Zero Carbon Conversations

During our latest Zero Carbon Britain (ZCB) course, film-maker Mike Erskine asked people about their hopes, fears and ambitions for a climate safe future.

Watch these Zero Carbon Conversations to find out how people stay positive despite challenging times, where they think the barriers lie, and what they think needs to be done to make change happen.

If this inspires you to take action, why not join us on the next Zero Carbon Britain course to find out more about how we can get to net zero greenhouse gas emissions using technology available today.

 

  

 

Switching Heads – Sound Mapping the Quarry

This summer, visitors to CAT can meet a very special quarry resident. Artist Holly Owen introduces Geoffrey Grey, our resident story-collector, and looks at how you can get involved in an innovative project exploring responses to climate change.

mainimageSwitching Heads – sound mapping the […] is a collaborative multi-media art project between myself and artist Kristina Pulejkova, which we started together in 2013.

Blending our different art practices together, our project seeks to inspire environmental action through shared empathy, honesty and the lived experience.

Using our unique combination of immersive sound technology, environmentally un-intrusive sculpture and film, our project celebrates areas around the world that are environmentally significant. Spending time in these places, we invite local people to share their stories, concerns and solutions in the face of global climate change with a life-size head sculpted from site-specific materials. Audiences are drawn into a continuous switch between home and place, stimulating emotive response, shared concern and grassroots action.

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 13.14.56The first film in our series entitled Switching Heads – sound mapping the Arctic was filmed in 2015 in the remote frozen city of Tromsø, deep within the Arctic Circle. Searching always for the true story, we captured local people’s concern for their home sinking beneath the rising Arctic sea, the loss of their traditional and contemporary culture, and the extinction of their iconic species, as well as excitement at the idea of one day having a longer, hotter summer.

This year we are delighted to bring Switching Heads to the Centre for Alternative Technology. Having spent seven months at CAT as their 2015-2016 artist in residence I am delighted to have the opportunity to work alongside this influential organisation again and this time to be able to transport audiences around the country and beyond to this unique and beautiful location.

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 11.21.32Every day from 24th July to 1st August Kristina and I will be filming Switching Heads – sound mapping the Quarry alongside the third member of our Welsh team Geoffrey Grey. Geoffrey, a life-sized head that we have sculpted from CAT’s very own quarry slate, will be waiting to hear stories from CAT’s visitors as they explore the centre’s gardens, woodland paths and exhibits.

Keep up to date with Geoffrey’s adventures on the Switching Heads blog.

Website: www.switching-heads.com
Twitter: @OwenPulejkova

 

Off-grid water works

Do you know where your water comes from? You probably just turn on the tap and there it is. Flush the toilet and off it goes. Most of us have no idea where our water comes from, or where our sewage goes.

At CAT we do things differently. We’re completely off-grid when it comes to water – we have no mains water supply or sewage treatment. So we have to think very carefully about how we use this precious resource.

Here’s how our water works.

 

Reduce, reduce, reduce!

We start by minimising the volume of water that we use. Low flush toilets, waterless urinals and compost toilets help by reducing the amount that gets flushed away. Low flow taps and water efficient shower heads mean less goes down the drain. Which of these things could you do at home?

So what’s left? We need it for drinking water, for hydro electric turbines and to power our cliff railway. Let’s focus on how we get it clean enough to drink, and how we treat the wastewater so it can be safely returned to the river that flows past CAT.

 

Good enough to drink

The CAT reservoir, which is nestled in the hills behind the visitor centre, holds most of the water used on site. It was created to directly power the machinery for the old quarry on which CAT is built. The other sources of CAT’s water are rainfall into the lakes, ponds and rainwater butts across the site.

The water is siphoned from the middle of the reservoir, using atmospheric pressure to force it up through a pipe. This method doesn’t use a pump, which ensures that the system is low-energy.

Water is then piped down the hill to CAT. Water to be used for drinking passes through slow sand filters to remove pollutants. While this process effectively removes pathogens, the water is later treated by ultraviolet (UV) purifiers to finish the job.

 

Managing the wastewater

Greywater and foul water from CAT flows into settlement tanks, where solids are separated from liquids. Solids are composted whilst liquids are passed into a series of reed beds which sit below the CAT site.

The reed beds clean the water through a combination of the micro-organisms in the reed beds, and the physical and chemical properties of the reeds.

After being passed through these beds, the now clean water is returned to the river below CAT, where it is joined by the water that has powered our hydro turbines, driven the cliff railway and heated a building through a water-source heat pump. All of it borrowed – and made to work very hard – on its way from the mountains to the sea.

 

Over the summer, we’ll be giving free guided tours of the CAT water systems so you can get a close-up look at some of these systems. Take a look at our events calendar for details of what’s on when.

If you’d like more in-depth info, the three courses mentioned above run back-to-back and can be booked as a package. Book two or more of these and we’ll give you 10% off. See courses.cat.org.uk for details, or call us 01654 704966.

Skill-sharing with the Wanju Ladies Club

There’s a quiet revolution happening in South Korea. People are moving ‘back to the village’ in huge numbers following the economic crisis and rejection of the consumerist and competitive urban lifestyle.

For many this is a difficult transition from a highly service-orientated city culture, but there is a group for whom it is particularly challenging and that is the unmarried women who are making the shift in large numbers. These women are not only bravely embracing a new way of life with limited skills but are also tackling long standing traditions and prejudice around gender roles.

Jijeong and Bohyun with Jyoti and Paul from CAT's courses team.
Jijeong and Bohyun with Jyoti and Paul from CAT’s courses team.

