographic forms.

The impact made by the arrival of Wylfa in the 1960’s on the language and culture of this corner of Wales is explored, together with the legacy of a major power institution on the landscape.

The 10 artists have been chosen for their exhibiting experience, their creativity and their willingness to explore beyond the obvious, to eNo-entry1-230x170xperiment and to engage in creative dialogue with each other.

They have been working together on the site and responding to the physical, material and energetic presence of the power station, as well as its geographical landscape, and the interactions with the local community.

Join Alana Tyson, Ant Dickinson, Jessica Lloyd-Jones, Robin Tarbet and Teresa Paiva in conversation and lively debate on Saturday 6th Feb, at 5pm in the Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown.
No booking necessary.
Refreshments available for a small donation

The group are taking their touring exhibition across Wales before traveling to England and Europe.

Dates:

Oriel Davies
6th Feb to 6th April, 2016

Main exhibition of artworks and artists talks.
Anglesey Arts Weeks
19th March to 3rd April, 2016

Artist’s group working process Open Studio.
Aberystwyth Arts Centre
14th May to 18th July, 2016

Main exhibition of artworks.

World Wetland Day 2016

The Centre for Alternative Technology sits in the Dyfi Biosphere, a UNESCO world heritage site. We were give the status largely due to our proximity to Cors Dyfi, a unique peat bogland site.

map bach_0

Wetlands host a huge variety of life, protect our coastlines, provide natural sponges against river flooding, and store carbon dioxide to regulate climate change.

Unfortunately, wetlands are often viewed as wasteland, and more than 64% of our wetlands have disappeared since 1900.

Many of the short courses developed at CAT are done with the protection of the local ecology as a driving factor. We offer courses in Pond and Stream Invertebrate Life, Understanding Amphibians, Rainwater Harvesting, Greywater and Water Purification, Reedbeds and Waste Water Management and Ecosystem services:- Land use, water and waste management.

reedbed

Join us on a short course and help us spread awareness about the importance of wetlands.

Holly Owen – artist in residence

Artists close up-1

Holly Owen, environmental artist, came to live at the Centre for Alternative Technology seven months ago as our artist in residence. Holly’s time here has been inspiring, not just for her artistic practise, but for all the staff that have been a part of her continuing journey into low impact art.

“Playing with materials bound to the earth lifts us out of the commonplace and into a world re-imagined. Art has the ability to re-enchant our consciousness with the world when the facts and figures of climate change leave us numb.”

Holly Owen, 2016

Bees

Holly’s art and climate change journey started eight years ago, when she began to explore natural, low impact materials and processes in her artistic practice.

Experimenting with golden-yellow Dartmoor beeswax, Holly began to unravel the ecological mysteries surrounding the decline of the honeybee during her residency at Buckfast Abbey. This was the first step in an ongoing journey, exploring local and global environmental issues that affect humanity in both subtle and devastating ways.

“In the first week of my residency at the Centre for Alternative Technology, I realised how surface level my knowledge was about global climate change. This was going to be a sharp learning curve from the ground up.
Thankfully my residency was connected with CAT’s education department, so alongside many groups of school kids I spent my first few months eagerly absorbing the wealth of knowledge that this enthusiastic team have to share,” said Holly.

Holly joined CAT in the summer of 2015, in months before COP21 in Paris. It was then that she realised the significance of the timing of her residency.

“Two years prior to my CAT journey I began working with digital artist Kristina Pulejkova on a multi-media project entitled Switching Heads-sound mapping the Arctic.
The project took us to a community deep within the Arctic Circle where we worked alongside local people to collect the sights, sounds and stories from one of the most endangered environments on earth.
We were invited to take the resulting film to the art and culture festival ArtCOP21 that ran in conjunction with COP21 in Paris.
As our anticipation of this important global event grew, so did the atmosphere at CAT. Embracing the opportunity to delve into the political world that CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain programme resides in, and encouraged by the active work of groups such as Reclaim the Power, Kristina and I hurtled towards COP21 fully fuelled with knowledge and a sense of people power.
I feel proud and humbled to have had the opportunity to play an active role in the events surrounding COP21, made even more poignant by the timing of my connection to CAT.”

Switching Heads (Llwyngwern slate)
Switching Heads (Llwyngwern slate)

Inspired by this life changing foray into international climate talks and activism, Holly’s piece Switching Heads (Llwyngwern slate) looks out through the withered leaves of the sparse winter beds of CAT’s central polytunnel. A life-sized head, formed from slither-thin shards of CAT quarry slate, blends organically into its surroundings.

