Closing the Loop
During the coal boom, The South Welsh Valley communities built together, for themselves. Welfare and social institutes were built collectively, not through philanthropy. While strong spirit and belief remains, the decreasing demand for coal along with the mine closures have left many without skills, in poor health and in fuel poverty.
The thesis was an exploration into how a cooperative may gain control over their energy generation, food production and waste management. Integral to this was the concept of 'Systems thinking'; the process of understanding how things influence another within a whole.
The building's main function is to anaerobically digest the food waste produced in the region into biogas. The biogas is then burnt on site to generate electricity and the remaining fertile liquor is used on farmland.
The building carries different functions which feed off each other and share the excess heat produced from the electricity generation. The free on site heat is as an incentive for a housing association to build an elderly care unit, where the warm rooms are wrapped in timber, creating a greater sense of enclosure.. The heat would also be used to power a centre of care for the large proportion of those suffering from long term illnesses in the region, incorporating therapy and counselling spaces in wet and warm rooms.
The vast plateau at Rhyd-y-car will be utilised as a cooperative greenhouse, using the heat, CO2 and fertiliser produced to grow fruit and vegetables that would otherwise be imported. The food grown on site will be prepared into veg boxes, given away in exchange for working hours and also cooked using biogas, making meals on wheels for the elderly.
The building achieves symbiosity between large industrial processes and the more domestic care and consumption processes through compactness. The industrial elements have a solid construction language in in situ concrete, whereas the care elements are built as a cabinet type construction using cross laminated timber. Programmes link together visually, through sharing their products and wastes and through sharing heat.
Status: MArch Thesis Project