Centre for Alternative Technology

Institution – Machynlleth, Wales, United Kingdom

1973 onwards


Located in a disused slate quarry in Wales, the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) started as an experimental community working towards self-sufficiency and later became an educational and information resource centre open to the public. Founded by Gerard Morgan-Grenville in 1973, CAT lead by example, promoting a lifestyle away from urban centres and without a dependence on industrial production systems. Initially twenty people lived on site communally with collective decision making. The volunteers worked hard to transform the quarry into a demonstration centre for alternative technologies and ecological lifestyles, setting up a cyclical system where waste from people, animals and crops is recycled using composting toilets and reed beds.

Funded by donations from Morgan-Grenville's contacts, companies and manufacturers provided their products to be displayed and demonstrated in use. Wind turbines, solar panels, and innovative building products such as spray-on insulation were all used and experimented with. But as interest in environmental issues waned in the changing political climate, especially in the highly consumerist society of the 1980s, CAT had to adapt itself. It remained one of a very few initiatives still working on environmental issues, but the counter-cultural dream that had given birth to the centre was replaced with a more pragmatic commercial and educational aim, with CAT transforming itself into a study centre and tourist attraction that provided a more stable income stream.

Today it comprises an educational centre running residential courses on eco-construction methods, renewable energy and organic food production, as well as the visitor centre giving information on sustainable living and green technologies. From its inception CAT has researched experimental construction and energy generation techniques, constructing a number of windmills, and utilising active and passive solar systems. The site is also home to one of Walter Segal's self-build houses as an example of a low impact construction method. In its over thirty year history, CAT has acted as spatial agent, consistently advocating sustainable development through practical example. It uses the proceeds from its various profit-making ventures to continue researching and to maintain its innovative buildings. In 1994 a graduate school was set up offering Masters and Doctoral teaching in the environmental sciences as well as a professional diploma in architecture. The school, which is affiliated to the University of East London moved from its London location to Wales in 2000, providing opportunities for students to study at the centre.

Other Work

Centre for Alternative Technology, Crazy Idealists?. (Machynlleth: Centre for Alternative Technology, 1995).

---, "Zero Carbon Britain." http://www.zerocarbonbritain.com/ (accessed December 3, 2009,).

Piggott, Hugh, Windpower Workshop. (Machynlleth: Centre for Alternative Technology, 1997).

Shepherd, Allan, The Organic Garden: Green & Easy. (London: Collins and The Centre for Alternative Technology, 2009).

References About

"Centre for Alternative Technology," http://visitwalesnow.org.uk/centre-for-alternative-technology.htm (accessed December 3, 2009,).

"Environmental Information Centre, The Centre of Alternative Technology, Wales.," Irish architect,(178)(2002).

Hannay, Patrick, "Ground force: environmental information centre." RIBA journal, 107(11)(2000).

Lyall, Sutherland, "Alternative energy ideas thrive in a Welsh quarry." Building, 249(35)(1985).

Stevens, Ted, "Energy: Welsh tourist attraction." RIBA journal, 92(7)(1985).


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