Coolings Green & Pleasant
Main Road, Knockholt, Kent, TN14 7LJ
01959 534386 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by: Carol Cooling | Thursday 29th September 2016
It’s clear to even the most casual of observers that the Coolings Green & Pleasant Shop building is an innovative design using a variety of natural materials, but here are some more details of just how environmentally and ecologically friendly this award-winning development is.
When building work began in 2009, we issued the builders with the challenge of sending no waste at all to landfill. When you consider that the average small domestic extension will often generate more than half a dozen skip loads of waste material, this was an enormous challenge. Everything that could possibly be recycled was separated and sorted on site, including waste timber and cardboard packaging which was saved for use in our biomass boiler. The soil from the ground works remained on site and was used to create the wonderful spiral viewing mound beside the Kitchen Garden, giving splendid views across the Nature Trail and Wallaby Enclosure. The tarmac from the old car park was more difficult to deal with, requiring specialist equipment to break it up safely. We investigated hiring the equipment and bringing here to site, but it was more economical to send the two lorry-loads of tarmac for treatment. It was then returned here and used as part of the hardcore beneath the outdoor terracing. In the end, we only sent a total of five skip loads to landfill, a fantastic achievement by the building team and a great start to our ecological journey.
The main timber frame of the building, which can be clearly seen from inside, is made from approximately 70 tonnes of spruce. The enormous glue-laminated curved beams were manufactured in Germany (there are currently no facilities in the UK to manufacture beams of this size), and naturally the wood is harvested from sustainable sources. Flooring within the building also uses natural materials, mainly locally sourced. The clay pavers are made in Sussex. These use much less embodied energy than concrete blocks or slabs, and are also re-usable. They are laid on a bed of sand (no need for cement) and also act as another layer of insulation. The pine flooring in the catering and gift areas is all reclaimed. The majority is 50-year old floorboards, which are also used on the desk and till units, with the remainder being cut from reclaimed beams. Both the timber and clay pavers are ideal for use with our under floor heating system, which gives a gentle and even background warmth without the need for noisy and intrusive heaters.
We are very proud of our straw bale walls! This ancient tradition of using natural straw to insulate the building has been brought up to date by the team from Canterbury who built it. Around 250 standard bales are held together with hazel poles, all locally sourced. The bales are then compressed to form a dense, solid wall, which is then coated with a thick layer of natural lime render, inside and out. This wonderful “breathing wall” keeps the building cooler in summer and warmer in winter. Outside, the remaining walls of the building are clad with thermowood, natural western red cedar which has been kiln-baked to increase its longevity. This timber cladding is fading to a natural silver colour as time passes, but requires no maintenance or weather-proofing.
The high-level windows below the ceiling are all North facing, allowing plenty of natural light into the building, without the risk of direct sunlight scorching products within the Shop. All the windows have openers, giving us natural ventilation and negating the need for expensive (and some say unhealthy!) air-conditioning. We also incorporated solar tubes within the internal areas of the building (cloakrooms, etc.) – these domes on the roof allow natural light into the inner parts of the building without traditional windows. The electric lighting throughout the building is all low energy. Unlike many units, the low energy fittings do not radiate heat so we have no hot spots. Lux sensors detect the amount of natural light within the building and control the “artificial” light accordingly, saving unnecessary use of electricity.
Our heating and hot water is provided by a Farm 2000 biomass boiler, which burns all our waste pallets and cardboard packaging. This does, of course, require a little time and attention, but as the alternative would mean burning fossil fuels and sending waste to landfill, we feel it’s worth it. Outside, rainwater is collected from the roof and is used for watering plants and flushing the toilets in the building. Our underground tank can hold 7,000 litres, with any excess running through the Wetland Area and into the Nature Trail ponds, again making the most of precious natural resources.
In 2009 we were awarded “Best Business Development” by the National Garden Retail Awards. In 2014 we were awarded the “Greenest Garden Centre” award, in recognition of our continued commitment to the environment throughout the whole of our business operations. Our most recent addition is a 50kw array of solar panels, which makes us almost self-sufficient in electricity throughout the year. As the saying goes, we’re Green & Pleasant by name, green and pleasant by nature!