In April, Holly will be making a welcome return to CAT, with fellow artist Kristina to record a second film for their on-going series Switching Heads – sound mapping the […] – exploring climate change through the voices of people who live and work in places of environmental significance.
Their current films – and the adventures they had making them – can be seen here.

Allotment, by Holly Owen, 2015

Holly’s piece Allotment uses the Fibonacci sequence to showcase seeds collected from CAT head gardener Roger McLennan’s historic seed bank. Using a pattern that appears regularly in natural forms – think sunflower seed heads, trees branches, an artichoke flower, an unfurling fern – this piece shows the seeds oscillating out from the center of a disc painted in Llwyngwern slate pigment.
Allotment spans a UK food-growing year challenging food production, food miles and waste and encouraging locally grown, organic, seasonal produce that can give extra enjoyment to the food we eat and share.

My Earth, 2015

explores CAT through the infinite colours, tones and textures under our feet. Thirty two different postcard sized swatches were painted with mud pigments map the site, each accompanied by an individual story of discovery. It is a snapshot of Holly’s seven months at CAT, her journey and the re-enchantment of finding beauty in the mundane and overlooked.
Accompanying this work, stories from CAT’s passionate, skilled and creative community are shared, demonstrating why CAT is so important to them. These stories create a colourful, unique and positive patchwork of individual journeys that collectively form a community like no other.

As this phase of Holly’s work comes to a close, and she is set to embark on another adventure curating art for a festival in the Severn valley, Holly reflects.
“The months that I have spent living and working in this reclaimed Welsh slate quarry amongst the ancient history, the realised dreams and the shared futures has focused my creativity in ways unimagined. As my art and climate change journey continues, it has been enriched with a deeper focus for an alternative way of life, imagined through the arts and made possible by all of us.”

Thank you for helping us here at CAT appreciate what we have under our feet, Holly. We are looking forward to sharing a Welsh Spring with you when you return.

Allotment, Holly Owen, 2015
Allotment, Holly Owen, 2015

The Low Carbon Breakfast

Here at the Centre for Alternative Technology, we run a wholly vegetarian restaurant. Catering for our own MSc. students, staff and people participating on our short courses, no-one goes hungry here.
In an attempt to showcase a low or zero carbon future, we demonstrate dishes and techniques that have a decreased impact on our environment.

Laura Blake, CAT nutritionist, says, “Reducing your red meat consumption is the single most effective and important thing you can do to lower your diet-related greenhouse gas emissions. It has also been shown to lower your risk of certain diseases: including bowel cancer – making it healthier for you too!”

Agriculture contributes to a third of the total carbon emissions, and the increase in conventional methods of farming poses a rising threat to the environment as the world tries to feed an additional two billion people by 2050.

We believe a low carbon economy is more energy efficient, more energy secure, cleaner, quieter and safer.

And more delicious, too.
So, here are five of our restaurants favourite breakfast dishes for you, to celebrate National Breakfast Week.

Porridge (serves two)
Oats are really low in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, so porridge is a low cost and filling way to start the day. Soaking the oats overnight reduces the cooking time.

Ingredients:
160 g rolled oats
600 ml milk, organic soya milk or water
Sea salt

Method:
Toast the oats until beginning to turn brown; this gives them a nutty flavour.
Place the oats and the milk or water in a large pan over night.
In the morning, gently bring to a simmer, then add a tiny pinch of salt and stir.
Simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring as often as you can to give you a smooth creamy porridge.
If you like your porridge runnier, simply add a splash more milk or water until you’ve got the consistency you like.
Adding fruit helps meet your five-a-day. Locally grown, low carbon options include: apple, pear, blackberries, raspberries, plums – at the right time of year, obviously!

Vegan Mediterranean Shakshuka (serves two hungry people)
In Israel shakshuka is often eaten for breakfast, but this super easy and versatile dish can be cooked or any meal of the day.
Ingredients:

½ tbsp olive oil
½ small brown or white onion, peeled and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ medium green or red bell pepper, chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
½ tsp chilli powder (mild)
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper (or more to taste– spicy!)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 block firm tofu, pressed and drained
½ tbsp fresh chopped parsley

Method:
Gently heat a deep frying pan (a cast iron pan is ideal for this) and add olive oil.
Add chopped onion, sauté for a few minutes until the onion begins to soften.
Add garlic and continue to sauté till mixture is fragrant.
Add the pepper, sauté for 5 minutes until softened.
Add tomatoes and tomato puree to pan, stir till blended.
Add spices, stir well, and allow mixture to simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes until it starts to reduce.

