I visited the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) again recently and I wanted to share the impression it made on me as I came away a little bit disappointed.
I first visited CAT back in 2006 before I had ventured very far into the world of construction or conversion. I was still bright eyed and excited by the prospect of converting a pile of stone and slate into a home. I was looking for inspiration – for a roadmap through the technology, materials and techniques I should employ in following the ‘healthy house, sustainable, ecological & environmental’ approach to conversion that I saw as doing the right thing. At the time CAT at least started to provide that inspiration – it was somewhat informative if a little shabby. The technology I was looking for was here, albeit not with all the supporting information I desired – but at least it was a start. I didn’t discover the roadmap I was looking for, but from the information I picked up from the displays and the information sheets & booklets I bought in the shop I was able to begin my journey. Much reading, searching and spending of money later here I am with my renewable based heating, solar hot water panels, UFH, insulation, an inclination toward PV and an impossible desire for the barn to be facing directly south.
This time I came to CAT with a different agenda. I wanted an update from the horses mouth. After all, ‘CAT is concerned with the search for globally sustainable, whole and ecologically sound technologies and ways of life‘* so I turned to CAT to get a view of the current state of play. In that I was disappointed…
Things don’t seem to have moved on at CAT over the last four years, at least from the perspective of the ‘casual’ day visitor. To be honest, except for the shiny new training and education centre, I can’t recall a single new exhibit or shiny bit of technology since my last visit. By the time we left my disillusion had reached a peak and I could even bring myself to buy any further information sheets or booklets from the shop – our only trophy was a small lady bird shaped torch that my son had taken a fancy to.
In fairness perhaps the casual day visitor isn’t CATs focus – perhaps they see themselves as being a campus for the training of missionaries for spreading the word. All those trainee architects and designers who seemed to be so engrossed with their laptops and lecture notes ready to venture forth and make the previously unsustainable sustainable. I must admit I’m attracted to the MSc in Architecture: Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies by distance learning myself – If I ever have a couple of lean years in prospect and a few grand in the bank I’ll be putting my name down. BUT I’d still like to some more shiny new inspirational exhibits…
* from CAT’s Mission Statement