Community Spirit!

glass house

Recently Cave teamed up with the charity The Glass-House to help them with a tour of sustainable community buildings, for a collection of diverse community groups who were interested in starting similar projects themselves.

First stop was The London Wildlife Trusts, Centre for Wildlife Gardening in Peckham.

Built in 1992 the centre is an award winning project by local designers Architype Architects. The building was the first to use recycled newspaper insulation in a breathable construction. The building is orientated to have maximum passive solar gain in autumn, winter and spring and natural ventilation and solar shading in the summer. Non toxic paints were use throughout the internal and external areas of the project. The Contract Value at the time was £56.000, so in today’s money that would be something around the £90.000. This building gets very hot during the summer, so some additional shading and ventilation is needed to the South elevation, but the building is well designed in terms of it’s function and aesthetics, just needs a little tweaking! The gardens here are fantastic and are well worth a visit…

Next stop was The Roots and Shoots building in Kennington, designed by Paul Noltey. The eco-building was completed in 2005 and officially opened in 2007 by HRH The Prince of Wales, it is the hub of Roots and Shoots’ activities. It’s a timber clad building with a large photovoltaic roof which generates around 50% of their electricity needs, it has solar water heating, rainwater collection for the WC’s and to water plants and in the cladding there are built-in insect and bird boxes. It’s where the training rooms, office and reception are housed and has a light and spacious hall and meeting rooms. The occupants of this building are really happy with the amount of usable space they now have, making their facility a real asset to the Charity, but feel more consultation during the design process was needed, which could have designed out some ongoing maintenance issues which they now have.

And finally, we took our little tour bus to the Manor Park Cafe in Sutton.

The café completed last year, boasts an impressive array of environmental features and was built by the UK’s leading straw bale design company Amazonails following a proposal from Sutton Council. The construction is of rammed car tyre foundations, UK produced load bearing straw bale walls, external Lime and Hemp render, internal Lime plaster, Oak timber framing, and a living roof. The building construction took just three months to complete. This little building is a fantastic example of how well straw insulates, but it does suffer from over heating! This could have been designed out at an early stage except that the architect that originally received the planning approval hadn’t designed for straw or for passive solar heating and cooling, this coupled with time constraints meant that adjustments to the approved designs couldn’t be made so Amazonails had to sustainably build a building that hadn’t been designed to be sustainable! With some external shading to the South this building will be toasty in the winter and cool in the summer.

All three buildings have their successes and failures, but all show what can be accomplished within the community if you put your mind to it. It was a really interesting day out and we met some lovely people, all with fantastic ideas and projects that if they come to fruition will be a real benefit to their communities, so good luck people!

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