Student Blog: Rebecca on burns night and green economics

Home » Student Blog: Rebecca on burns night and green economics


Back at CAT in 2012… The focus for us 4th years was the design pin-ups for the ‘affordable and sustainable housing project’ for a site near the sewage works in Machynlleth. The presentations weren’t till near the end of the week on Saturday, so amongst everything else occurring that week, in coffee breaks, early mornings and throughout the night, we were to be found working away on last presentation finishes, models and details in the old shop and strawbale studios.

At the beginning, on Tuesday night the 5th years celebrated having finished the final presentations of their part 2 and the external examiner’s interviews, they opened the show for us all to see their inspiring designs after dinner. Work included a number of very interesting urban housing and mixed use schemes, an arctic information and research centre, a Baha’i house of worship, timber barrel-vaulted winter gardens in Barmouth, a seafront development and many wonderful hand drawings.

For this module, we could choose between two lecture series, I chose ‘Environment, politics and economics’ which introduced and discussed subjects including zero carbon Britain, Eco-localisation and local money networks, a critique of neo-classical economics and green economic theory. This important subject opened up a whole new field of learning to be done and a reading list that extends the length of my arm, very inspirational and I can’t wait to learn more. The practical continued these themes of thought in a ‘world cafe’ scene where we tried out methods of ‘hosting large group dialogues’ within a flexible format with Blanche. This was a really fun and dynamic day, where discussions and debates often make people feel isolated and self-conscious, this gave everyone a chance to talk evenly and equally.

Julian took the other lecture series; ‘Principles of light, biomass and hydro’ He says:
‘…lighting plays a massive part in design. Lighting, both natural and artificial affects people’s environment and lives in many ways. This module focused on harnessing natural light to use within buildings and at a human scale. We analysed this in built examples including famous landmarks, many of which had not been completely thought out in respect to how daylight will affect internal conditions – some23 have lighting on all day even though the room is flooded with daylight!
We also looked at biofuel and hydro energy, from small scale to city wide schemes. During the practicals, the hydro-energyist’s were getting their hands wet in the stream understanding flow rates and head heights, the biofuels group learnt in detail about C.A.T’s own biofuel unit, and the session I took used IES to analyse a buildings performance. In this extremely interesting practical, the IT suite was packed – in groups we used the software to asses heat performance of our housing projects and compared retrofitting a conventional building up to current building regs standards with one retrofitted up to passive house standards, looking into the economics and payback time of each.’ – Julian

Saturday morning we started our presentations, we had all pinned up the night before (well most of us except some extra determined and/or crazy people who worked the last slog,) ready for first thing in the morning – we wanted to get everything done before the Burns night celebrations. Seeing all our work up as a group for the first time was great and the quality of work my peers produced made me proud to be part of it, and hopefully, when the grades come out next week, the hard work over the festive holidays will have been worth it.

Marcus’ solar street is designed to ‘…uptake and retain as much of the sun’s energy as possible. As and when required’… and uses phase change material for thermal qualities within the structure. His presentation stood out with some eye-catching renders and sun path analysis.

Matt’s minimum impact, self-sustaining, development was a self-build scheme that ‘…provides the opportunity for local residents to not only build, but to also learn the skills needed to build their own homes, and therefore a skill that could turn into vocation. The scheme is arranged around the community house in a semi-circle ring of gardens, allotments, wetlands. This approach assists the development to blend into the existing built environment, providing a unique place for residents and the community…’

Martyn set out to ‘…determine how a non-vehicle environmentally aware estate would work whilst planning for future expansion…’ and arrived at a ‘…geometrical design deriving from the Fibonacci sequence, focused on viewpoints, incorporating localised construction and design phases.’

I took the approach of whole-life cycle design for community, with existing demographics and density determining site content. Exploring courtyard design with shared communal facilities that responded to site through landscaping and suds network to cope with the saturate soil and flood risk of the area.

This is Clare’s ‘…first foray into a holistic approach to sustainable design using timber from local forestry and attempting to be independent of mains of energy supply and waste treatment.’ The scheme was demonstrated through presentation boards of beautiful hand drawings, created on her retro-style drawing board.

Charlottes scheme was a subtle design, continuing the existing urban grain and investigating straw bale infill to timber frame construction with ‘lanterns’ to catch light and heat from the sun.

These were amongst many other great ideas including Dan’s Transient Landscapes and James’s design for deconstruction, hemp/lime construction, modular design, timber framing, straw bale systems and floating home devices. Here’s Ben’s housing model and Tim’s beautiful and subtle housing.