Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The 'day job'

Last week saw me on my travels for the day job.  I packed the Whippet X into the boot of the car (resplendent on his jacobs fleece) and headed west.

My travels took me through the outskirts of Sherborne - but we did not linger, principally because I was late for a meeting.  In fact it might have been difficult because as an older market town Sherborne was not designed for cars and parking and the traffic snakes its way through the town.  It looks interesting and so I made a mental note to go back.

I attended my meeting (feeling rather foolish as I was late) and then headed further west into the wilds of Somerset.  As I had Whippet X with me we did have to make time for a walk and found a rather lovely wood, which according to the sign is part of the Crown Estates.




And then we headed on to Taunton, and in particular the Genesis Building at Somerset College.  The day was gloomy and so I did not take any pictures of my own (which I now regret though I think that even if I had I am not sure that they would have shown you much.

The Genesis Building is a sustainable teaching and resource building.  From the outside it looks, well, like an educational building.

Image from BBC Somerset


 When you go in you enter a large foyer area which has a cafe space, an office area, a lecture theatre and seminar rooms off it.

Image from BBC Somerset


 So far, so ordinary.

 But each of these areas is actually called a 'pavilion' and is built using different sustainable construction technologies.  So the cafe area is made entirely from mud walls (cob blocks for one wall, traditional cob - that is mud mixed with straw -  and a modern compressed earth technique for the others) with polished mud 'plaster'.  What this 'plaster' looks like is a terracotta coloured paint effect with a lovely buffed sheen.  What it is is mud, dried, sanded and then polished with bees wax.  It is lovely to touch.


Image from BBC Somerset
The office area is timber frame, the  classroom area is straw bale construction and the lecture theatre uses a clay block process where the clay blocks are held together by the thinnest mortar layer.  There are PV panels on the roof and a biomass boiler provides the heating.

Image from BBC Somerset
It is a very inspiring building and demonstrates that using 'non standard building materials is not just for Grand Designs but has commercial applications as well.  It was one of those buildings that ticked all of my boxes.

(For a more comprehensive report go to the BBC Report )

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