Taste the mixture and season it according to your preferences.
Slice the tofu along the width into four squares and gently place onto tomato mixture.
Cover the pan. Allow mixture to simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sauce has slightly reduced.
Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.

A bowl of cereal
High fibre breakfast cereals with low sugar and salt content are useful as a quick fix – all cereals are pretty low in carbon and can be grown easily in this country. Sadly, with the average person in the UK still not meeting their five-a-day requirements, this is where a lot of people get a significant amount of their micronutrients from!
As a guide, muesli or a cereal with bran in its title is a good bet, but do check the sugar/salt content on the packet.

Fruit Smoothie
Lots of fruit will grow in the UK, especially if you can give it a bit of protection in a conservatory, greenhouse or against a south facing wall. Here in wet and windy Wales, we were still harvesting raspberries the week before Christmas, and enjoy growing some more unusual fruit – goji berries and honeyberries seem to do well.

Ingredients:
One handful of any seasonal fruit – berries, plums, apricots, figs, currants
300ml milk, or milk substitute, or apple juice, or water and yogurt
2 tbs oats

Method:
If there’s time, prep the fruit the night before and store it in the fridge.
In the morning, buzz it together with a hand blender or liquidizer.

Beans or egg or scrambled tofu, with wilted spinach on toast
Commercially produced eggs are significantly higher in emissions than the other two.Can you keep a trio of ex-battery hens in your back yard? They take up less room than you think, will gobble up much of your garden waste and vegetable peelings and offer you an egg or two a day in return.
High protein foods should help keep you fuller for longer and stop you snacking!
Tofu has far less of an environmental impact than many would believe – it also has a high water content.
A handful of spinach, fresh from the garden, quickly cooked in a pan and added to either scrambled eggs or tofu adds both nutrition and taste.
Use wholemeal bread to boost the nutritional content, and top with herbs fresh from the garden – chives, parsley and marjoram all have additional health benefits.

Want to know more?
This clever little tool will tell you eggsactly how many miles your egg has traveled:
http://www.foodmiles.com/egg-miles.cfm

Find out the environmental effects of your weekly diet: look at Laura’s larder

Food miles calculator

http://www.zerocarbonbritain.com/zcb-using-zcb/zcb-resources

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

 

 

Andrew is challenging the conventional role of the architect

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.

Andrew receiving his graduation scroll

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.

Rammed Earth Vault – a world first?

I have spent time over the last couple of months building a vault out of un-stabilised in-situ rammed earth.  Without known precedent, it is believed to be a world first.  Although there is a pre-cast example built in Austria by students under the supervision of Martin Rauch, there are significant challenges relating to the in-situ construction process that I was testing.  The vault is a 1:5 mock-up of part of my Final Major Project proposal for sustainable Greenbelt Development outside Edinburgh.

IMG_1836

The full size vault would be 11 metres wide and 9.5 metres tall at its highest point and extends 20 metres to form an open air hall aimed to encourage a respect for the earth that we rely on to grow food and that can also provide another of our basic needs: shelter.  It would also be occasionally used for events relating to the small scale, sustainable farm work that takes place on the rest of the site.

The principle behind the rammed earth vault lies in the structural properties of rammed earth, which has significant compressive strength but cannot withstand tensile stress.  When flipped to form an arch, a catenary curve – following the path of a chain as it hangs in tension from two fixed points – creates a structure that is entirely in compression.  Whilst the structural principle is ancient and simple, the construction implications of angled ramming and formwork design were unable to be proven possible until the removal of the formwork. The revealing of the finished vault on the 16th of December was witnessed by CAT students from across the REBE, SA and Prof Dip courses.

I would like to put out a huge thank you to the staff and long list of students who helped me and to Rowland Keable, whose advice on the removal of formwork (which can be a risky procedure) was invaluable.

Here is a video showing the formwork being removed:

 

This blog is by Tasha Aitken, a final year student on the Professional Diploma in Architecture: Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies course; the Part II Architecture course at CAT.

 

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.

Typren-Work

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.