Earth Lab is a new skills and learning eco building at the heart of the Earth Trust, oozing the charity’s ethos and values and sitting sensitively in its environment.
Earth Lab sits at the foot of the Wittenham Clumps, one of Oxfordshire’s most visited green space and a significant wildlife and conservation area and Earth Trust’s aim was for Earth Lab to create connections to this unique place. The building is a demonstration of sustainable development with learning opportunities built into the fabric of the building, able to facilitate engagement and education with flexibility, creativity and innovation. Earth Lab has three flexible indoor spaces for learning and a large outside area that can be used for gatherings and talks.
Earth Trust is an environmental learning charity championing accessible green spaces for all. They care for diverse green spaces of different sizes; smaller wildlife havens and iconic landscapes including over 1,200 acres of farmland, wetland, woodland and five community reserves. They engage people with key environmental issues and demonstrate that sustainable farming, thriving biodiversity and public access can go hand in hand. Earth Lab will contribute to Oxford by providing a place where young people can learn about green spaces and the environment and how to protect them. Inspiring children to cherish and protect green spaces is imperative in protecting Oxford, the greenbelt and the places they live in now and in the future. Earth Lab enables Earth Trust to engage with many more people on a deeper level about key environmental issues, offering Earth Trust the opportunity to broaden their scope of learning opportunities into scientific processes, what is happening in nature and the use of technology in the natural world.
The Earth Trust sourced a specialist rammed earth craftsmen to teach them how to build the walls. Rammed earth is an ancient technique that has been used for thousands of years and is barely used in the UK now.
As a centre designed with the environment at the forefront, the Earth Lab building is a showcase for sustainability. Designed to sit in harmony with the landscape. A host of eco-friendly features have been incorporated, such as natural building materials that lock up carbon
Key green facts
- Timber frame building with straw-filled insulation cells in the walls
- ‘Fermicell ’ used in place of plasterboard for interior walls. This is recycled material made from different types of waste products that would normally end up in landfill.
- Living roof, planted with wildflowers and plants
- An interior rammed earth wall which uses 15 tons of soil from the location on site
- ‘Modcell ’, a prefabricated cell containing shredded and compacted straw for insulation
- Waste to landfill has been kept to an absolute minimum at just 2%
- Minimum concrete was used as possible
- Rainwater harvesting tank which has the dual purpose of servicing the toilets in the Earth Lab, and watering the irrigation system
Earth Trust, Little Wittenham, Oxfordshire, OX14 4QZ