Douglas Murray Eco Architect

Douglas Murray Eco Architect

Aigas Resource Centre at the Field Centre

Sustainability must be the key word for this millennium. The last few generations have seen huge increases in the consumption of fossil fuels. We know there are finite reserves of these oil, gas and coal fuels, and sooner or later, they will run out. We cannot continue to plunder the Earth's precious resources.

We know too that burning fossil fuels generates huge amounts of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas which contributes to global warming. Global warming is by far the most serious problem faced by us. If we fail to tackle it, there will be catastrophic results affecting not just us humans but all forms of life everywhere on our planet.

In the UK, buildings alone are responsible for over half the energy consumed and produce nearly a quarter of co2. We therefore must design our buildings so that they use much less energy, both to build in the first place, and to use, and so that they produce much less co2 when they are in use.

This Centre tries hard to address these issues for example by using locally sourced materials and components, so that pollution from transport is minimised. All the timber in the heavy Douglas Fir beams, in the hidden structure of the walls and in the external Larch cladding has come from local forests where trees are grown along renewable principles. The stone in the external walls below the larch came from the local quarry no more than a mile away, and the finish on the roof came from the field just beside the Centre. In order to reduce the energy needs of the building, the floor and walls and roof are all highly insulated, the walls and roof using an insulation material made from old plastic bags, and the heating system uses very modern and efficient heat pump techniques, systems which, it is planned, will be driven by a wind turbine on the hill close by, where the turf for the roof came from!

It is a building designed to fit into the landscape. The stonework connects the building to the ground, the Larch cladding makes connections with the trees in which the Centre sits, and the green roof ...well a red kite flying high above Aigas might be forgiven if he thinks this green roof is just part of the natural landscape.

The Centre is also designed to profit from passive solar gain - the extensive glazed areas on the sunny side of the building will allow (free) solar energy into the heart of the building, so reducing the demands on the heat pump heating system, and at the same time creating a particularly pleasant environment for the visitors as well as the staff in the Centre.

It is a healthy building too. There are no harmful, toxic chemical used in any of the components in the building, just natural materials. And it is an airy building, not relying on mechanical ventilation.

Time will tell if the building is successful in meeting these sustainability principles. I hope it will at least encourage and perhaps inspire the visitor to think a little harder about our precious environment and where and how we live.

On 4 June 2009, Sir John Lister-Kaye and Lady Lucy had the pleasure of entertaining the Prince of Wales and Lady Camilla who came to open officially The Magnus House, the name given to the new Resource Centre, after Magnus Magnusson, Sally Magnusson also being there to tell us how much her father loved Aigas. Some of the staff and the building team were introduced to the Prince of Wales, including myself. A photograph is included here. I think the joke was about having a goat up on the grass roof to keep control of growth.