Starting Clayhill Arts from scratch gave us a unique opportunity to build a business that had the environment at the heart of what we do, both in regard to the building and ongoing business practices.
We wanted to create somewhere that had as little impact as possible but gave back as much as possible, using the latest research, technology and ideas to create somewhere that connected us to the wider environment through learning, living and eating.
We redeveloped the building using latest renewable technology to power and heat; used a natural spring to provide water; used local sourcing and worked around the local ecology. We felt we had to both take responsibility for the local environment and be its advocate by showing what is possible with only a few tweaks and adjustments to how we live, work and learn.
Clayhill Arts is built from an unused series of farm buildings which started back in 2017. We planned to renovate the buildings by having as little impact on both the local environment and the buildings heritage. The renovation brought the buildings back to life using both traditional techniques and recycled materials. Builders and building materials were all sourced locally and waste was recycled on site (e.g. waste concrete was crushed and reused in the building). Building materials were either reused or sourced from local reclaim yards; the large cow shed that occupied the space that is now the garden, was taken apart and rebuilt on a nearby farm. The building is insulated to current building regulation standards and boasts an A rating on the buildings energy performance certificate.
The buildings are heated using the latest efficient biomass technology. This provides the heat throughout the main buildings and bedrooms using both under floor heating and controlled radiators. Biomass technology burns wooden pellets to heat a central heat store; this heat is then used to heat the space and hot water. The biomass pellets are carbon neutral (carbon released is equal to the amount captured during the trees life) and are delivered from a local company and produced in the UK. The buildings currently burn 12 tonnes of biomass fuel, that’s equivalent to two trees but more importantly offsets 5700 cubic meters of gas or 8220 litres of oil.
Heating is controlled by smart thermostats that are programmed to ensure heat efficiency and comfort. They can be controlled remotely and respond to building use i.e. rooms that are not used can be reduced to save energy. The buildings have also been designed to benefit from the solar heat from the sun. We have maximised windows on the south face of the building to generate heat in the granary and the studio. The giant double glazed windows on the south edge of the studio building generate enough solar energy to heat this space throughout the year.
The granary boasts a large 3 phase solar array which provides the buildings electricity and exports electricity back to the grid when demand is low. Our array is designed to act as part of the roof covering allowing us to save and reuse roof tiles. The array is designed to generate 7998 kwh per year, that’s the equivalent of the total electrical usage of 2 average UK homes. All lighting throughout the building is low LED and on timers or sensors where appropriate. All appliances are A++ rated. We regularly monitor energy use and supply our usage data to both our FIT supplier and RHI scheme. Usage is analysed throughout the year to maximise efficiency.
All water used on site comes from our own natural spring which we process and manage. The bottom field boasts a natural spring which we pump, soften cleanse and purify before we pump it to the barns. We keep water use as low as possible and manage its use by using dual flush mechanisms, grey water in toilets and gardens and water efficient appliances. We also mange our own waste water – processing it in our own bio digester and releasing the clean water back into a local water course. We also explain to visitors how they can reduce water use in their rooms with responsible toilet and shower use and point out what they can and can’t flush! We manage our bio digester and regularly clean it out to reduce any micro plastics entering the water cycle.
Resources and Advocacy
We source all our food and goods from local businesses these include Yeo Valley, Plowrights Organic and Glenmore Bakery. All waste on site is managed to keep the waste that goes to landfill to a minimum. We recycle glass, cans, paper, card, some plastics and food waste. Food waste is composted in the walled garden that grows fruit and vegetables grown for the granary kitchen. Courses are delivered and planned to use as few resources as possible; paper is kept to a minimum using digital technology where possible and we are still burning left over waste timber from the construction to fuel our wood burning stove.
As part of our environmental policy we activity advocate the essential benefits and rewards of taking responsible action to reduce our impact on resources. Our staff and displays explain the measures in place to mitigate the impact of the business on the environment and customers are encouraged to take part. The business environmental policy is available in all bedrooms for customers. This explains what they can do to work with us in reducing energy and water use. This explains that their rooms will not be turned over during their stay if they are on a course. Additional towels are only available on request reducing the impact of laundry use. We employ Lisa’s Laundry a local laundry company who use low water machines, natural chemicals and employ their own travel and recycle policy. We are also a non smoking site.
Before we started building we carried out a thorough ecological survey to see what was living on site and nearby to see what we could do to mitigate any disturbances created by the build. We found a number of bats, owls and swallows. We waited to start building until after any animals on site had ended their winter hibernation and had an ecologist on site when carrying out work that may disturb animals that had made the building their home (we found one bat!). We built into the building a number of habitats that can be seen as part of the building. These include bat roosts built into the walls and roof tiles, barn owl boxes and swallow cups on the western edge of the studio. We also kept outside lighting around the site at a minimum to maintain our local dark sky and especially on the lane as this is a natural bat corridor. We continue to monitor ecology on site as act as a release site for rescued animals from Secret World wildlife centre.
We specifically chose Clayhill as our location due to its local transport provision. Bridgwater has a train and bus station and local bus services. We purposefully kept our car park small to encourage public transport use and have a public transport policy for customers. We also encourage our staff to consider alternatives to driving to Clayhill. 30% of staff walk to site and we offer £300 towards the cost of a bicycle for staff to use to either get to work or in their private time. We also have a range of bicycles on site for customers to use whilst staying with us. Customers who use public transport to visit us benefit from our environmental travel scheme where we donate 10% of their public transport costs to a Somerset Wildlife Trust.
People and Community
People are at the heart of our environmental policy this includes our own team, visitors and the local community. All staff are trained as part of their induction on the businesses environmental policy and provisions designed into the buildings and business. This includes a tour of green technologies and its use. Staff are trained to discuss our environmental policy when welcoming customers to the site as we want to spread the message of how possible and important adopting green technology and practices can be. We support a number of local charities (e.g. Bridgwater food bank) by providing free access to facilities for their own events or through donations via our customer travel scheme. Since relocating to Somerset we have worked closely with the local council and local businesses to look at how we can work together to ensure our social responsibility. We have previously given in kind support (the use of our buildings) to projects such as Studio Digital and organisations including Bridgwater Arts Centre and Somerset Art Works.
Clayhill was built to ensure level access throughout the site and we have endeavoured to provide access despite the difficulties of a former working farm. Level access has been achieved throughout the buildings and gardens and where there is a change is floor levels (access to the studio) there is an operational access lift to gain entry. We have a dedicated fully accessible bedroom on site with accessible washroom facilities and alarm; we also have a dedicated accessible toilet in the main building which also included baby change facilities. As we are an educational establishment we felt it was important to design the building both with this in mind and also to reflect the needs of guests with any additional learning needs. Neutral decor is used throughout the site using natural materials and there are a number of breakout spaces, both inside and out, where you can learn at your own pace. Visitors are asks whether they have any specific learning needs when they book a course and are asked what we can do to ensure they get the most out of their time here. We also have trained educational professionals on staff to help design course materials alongside teachers and to work with visitors to meet any additional learning needs.