Wood rings…

Stripes in wood.

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Haresfield Beacon and bluebells…

A misty and wet walk through the woods to see the bluebells and find some dens!

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400 ppm…

Another climate change milestone has been reached. The Mauna Loa observatory on Hawaii has been taking readings since 1958. Since I stood within 500m of this observatory when I was roughly 8 years old, I feel i’ve had a slightly altered perception of this planet.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/apr/29/carbon-dioxide-concentration-record-levels

Here’s the pdf: Global carbon dioxide 400ppm

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So, 280 – 400 ppm of CO2 in roughly 200 years. Wow.

The human conditions of enterprise, endeavour and creativity have not served the planet well in some ways – those things have led to the development of ever more damaging practices and technologies. The creation of free markets and capitalism has been the driving force behind this process and has pushed and pushed the principle of the cheapest process or product being the approach which is followed – in many ways to the detriment of the planet (or should I say the living creatures which inhabit the planet).

Time to use those same human characteristics to reverse what has happened over the past 200 years.

One way to draw back from the trap of ever-increasing impact is to make a conscious effort to alter your lifestyle choices. In our house, we periodically re-examine what we’re doing in our lives and if we can make any changes for the better.

The most recent example has been to sell our dishwasher and get our old microwave oven recycled. Those are both fairly high-power usage bits of kit and that move will hopefully lead to a reduction in power use, meaning less CO2 released and less money wasted.

I’m loving the process involved, especially the challenge of living a more simple life.

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Project shack: technical building drawings…

I’ve been doing some research into the various ways of constructing the shack and have found a great technical drawings pdf which shows a load of construction details – very useful in getting the order of materials right.

Silvatec Design Standard Details – September 09

Page 12 has the detail for the timber cladding option on timber frame, which right now seems to be the approach we’ll go for. This is intended to be a fully functioning part of the house, so it has to be fully insulated, powered, water-tight etc.

Here are some images of what we’ve let ourselves in for – our existing shed. This is going to make a great ‘before and after’ post at the point it’s all finished : )

At the moment, much of the stuff in there can either be used to construct the new shack or stored in a much smaller metal unit to the side of the house (things like gardening tools).

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Project Shack: dimensions and notes…

So, the first stage has been to work out what we actually want to do inside the shack and what its purpose is. The main things so far are the bedroom space, music, gatherings and art, possibly with a home cinema element thrown in : )

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One of the main sources of materials for the ‘new’ shack will be our existing single-storey bathroom/utility space at the back of the house. We’re going to be using the timber, bricks and blocks from that structure as much as we can in the new shack, while at the same time building building an outside room space in its place, with adjacent vegetable patch, so we aren’t so reliant on travelling over to the allotment.

I’ve just measured the existing shed, inside and out, and factored in the extra space needed. The red colours indicate the finished internal space. The green section is the existing concrete block walls, inside which we’ll use 100mm (approx) of insulation, with plasterboards over that.

On the outside of the concrete blocks, we’ll fix an external weather proof layer, which at this point is going to be vertical timber cladding. So the blocks will form the structural element, with the cladding being the part which is visible. There’s also an idea to use blocks as the base layer of wall up to the bottom of the windows, with timber frame for the rest. This would be more sustainable and could be quicker to build. This depends on the quantities of materials we have and what sort. Whatever we have we’ll use.

So, more soon and roll on the Spring!

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Project Shack: the first piece of the jigsaw…

This the first post in a new series on my blog (drum roll)… I give you Project Shack!

What is ‘Project Shack’?

We are going to build a new shed / shack / lodge at the bottom of our garden, which will give us another space for a whole variety of things which will enhance our lives. This is where I can use my decks and do the mixing which would otherwise be too disturbing for other people in the house. It’s also a space for sleeping and will give us a third bedroom for guests. It’ll be a space where we can create art, sit and read, hold gatherings.

We’re going to do it using only second-hand, used, free, scrounged, reclaimed or recycled materials, with a major focus on natural materials. Some materials may not be free, but they must be previously-used or second-hand. There are two main reasons for this approach.

1) Less environmental impact and a more sustainable approach to building and living.

2) Lower overall cost, which means we can build this shack and still afford to eat!

I want to see how little money we can spend while still creating a warm, well-designed, functional and beautiful structure. I want this project to be an inspiring example for all the budding DIY and frustrated builders out there, who also have limited funds but big aspirations.

So, to underline our commitment to the project and as a first and very important piece to the jigsaw, we have just bought from Ebay two second-hand double glazed windows…

Conservatory windows

These bad boys cost only £40.00, maybe saving £400.

2 x UPVC double glazed Windows

Dimensions = h 1400mm, w 738mm, d 60 mm

‘Two fixed panel windows (none opening). They were left over from my conservatory and are still in the packaging. Just been in my shed getting in the way for around a year so selling them cheap to get rid of them.’

This is a great example of something second-hand but still virtually brand new. Something discarded by the previous owner which wouldn’t otherwise have been used, and in their original packaging. Triple bargain. These are large windows, each 1.4m tall, giving a total area of glazing of just over 2m squared.

