Buckfastleigh Transition Town – for a sustainable future for Buckfastleigh, Devon
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  • 9th September 09 – Initial Meeting

    Posted on September 17th, 2009 andy No comments

    9th September 09
    I had offered to act as Tenant representative on the meetings to be held during the project, so I attended the meeting of all the involved parties the day after.
    It was held at the office of GHK Architects in Plymouth and a whole heap of people were there – representatives from the Architects, WARM the Green consultants, Sovereign Housing Association and the other housing association putting forward a project in Plymouth – Devon & Cornwall HA, Teignbridge Building Control, Taylor Lewis the surveyors etc.

    Some of the problems of undertaking such a project were discussed – I and the reps of the 2 housing associations voiced our concern about the Engineers’ and Architects’ implicit expectation that while major works were being carried out (like internally insulating exterior walls), the tenants would be ‘decanted’ – moved somewhere else. I had been asked by the other tenants to point out that this would be very disruptive and that it might lead to our rejection of the plans. The housing associations also pointed out that if this was to be a realistic study, it would not be possible to move all their tenants out when the proposed renovations were done across the board, and that we should keep this pratically achievable.

    The housing associations also were keen to point out that the modifications all had to be permanent, maintainable & structural – we couldn’t rely on replacing fridges or washing machines to improve energy-efficiency. These domestic aplliances were not their responsibility, and would only be a temporary measure anyway. Obvioulsy the heating and hot water systems are part of their remit, and these would be major areas for improvement.

    The plans and models of the properties will be set up based on the data gathered yesterday – the only thing that they were not able to do yet was thermal-imaging – photographs of the buildings showing infra-red (heat) radiation to show where the buildings hot & cold-spots are – these have to be done when there is a 10 degrees C difference between outside and inside temperature, so will have to wait til later in the year to do this.

    I think that this is a more unconventional job than most houses that they will have had experience with before. We use wood to provide most of our heating during the winter, and so need quite a lot of air to get it in so we don’t all die! it’s not just a job of sealing up the building and installing more efficient central heating – perhaps more efficient wood burners might help (and we have one open fire that would definately benefit from being replaced by a wood-burner). Ther e is also the issue of radon  – Buckfastleigh is a high radon area according to the Teignbridge Building control folks (Radon is a radioactive gas that leaks from the ground and the houses stone walls – it is fairly high concentration in granite rock such as we find on Dartmoor) – we have had radon measurement detectors put in a little while prior to the project start and should have results soon. Enough airflow is needed to stop the radon levels building up and causing harm.

    The guys from Teignbridge building control also added that, although Buckfastleigh was rated as a ‘medium’ level area in respect to wind power generation, they had revised that to ‘high’ on a couple of recent projects they had experience of, so possibilites there perhaps…?

    The possibility of CHP (Combined Heat and Power – the localised generation of electricity from gas with heating as a by-product) generation was raised, but it didn’t seem though it would be practical for individual properties, and since the 3 properties in Buckfastleigh are not directly adjacent to each other, this would probably make it impractical to share.

    The final project proposal (for approval to stage 2 of funding and actual implementation) has to be in by the end of November 09. Around 50% of the projects applying from stage 1 should get to stage 2, so fingers crossed!