Monday, 15 October 2012

Year Two's First Project


I have just started my second year back in Plymouth. I'm still loving the course, and of course my new housemates.

Our current project is to create a holiday cottage for two, in a wood on Bodmin Moor, entirely without the use of fossil fuels. There is a crumbling ruin on site, with which we must work. To begin with this sounds straightforward, but once you start thinking about embodied energy, then it starts to get tricky....

For example, thinking about which materials to use, one thinks of wood, seeing as it is a renewable material (if managed correctly). But then you have to think of where that wood is coming from (as you can't use transport due to the fossil fuels it uses as power), and how it has been processed (we can't use tools that have themselves been made with fossil fuels or use fuels to power them).

Admittedly, the timber issue was fairly straight forward; I am using local oak to make a green oak frame. This in itself has its problems as it will warp as it seasons (seasoning wood in modern times has been done with a process of 'baking' which uses fossil fuels as power). Also, we must consider whether we actually want to chop down the trees, as this will definitely expose the hidden site. The more interesting problems, however, come with things like the oven, piping and windows - I wanted an aga or something similar, but the cast iron needs too many processes; plumbing generally uses copper pipes, but there isn't a way to make them on site; windows must be made on site, which leaves the option of handblown glass.

See? It gets tricky.

And it's due on the 23rd. Minor panic.
Beautiful bit of Cornwall.
The site is in the patch of trees on the right!

The heavy canopy and the top of the ruin.

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