By design, the increased levels of insulation to the existing school and the construction of a well-insulated cavity wall north extension helped reduce the energy requirements to the hostel. In the hostel’s public area a 4/6kW efficient Hwam Vivaldi wood burning stove fuelled from CO2 neutral locally harvested fuel timbers provides space heating and a social focus to the main space.
A back up high efficiency LPG Vokera Pinnacle 16 condensing boiler was installed linked to the same hot water cylinder as the solar panels to provide domestic hot water and heating via radiators to the bedrooms. Ideally we would have avoided the use of fossil fuels altogether but space & cost constraints forced our hand. Mains gas was not available in the village. LPG (in an underground tank) was the cleanest burning and most efficient fuel obtainable. If space had not been an issue and we had our time again we would have been keen to install a zero CO2 wood chip central heating / hot water boiler. Sadly no space was available to deliver or store large quantities of wood chip on the tight site in the middle of the existing village.
Solar Hot Water System
The Youth Hostel has a large hot water demand with up to 22 people requiring hot showers at the end of each day. To reduce water heating from conventional heating sources sixty-four individual Schott high vacuum tube collectors with Aluxid absorbers are linked to a stainless steel 280 litre DHW storage cylinder. The solar circuit is a sealed and pressurised system using expansion vessels, pressure relief valves, automatic air vents, circulation pump, and a special controller to operate the pump when the solar panels have useful heat to add to the cylinder.
Local Rain Water Collection
One of the most wasteful aspects of all buildings is the use of clean drinking water for low grade washing and toilet flushing. All the building’s washing water and toilet flushing water requirements are met by collected rainwater from the main hostel slate roof via Lindab galvanised gutters, down pipes and a Wisy smoothing inlet filter to be stored in a buried 1500 litre underground GRP Rainharvester Tank. Collected rainwater is then pumped via a submersible pump and floating suction filter, to a holding tank ready for gravity feed use on demand.
One unisex Sun- Mar Excel (electric) dry composting toilet was fitted by Eastwood Services, with a mechanically vented soil pipe system to allow evaporation to air of excess urine. Dried human solids, along with kitchen wastes and garden debris material, will be composted and then returned to the land as an invaluable non-toxic fertiliser. The above simple system demonstrates that human wastes do not need to become toxic pollutants of our rivers and seas, but can be recycled and reused within an integrated eco-system to become an invaluable resource, furthering new life within the boundaries of the site.
Low Energy Appliances
All appliances have been carefully selected to eliminate unnecessary electrical demand and to optimise the efficiency of the required essential items, including low energy lighting and interpretation / computer system etc
Healthy Internal Environment
The naturally absorbent and breathing masonry construction creates a vapour hydroscopic envelope without the risk of condensation. Non-volatile solvent, water based Auro emulsion paints to plaster work and natural Auro colour stains to exposed timber along with the avoidance of formaldehyde based toxic materials, have lead to a healthy internal air quality.
Does it pay to finance and run ecological features? This is a big question a lot of clients ask us. All we can say is that this eco renovation project cost approximately £ 178,000. The YHA client only invested about £ 30,000 of the capital cost, the rest was funded by sponsors and grants. The finance gap of £148,000 was filled because third party external funders were enthused and inspired by the client’s genuine commitment to the environmental agenda.
The YHA would not have received funding beyond their £ 30k budget if they had not taken the deep green approach to the project. Since re-opening YHA member bookings have exceeded all expectations, so projected rental revenue looks good for the long-term future and because of the low energy design and renewable technologies inputs, running cost will be negligible. The above financial scenario seems like a win / win situation for all parties, including the environment.
Interpretation & Education
To help make YHA members / visitors aware of their impact on the wider environment and help them understand and appreciate the ecological interventions included in the building, we worked with OB Design to interpret and make accessible every small detail via colour coded, wall mounted ‘Awareness Point’ markers throughout the building. The client also commissioned an informative video to be played within the common room to run along side an interactive touch screen, web-based ‘Resource Centre’.