Earth shelters and retrofitting

The more thermal mass (weight that can absorb heat) a building has, the more it will average out the temperature around it. For example, in a cave underground in England the temperature is an average of the yearly temperatures – around 10 degrees C. An earth shelter takes advantage of this by having the building partially buried in the earth or with earth mounds up the sides.

Earth shelters are just one of the types of buildings that Idp Search architects produce but as well as new builds they crucially also do retrofitting – altering an existing building to make it less wasteful. One project they have been using is called Greening the Box. You can see an example of their work which is in High Wycombe.

Recovering from trauma

The tasks of restoring ourselves and our environment are intimately linked. To be resilient in a changing future we need emotional and environmental resilience. At their home in West Norfolk Ben and Sophie and doing just that, building resilience. Their home incorporates many aspects of self-sufficiency that you might see elsewhere, but what they then do is open up their home as a restoration space for survivours of torture.

It is genuinely impossible for me to imagine the strength that survivours of torture find every day. After escaping from their situation, to seek asylum in the UK they are processed in a second round of suffering within our system. These highly traumatised people are housed in often horrendous conditions and in order to get any food they must use a pre-paid card which will only work in certain shops such as Tesco. So if there is no Tesco near where you are put, you have no way to pay for a bus to get to one, often as well as language difficulties, leaving you open to further exploitation.

The value of providing a safe space in a family home where groups can visit with a therapist is enormous, often life changing for people who have been to hell and back. Their work has only been going a few years so they hope they will be able to find the funding to continue, but I wish them every success and have the deepest respect for what they have accomplished.

Saving nature for the future

Part of the essential work being done for a better future is to conserve wildlife and species. That way when we are able to change the system of our society to one that is less destructive, there will still be species left to return. Norfolk Wildlife Trust is protecting many such precious habitat areas which are vital refuges in this country. In Foxley Wood I saw some of the semi-natural habitat they are maintaining to encourage different species.

A major consideration is this islands role as a support for migratory species and no where is that more obvious than with our wetland birds. Cley Marshes was the first Wildlife Trust reserve in England and the trust’s recent purchase of a further part of land is ensuring that the area will be a reliable haven for birds for many years to come.

The new visitors center means that many people who couldn’t get out on to the reserve can now view birds from the long windows, learn about the habitat, all whilst enjoying a coffee from the cafe.