Eco-centre to open in Pencader

A 150-year-old school in a Welsh village has had a modern makeover - and the result is a technologically advanced eco-centre that serves as a showcase of energy-saving options.

Located in Pencader, the school had been left derelict since closing in 1994 and it required a significant amount of work to make it safe to enter - not to mention eco-friendly

Jane and Ian Hall-Edwards from Plumbers Electricians Carpenters Ltd took on the £500,000 project. They told the Carmarthen Journal that they hoped the new facility would inspire people to introduce green technology into their homes that would save money on energy bills and help the environment at the same time.

"It was uninhabitable, falling down," said Ms Hall-Edwards. Indeed, parts of the building had to be completely re-built before any other work could be undertaken - and the pair was determined to not alter the appearance of the building in any way. The existing wooden window frames were refurbished and old bricks and slate were polished and used in the rebuilding process.

The completed building features a variety of eco-friendly technologies, including solar-thermal and PV roof panels, air-to-air and air-to-water pumps, permeable paving, rain water harvesting, a bio-digestive tank, multi-fuel burning fires and stoves and biomass generators. There's also a green roof, which insulates the building and allows plants to grow on the roof - thus supporting local wildlife.

While the green roof provides some level of insulation, more standard forms of insulation were also used - and Ms Hall-Edwards explained how important this was to the building's environmental credentials: "If you don't get the insulation right it doesn't matter what you put in the room because it's not going to stay there."

In fact, throughout the refurbishment, one of the project's mottos was: "Insulate before you generate."

The eco-centre, which was awarded a £67,000 grant from the Welsh Government, gained exposure when it was featured on the Channel 4 show Restoration Man. The programme will be returning in mid-February to follow-up on the project's progress. It's set to open to the public in May.