I’ll post some of the designs for the shack which we’ve been working on and hopefully will be able to post regular progress reports.

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Winter sun, vapour trails and silhouettes…

The low but bright winter sun creating silhouettes and adding a crisp and clear definition to everything.

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A new climate change colour is created…

One of the reasons why people in general are maybe less concerned about climate change than the science is saying we should be, is that there are very few immediate or noticeable changes. If the world has warmed only 0.7 degrees C since the start of the Industrial Revolution, then how are we meant to be responding to this? What cues or events are there for us to respond to?

A recent event, or series of events, linked directly to climate change are the Australian bush fires which have been ravaging many parts of the country. For me, one of the most significant visual representations of the reasons for the bush fires (the excessive heat) is the adding of a new temperature range to the Australian heat maps.

PDF of the article here: Australia adds new colour to temperature maps as heat soars | Environment | The Guardian

Australian Bureau of Metereology temperature map

The new range is 52-54 degrees celcius. That is more than halfway to boiling, in the open air. While the hottest areas will be in the warmer central region, the coastal areas don’t escape the heat, with the average temperatures across the country reaching 40 degrees. I can’t say i’ve ever experienced that sort of heat near the 50 degree range and i’m not sure I want to. The highest i’ve got is maybe nearer 40 degrees in maybe Florida or Thailand, but a full 10 degree more than this? Wow.

As of 2009, Australia was number 11 on the global list of CO2 emitting countries per capita of population.

There are plenty more reasons to believe this ranking will keep rising over the next decade, with the huge fossil fuel energy and mining projects coming forward. The actual inhabitable area of the country is already small and will carry on getting smaller.

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Nature consumed by nature…

While walking through Lassington Woods, near Gloucester, we came across some tree stumps, slowly being consumed by moss and covered with the remains of autumn leaves.

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How many gigatons…?

Saw an interesting Pinterest-style graphic the other day, relating to climate change and the amount of carbon dioxide (measured in gigatons) that has been and could be released, with the impacts of the different levels.

IiB CO2 graphic v3

Source: http://ambikamelville.com/2012/12/26/how-many-gigatons-of-carbon-dioxide

The scary part of the image is the part about there only being 13 years left before we break the budget of carbon released – the level of 500 gigatons. This will lead to 2 degrees C of warming, beyond which point there is a 50% chance of run-away climate change. Hardly a safe level, but the stages beyond are even more scary.

If carbon-capture and storage (CCS) technology isn’t introduced very soon (to capture the carbon from the inevitable use of fossil fuels for energy production), we’ll be beyond the 2 degree range in less than 2 decades.

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A cold walk in the woods…

A very cold walk in the winter woods, at Crickley Hill.

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The seeping cold penetrates even wrapped up people after 2 hours but it makes me feel alive. : )

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Rococo Garden…

Clarity in a season of rain. Contrasts, light, shadows and reflections.

A chance call to the Gardens on the day before their official season opening. I’m very glad I did. The first snow drops of the season appear which is something i’ve missed for the past 2 years! The beautiful red and brown beech leaves lying all over the ground.

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River Severn very high water level…!

Well, I was hoping for a white Christmas but here in Gloucester, it was more of a very wet Christmas! One of the more common features of the last month or so has been the rain, rain, rain…!

A slightly worrying by-product of the rain is the very high river water levels, particularly the River Severn which runs to the west of the built up area of Gloucester. I walked over to The Quay which runs alongside the river to check out the rather wet landscape which has developed over the last few weeks.

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Before the wet wet weather.

River Severn high water 31.12.12 - 18

After the wetness set in.

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The floodplain is defo doing its job!

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Does the world need nuclear power to solve the climate crisis…?

This is certainly one of the most convincing anti-nuclear power arguments i’ve read. Oliver Tickell takes on the main issues with the energy industry as a whole and points out some highly significant issues with nuclear energy in particular.

San Onofre nuclear power station, California

San Onofre nuclear power station, California

Photo courtesy of http://endthelie.com/2012/03/18/nrc-dispatches-augmented-inspection-team-after-california-nuclear-facility-fails-test/#axzz2FRsW5G5h.

The first issue is the inability of nuclear as an energy source to meet existing and future demands from a growing population, with growing energy demands. This is where the theory of the massive efficiencies of nuclear comes hard up against the realities.

Secondly, the chances of serious accidents increases dramatically, in parallel with a dramatic increase of nuclear power stations – a total of 11,000 reactors would be needed. The article cites an historic incidence of serious accidents every 3,000 years of reactor operation, based on Windscale, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. The article suggests a rate of 4 serious events per year. Even taking into account a reduced factor of accidents due to far greater safety baselines for modern technology, even a figure 4 times less would still mean 1 serious nuclear accident every year – this level of impact is just not acceptable.

Oliver Tickell talks about the effect that George Monbiot had (and is having) on the debate surrounding nuclear power, but Monbiot’s arguments are based more on cold theory rather than hot realities. On the other hand, renewable energy is clean, with costs rapidly spiralling downwards. Each part of the planet can contribute their own type of energy to the whole which can ultimately divert us away from serious climate change.

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