This week we welcomed two such women: Jijeong and Bohyun from the Wanju Ladies Club, a cooperative established to up-skill and enable single women returning to the country. In just three years they’ve established the cooperative and created training courses and materials on heating, cooking, renewable energy, insulation, rainwater harvesting and up-cycling. Jijeong and Bohyun are two of the seven founding members who are all activists in social and environmental movements and experts in the field of alternative and appropriated technology.

By up-skilling women in this way the club hopes to enable women to be more autonomous in their homes but also to elevate their status within their communities, improve the lives of the village as a whole, and to establish these women as role models for future generations of girls to become learners and teachers, transforming culture over time to be more inclusive and welcoming.

Jijeong and Bohyun came all this way to learn about CAT’s evolution and how we’ve challenged gender stereotypes over the years, from hiring a female builder Cindy Harris to lead construction at CAT for 17 years, to continually questioning our thinking and actions to attract a more diverse audience to CAT as members, visitors and students. Our latest Zero Carbon Britain research ‘Making it Happen’ (coming soon!) also features special content on gender and race equality and the author Helen Atkins was interviewed by Jijeong and Bohyun during their stay.

Whilst here our guests have also attended a course in Traditional Timber Frame Joints with Carwyn Jones and ‘a way of building used locally sourced materials’ with Maurice Mitchell, author of The Lemonade Stand.

We are the first to admit we don’t have all the answers but hope we can help them during their visit by sharing how we aim to inspire people from diverse backgrounds. So what’s next for the Wanju Ladies Club? Well they’ll be setting up an advice service for aspiring community energy projects as well as a construction cooperative for social housing initiatives, and that’s just for starters…. We wish them all the best for what sounds like an amazing and very worthwhile project.

What’s on at CAT this summer?

Every day during the school holidays…

Enjoy special activities every day during the school holidays (18th July to 29th August). Get the kids out exploring nature and let them get creative with eco-crafts and solar boat-building. Take a guided tour or explore our brand new Quarry Trail. Just relax in our organic gardens or stop for lunch in the CAT cafe. See you soon!

Fun for kids!

 

EcoCrafts-Blog

 

 

Get crafty with natural jewellery making

 

 

 

 

 

SolarBoat

 

 

Put your inventing cap on and build a solar-powered boat

 

 

 

 

 

SlugsAndBugs

 

 

Get up close to some amazing beasties on a slug & bug hunt

 

 

 

And adults too!

 

GuidedTour

 

 

Take a guided tour to learn more about renewable energy and greener buildings

 

 

 

 

NewQuarryTrail

 

 

 

 

Explore our brand new Quarry Trail for amazing views across the old quarry on which CAT is built

 

 

 

 

 

Woodwork

 

 

Release your inner bodger with green woodcraft demonstrations every Wednesday

 

 

 

 

*School holiday activites run from 18th July to 29th August, with kids’ activities and guided tours on every day

To find out what’s on when, take a look at our events calendar at http://visit.cat.org.uk/whats-on

 

Zero Carbon Britain short course scholarship

Would you like to come and stay at CAT, learn about the ins and outs of Zero Carbon Britain (ZCB), attend a high profile conference – all the day before the wonderful Small is Beautiful Festival?

To apply for your free place, please send us no more than 300 words explaining why you would benefit from a funded place, and how you’ll use the knowledge gained from the course.

Apply by emailing courses@cat.org.uk

Deadline: 5pm GMT Friday 12th August.

Course details

Thursday 8th – Friday 9th September

The next Zero Carbon Britain short course will explore ways we can deliver a climate positive future, while maintaining a modern lifestyle. We also look at how ZCB can be used successfully to inspire positive action, stimulate debate and build consensus in our communities and places of work.

Scholarship entries will be judged by a panel of CAT staff and announced on 17th August on the CAT Facebook page.

By entering, you accept that CAT will post the winner’s first name and surname initial to our Facebook page.

The prize includes all course fees and full board accommodation at CAT.

Good luck!

Careers Wales STEM careers fair “Codi STEM”

zc__mih_header_3CAT’s education team will be attending the Careers Wales STEM careers fair “Codi STEM” on Tuesday 21st June at Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor’s CaMDA site in Dolgellau. The event is aimed at pupils who will be beginning year 9 (Form 3) at local schools in September.

The focus of the event is to raise awareness of local employment opportunities in the energy sector, especially those opportunities that link in with STEM subjects. CAT will be focussing on our Zero Carbon Britain project and presenting the opportunities the renewable sector offers.

CATeduwind39

The event gives local employers and stakeholders the opportunity to present what employment opportunities there are locally that focus on the core STEM subjects. This is an excellent opportunity for our education team to make sure that alternative energy alternatives are presented at this key career fair for school age pupils.

 

 

The day will be comprised of interactive workshops and talks that will highlight the kind of skills that employers in the STEM sector will be looking for in the future and clarify how pupils can make sure that they are ready to take on the exciting opportunities that will be on offer.

The event is open to the general public from 14.00-16.00.

Self-Build Architecture and the Housing Crisis at Glastonbury 2016

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.

glasto1 (3)

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:

 

Emergency Buildings for Gaza and Nepal

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.

emergency shelter
UNHCR tarpaulin on emergency shelter

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.

bamboo earthquake shelter
A bamboo structre for use in Nepal

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.

students emergency shelter
Constructing I-beams to test for use in two-story emergency buildings in Gasa

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.

More about the course

Sustainable Building Courses at CAT

One of the great things about the Centre for Alternative Technology is the sheer quantity of architectural and design features around the site.

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View from the Wigloo
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The funicular Cliff Railway
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Eco cabins

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.

We run a number of courses which are connected to design and architecture,  varying from short courses on timber frame construction to a Professional Diploma in Architecture.

For more information about our short courses: https://courses.cat.org.uk/sustainable-building

and graduate level courses: