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Centre for Alternative Technology

The Centre's forecourt and ticket office

The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) (organic farming, gardening, and ecologically friendly living. CAT also runs education programmes for schools and sells sustainable products through shops, restaurants and a mail order department.


  • History 1
  • Visitor centre 2
  • Education 3
    • Wales Institute for Sustainable Education 3.1
  • Energy 4
  • Regional impact 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


CAT was founded by businessman-turned-environmentalist Gerard Morgan-Grenville, and opened in 1973 in the disused

CAT was previously aligned to the Urban Centre for Appropriate Technology (UCAT), which was based in Bristol and has since evolved into the Centre for Sustainable Energy.[1]

Visitor centre

In 1975 a permanent exhibition opened in order to generate wider interest. The 40-acre (160,000 m2) site with 7 acres (28,000 m2) of interactive displays is the largest tourist attraction in the area. It is open all-year except Christmas, seven days a week. It is a registered charity.[2]

The facilities and exhibits include:


The Centre offers a range of courses which are between a day and a week in length. Some of these courses are offered to the general public while others are accredited courses for professional installers.[3] CAT is involved with school education through training teachers, producing materials and offering special tours and materials on site.[4]

The Centre includes a Graduate School of the Environment. It offers postgraduate courses in renewable energy, architecture and environmental studies.[5]

The Centre has run a Professional Diploma in Architecture course in Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies, since 2008, which allows students to obtain an accredited Part II architectural qualification.[6]

Wales Institute for Sustainable Education

In summer 2010, CAT inaugurated the Wales Institute for Sustainable Education (WISE), a large educational building designed as a case study of sustainable architecture. The building contains a lecture theatre and accommodation[7] and demonstrates ecological building principles such as passive solar building design and heat recovery ventilation as well as low-impact building materials such as wood, hemp, lime and rammed earth. The external walls of the building are made from 500mm thick hempcrete, whereas the lecture theatre has 7.2m high walls made from 320t of rammed earth.[8]

A building management system is used to monitor a wide variety of parameters inside the building, providing data for research projects by CAT's sustainable architecture students. The building is used for teaching postgraduate degrees and short courses and is also available as a conference venue. In 2010, the WISE building was awarded the first place in the Daily Telegraph's list of Top 10 Buildings 2010[9] and came 4th in The Guardian's Top 10 list of buildings for 2010.[10] In received a Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Award in 2011.[11]


CAT originally relied on a collection of water, wind and solar power, but following power shortages it began to receive power from the National Grid. Shortly afterwards, in 2004, a large new wind turbine was built using funds generated by selling shares in the project to the community, Bro Dyfi Community renewables. From 2009 September onwards CAT operates a microgrid system which includes elements of on- and off-grid operation.[12][13]

CAT gets its water from an existing man-made reservoir in the slate quarry on which it is based and processes its own sewage in its reedbeds.

Regional impact

The presence of the Centre in the Dyfi Valley has brought an increased environmental emphasis to the area, which is now designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.[14] In the nearest town, Machynlleth, CAT plc formerly operated a wholefood vegetarian café and a separate shop. Following the closure of CAT plc, the CAT charity retains ownership of the vegetarian cafe. The cafe is run as a private enterprise. The wholefood shop was closed, as the building was not owned by CAT; however, a new wholefood shop Dyfi Wholefoods was opened by the staff who were made redundant. An industrial estate (the Dyfi Eco Park) near Machynlleth Railway Station houses the offices of Dulas Ltd, a renewable energy company started by ex-CAT employees.

See also


  1. ^ Centre for Sustainable Energy
  2. ^ CENTRE FOR ALTERNATIVE TECHNOLOGY CHARITY LIMITED, Registered Charity no. 265239 at the Charity Commission
  3. ^ "CAT Short Courses". Retrieved 2011-02-15. 
  4. ^ "CAT Education Department". Retrieved 2011-02-15. 
  5. ^ "Graduate School of the Environment". Retrieved 2013-11-08. 
  6. ^ Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT), Machynlleth, Wales; Professional Diploma in Architecture Part II: Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies, The Architects' Journal, December 2010. Retrieved 2011-11-13.
  7. ^ "Venue Hire at CAT". Retrieved 2011-02-15. 
  8. ^ "CAT Information Service: The Wales Institute for Sustainable Education". Retrieved 2011-02-15. 
  9. ^ Woodman, Ellis (2010-12-14). "The Daily Telegraph: Top 10 Buildings of 2010". London. Retrieved 2011-02-15. 
  10. ^ "The Guardian: The best architecture of 2010, by Rowan Moore". London. 2010-12-12. Retrieved 2011-02-15. 
  11. ^ Jonathan Glancey RIBA awards offer a bird's eye view of British architecture, The Guardian, 19 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-13.
  12. ^ "The Ecologist: First island power grid being used in Wales". Retrieved 2011-02-15. 
  13. ^ "Microgrid research at Centre for Alternative Technology".  
  14. ^ "UK National Commission for UNESCO: Dyfi Valley awarded unique UN status". Retrieved 2014-09-15. 

External links

  • CAT home page
  • CAT's Graduate School of the Environment
  • CAT's information service on sustainable living

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