'Lego for adults' will form new eco-centre
By Martin Paul - Senior Reporter
COMMUNITY composting group Rotters will showcase the latest in sustainable building when work starts on its new eco-centre.
The group last week took delivery of tonnes of Isotex blocks that will form the shell of three-storey centre at their site in Startforth.
Martin Bacon, of Rotters, described the blocks as “Lego for adults, only a bit more complicated”.
He added: “They are 100 per cent recycled wood, clay and cement which basically makes them waterproof.”
Each block has insulation incorporated into it which faces the exterior of the building, with a hollow section facing the interior of the building.
The hollow section is then filled with concrete and rebar, making it a simple building process, which will be done entirely by Rotters staff and volunteers.
Mr Bacon said: “The great thing is you don’t need a bricklayer. The concrete is on the inside so it can absorb heat. You end up with a heat sink inside your building and the outside is insulated from the cold.”
The idea is then to place a breathable membrane on the exterior cladded with wood.
Mr Bacon expects the total building cost to be about £98,000.
The really exciting stuff starts once the main structure is completed and plans are for interior partitions to be created using a variety of other sustainable building methods, such as using rammed earth or hemp walls and plastering using materials such as clay.
The thermal value of each, as well as costs, will be recorded, so people can visit the completed centre and learn first-hand what will work for their own building plans, Mr Bacon said.
Similarly, a variety of systems are planned as working examples of what other people can use in their own homes, such as underground or air-source heating, solar energy and heating, and water harvesting.
Indeed, captured rainwater will be used to flush toilets in the facility and to provide irrigation for the group’s greenhouses.
Further plans are to capture grey water – used water from sinks – and use it for irrigation as well.
Mr Bacon said: “Anyone can come and see what works and we will keep all the data [to show them]. We are not selling stuff – if something doesn’t work, we’ll tell them.”
As for when building work will get underway, Mr Bacon said: “Once we have the foundations in it will go up quite fast. I am just waiting for the engineer’s plans.”
People can follow the buildings progress by following the Rotters Community Composting Facebook page.