Red Brick Building C – The Life Factory

Red Brick Building Building C
This is how it was in 2012.

You can see the tower that will become Tom’s Red Cell on the rear corner of Building C.

On the right you can see the Argos catalogue office we built as a visitor centre.

How to begin when there are so many beginnings from which to choose. And so many versions of what actually happened that one could pick.

First of all, you might need to know just what a liability
Building C is.

Fundamentally, you can’t make a conventional economic case for doing it up or knocking it down.

If you do it up you can’t rent the space for enough to get your money back. Knocking it down means it has cost you loads before you even start to build again.

Even if you are applying for grants, the first thing they want to know is how you are going to make it economically sustainable. RBB has spent eight years finding that no such viable case can be made.

So I had proposed that we simply abandon the idea that it is a business proposition, treat it as a giant art construction and dump the idea of applying for grants altogether.

And, we would turn the business plan on its head.

If we could make the building a safe and useable space for bugger all, then perhaps the schemes that wanted to come and use it could apply for grants, especially since the rent would be so cheap!
I must say that even I was impressed with the stunning simplicity of this concept.

However, the fundamental design error is that it does depend on Fairy Godmothers.

But not entirely! A significant contribution could be made by volunteering, love, enthusiasm, and a lifetime’s ingenuity and resourcefulness, aided by an imaginative structural engineer as part of a small dedicated team.

So, in December 2019 we were sitting in the ZigZag plotting the future of Building C.

There was Chris and Gee and me, and Nick Maclean.

The meeting in the courtyard in Glastonbury a few weeks before had decided that Building C should be an independent thing.

Tom had agreed to bung in £50K to get the first two bays watertight. I had agreed to help. Glastonbury Trust had announced that they were too busy, but that if Building C did become independent they would let Red Brick off its debt to them of around £230,000.

Red Brick had tacitly agreed that we could set up a Trotskyite cell in the dust extraction tower and have a kettle in it.

I had announced that I thought the best way to start the renovation of Building C was to build a one hundred foot Peruvian style rope bridge from the top of the Zigzag to the top of Building C.
This was, of course, a stupid idea.

It was to have no other purpose than to attract the potential Fairy Godmothers we were going to need to get the whole project done. It was to get publicity and show that we could do stuff, and nothing at all to do with the fact that it was going to be the sexiest fun thing to build.
Tom and Nick were instantly enthusiastic. Nick said he would engineer it and Tom agreed to give me the money.

I was instantly overwhelmed by the feeling that this time I really was going to get my comeuppance and that it was a totally daft thing to embark on. However, by the time we met in the zigzag I had already bragged about it often enough that it was too late to back out.

Predictably, it did spark the waste of money reaction from all the usual suspects which only confirmed our resolve to do it anyway.
We made sure that everyone knew that it was funded quite separately from Building C, even though in reality it was all part of the same vision of course. The story of how we built it is on another page of this website.

It turned out to be as much fun as we knew it would, and sparked all the interest we could have hoped for, although its use has been considerably hampered by Covid and Building Control, but that is another story.

The tower was full of rubbish and pigeon shit.

So we began work clearing the dust extraction tower in January 2020. Actually “We” is an exaggeration. I started, and it was filthy and disgusting. This was in part due to Stuart having left a freezer half full of food and ice lollys in 2012 and buggered off, and in no small measure to Chris Black who had gone to a great deal of effort to make it the ideal pigeon loft and had done pretty well. It was deep in pigeon shit, and junk covered in pigeon shit.

And everything else full of pigeon shit. And old tyres.

I cut all these dust chutes out by hand with a small angle grinder and huge amounts of dust up my nose.

And probably pigeon shit.

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I had decided to build one of my staircases up inside it to a viewing window I was going to knock through into Building C.

This was to inspire all visitors with a grand vision of just how much there was to do, and particularly to inspire Fairy Godmothers to part with money to help us do it.

And this is us again, still generally sitting about and talking bollocks.

So the main thing was coffee and buns and Wednesday, which seemed to become a regular rendezvous to welcome whoever turned up and talk bollocks until I got bored and announced that FFS it was about time we effing did something useful.

It all pottered along quite well until March 25th when we were told to go home because of Covid.
So we did.

Claire and I did a lot of cycling around flat bits of Somerset in brilliant weather, enjoyed it a lot and hardly got bored at all. I made lemon drizzle cakes for reasons that now escape me, and on June 3rd we started again, partly because I could no longer remember exactly what the rules were about staying in.

