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10.11.06
Sustainable workspace attracts attention

Tim StirrupInnovative workspace built using Objective One investment is being used as a national example for true sustainable development.

Mount Pleasant Eco Park, near Porthtowan, is the largest, load bearing rammed earth building in the country and is now being featured in specialist national magazines. Cornwall College students are also being taken to see the units as part of their construction courses. Rammed earth is a building method that uses just densely compacted earth for walls and flooring.

The six units, which were built from the shell of an old farm building, cost £415,000 of which £96,408 came from the Objective One European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF). Other environmentally friendly features include sheep's wool insulation, roof tiles made from recycled car tyres, railway sleepers for the entrances, a biomass boiler for heating, solar panels for hot water and rain water harvesting system for toilet flushing.

Tim Stirrup, whose business Pioneer Environmental Building Company built the Eco Park, said: "This was an experimental building and without Objective One I would not have been able to do it. I wanted to show by example that there are alternatives to steel and concrete. If I had tried to do this ten years ago I would have been banging my head against a wall but now people are interested. And it is the future of building – there is no doubt about it.

"I wanted to create workspace that was inspiring and where people would enjoy coming to work. The easiest method would have been to make these units timber frame but there were no trees on site and I wanted to show how you can build with what is around you. The earth on site was perfect for building because when tested it turned out to have exactly the right clay mix. It is as locally sourced as you can get.

"Basically rammed earth is like turning the earth back into rock again. Then it was given a lime render to prevent erosion. It is a technique that has been used through the ages and is becoming popular again due to its low impact nature, aesthetic qualities and its ability to store heat and create thermal mass within the building.

"This is now the biggest load bearing rammed earth building in the country and is regularly featured in specialist magazines. We also have visits from Cornwall College students on the BTEC Construction course and from the Prince's Trust."

Carleen Kelemen, Director of the Objective One Partnership, said: "Quality workspace is an important investment piece for the Objective One Programme. We have encouraged developers to explore innovative building methods and utilise local materials and skills. Mount Pleasant helps to meet Cornwall's need for workspace while ensuring the development is environmentally sustainable and sympathetic to the beautiful area of Porthtowan."

Mr Stirrup started looking into sustainable construction when building a timber frame house for his family. That house acted as a prototype for Pioneer Environmental Building Company. When the company outgrew its business base Mr Stirrup started looking for a new location.

"I didn't want the company to be isolated, I wanted to work near other craftspeople," he explained. "This Porthtowan opportunity came up; the build began in March 2003 and was finished 18 months later."

The 40 acres of land surrounding the units have now been converted to organic status, certified by the Soil Association. Previously it had been intensively farmed and Mr Stirrup had to plant fertility-building crops. There is also a small Caravan Club site.

Phase Two of the project is to develop the educational and recreational facilities of the site. Planning is underway for a classroom facility built with cutting edge sustainable materials. Mr Stirrup also plans to introduce more renewable energy systems to provide power for the site.

Training courses on traditional and sustainable building are planned for the spring as are further open days – the last one attracted 800 people. "Generally people are so concerned and aware of the environmental damage caused that they want to find better, more sustainable ways of doing things. So there is massive interest in what we have to offer."

Tenants at the units include the Out of Place gallery, which stocks local art not traditionally associated with Cornwall, GN Electrical, Westcountry Blinds and the Nude Food Co. The sixth unit is about to become vacant. John Marshall moved his business Monkey Puzzle from central Truro to one of the units. The company supplies art prints and cards, canvas prints, brochures, business cards and graphic design.

"I was worried about moving from a central position to here but I have been very surprised," he said. "I was based in Truro for about two years and I worked with just over 100 artists. Since moving this has expanded to just over 250 in about a year."

Paul Bright, of Cornwall Sustainable Building Trust which used to be a tenant at the Eco Park, said: "Tim Stirrup is to be congratulated for his excellent reuse of a redundant agricultural site. It is an example to others who may be looking for diversification opportunities. Cornwall Sustainable Building Trust was an early tenant of Tim's and we helped run the Down to Earth exhibition on the site, which amply demonstrated that people are very interested in local low impact and vernacular building methods. Mount Pleasant Eco Park is great example of sustainable building and I am very pleased that Objective One investment helped to make this possible."

For further information please contact Clare Morgan, Media Relations Manager for the Objective One Partnership Office on 01872 223439 or email cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk.

The Objective One Partnership for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the Mount Pleasant Ecological Park through the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF).

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Editor's notes:

More than £26 million from the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee and European Regional Development Funds has been approved for more than £75 million worth of workspace projects.

Members from Prince's Trust Team 91 at Cornwall College, Camborne, completed their community project at the Eco Project. Their challenge was to construct plans for an amphitheatre. The community project was an integral part of their 12-week personal development course in which they put something back into the community.

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Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk

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