Gaia House endeavours to act as an environmentally responsible organisation.
Although we have made much effort over the last few years to work in an environmentally-friendly way, we acknowledge that there is always more to be done. With this in mind, we have prioritised developing ‘green’ use of energy and physical resources.
In the interests of making this process as transparent as possible, here is a list of the steps we have taken:
Steps Towards Sustainability taken at Gaia House:
- Since 2008, all gloss painting at Gaia House has been done with environmentally-friendly water-based gloss paints.
- During 2008 and 2009 we replaced all baths with showers in order to reduce water usage and fuel consumption.
- Throughout the house we are using compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs rather than incandescent bulbs. However, we replace with CFL bulbs only when the old bulbs blow, since otherwise this wastes the energy invested in the manufacture of the incandescent bulbs.
- We were keen to double glaze our windows as they needed replacing through rot, but this has not been possible due to Gaia House’ listed building status. Instead, we replace windows on a like-for-like basis and try to install secondary glazing where we can. Cost constraints mean that this is invariably perspex sheets fitted internally to the window frame.
- Sewage: In December 2009 we bought a Biorock Sewage Treatment Plant, during our January 2010 shutdown. This treatment plant replaced the old Victorian septic tank, and has a liquid output 6 times cleaner than UK environmental standards. The settlement tank only needs emptying every 4 years (our old one needed emptying 4 times a year!), and has only a small carbon footprint, needing one low-power pump to move the liquid uphill from the settlement tank into the Biorock treatment units. Installed at the back of the Hermitage Wing, the site will be landscaped once it has settled after the excavation.
- The old septic tank – now emptied – with guttering diverted to drain into it from the North-West part of the house, will be used for harvesting rainwater, for watering the garden.
- Heating: In January 2010 we commissioned the environmental consultancy firm Engineering Design Practice (EDP) to survey and assess our old building and to conduct a feasibility study for the installation of low or zero carbon options for the provision of heating and hot water. In March 2010, Gaia House Trust accepted in principle the proposal to adopt a biomass-fuelled heating system, but were concerned to make sure that the existing pipes and radiators would be able to cope with a flush, a clean and new pumps, so first their robustness was thoroughly investigated.
- In June 2010 the Trust decided to go ahead with the plan to install a biomass boiler, to be housed in a new boiler house to the rear of the Hermitage Wing, for which planning permission was sought. The boiler house is mainly underground with a turf roof. It is accessed via a small stairwell and has a roll-up door to allow wood chip delivery from a tipper truck. A heat mains conducts water into the House. The boiler should save us £10,000 per year in fuel costs and will save 32,000 litres of oil per year.
- At the same time as the biomass installation, we installed 5 solar thermal panels to supplement the hot water supplied for washing up and to some other parts of the house.
- In early 2013 the ageing pipes and radiators throughout the house were replaced, improving our heat zoning controls and the efficiency of the whole system.