The two scaffolding towers for the rope bridge were already up, in anticipation of an open day in April that never happened because of Lockdown.

So once we had got a kettle in The Red Cell, all efforts were devoted to coffee, chatting, and getting the bridge built.

Now, if I had got my website properly organised, I could have led you through the next two or three months in a cohesive, logical and chronological order. As it is, it is all a bit of a muddle, so although I can remember all the right events, they are not necessarily in the right order.

Tom and Nick Maclean and Vicky came a lot.

Voigte was clearing up stuff, Matt and Becks quickly became part of the core team, Andy and Sam came and went, and The Towns Fund suddenly became a serious thing.

I was running two parallel projects. The main effort was the bridge, funded separately by Tom, and the beginnings of work on the building, which was also funded by Tom!

Some time ago I found that I could get away with paying volunteers £20 a day as expenses to cover travel and lunch and washing clothes and stuff without prompting any disapproval from HMRC, or panic by sponsors or donors such as the Lottery Fund for example.

It also helped to pay for my petrol, phone, printing and things. And we all got the same. So it was bugger all really, but it was the same bugger all for everyone, and as money goes was egalitarian, and better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

So, now I need to tell you about the Towns Fund. This was a government scheme to offer 100 towns in England with the poorest wards, a chance to bid for £25million each to stimulate economic regeneration and associated things. Glastonbury was one of the chosen towns, and Bridgwater another , the only ones south of Birmingham.

Our scheme was to be administered by Mendip District Council, widely regarded as the most useless, disorganised and supine local authority in the country. To be honest, we didn’t take it very seriously.

These schemes are normally a bureaucratic and time consuming nightmare! With schemes like this, many local authorities can’t be arsed at all or go for an industrial estate or a bypass. One box. Big tick. Please can we have the money?

However, £25million is not a sum to be sniffed at and even quite a small proportion of it would be worth several Fairy Godmothers. And Glastonbury had decided to get seriously involved in applying for real projects.

I had persuaded Tom that I could get the first two bays watertight, and deliver a space for an open access workshop in which I planned to beg, borrow and steal work benches and tools etc, and open it up to everyone, but with the main aim of getting the old to teach the young how to make things. The other half of the ground floor was to be an empty space for the Glastonbury Youth Club if it could raise the funds to kit it out.

The first floor was just to be made safe. But I had no idea how long it would take, since we were going to have to depend on Fairy Godmothers like Tom Clark.

Then, in July or August because of Covid, The department for Communities bunged £1/2 million at each town up front and told them to back a few things that would give them a quick win.

So along had come several potential Fairy Godmothers all at once!

And there we were with a project already on the go, and desperate for money!

We could bid for the money on the back of a fag packet, minimal strings, virtually no due diligence, and deliver results by end of March 2021. Just my kind of job!

So, on the basis of one on site interview with the government appointed bosses, and two sides of A4 we put in a bid for half of it and got it! So I now have to spend £250,000 by the end of March next year 2021.

Part of my proposal was to try to recruit all the skills I needed from a largely truck, caravan, and tent living community close by, who have been completely stuffed by Covid. All the jobs they would have done during the summer at festivals and events were cancelled, and they don’t qualify for any of the government furlough schemes.

This is a chance to pump a bit of money into a community that is going to struggle to survive the winter.

So, I set up a plan. There are no employees. Everyone is self employed and paid for a combination of the hours we have available and the hours they wish to work. Everyone gets paid the living wage of £9.30 an hour irrespective of their skill level, including me, sweepers, labourers or skilled carpenters and electricians.

And we all sit down to a hot meal together each day. With pudding!
Everyone told me I wouldn’t get the trades to come because they can earn twice that. We are now six weeks in and I have all the skills I need, because it turns out that money isn’t always the only reason for working!

We are now a team of around a dozen, working together because we share a common purpose, and talk about it together at lunch!
I have a great book keeper, a structural engineer, and a brilliant administrator who keep it all compliant and organised, while I get on doing whatever I want to get it done until somebody stops me!

What more could I ask?

The deal had been that we all had jobs until March 31st 2021 at which point we all got fired!

I had ring fenced that money so that each of us was secure until we all fell off the cliff together!

At one time there was a possibility that we could get fast track funding to keep going even though nobody else was going to be able to start until 2022. I was never very optimistic about it, and it quickly became clear it wasn’t going to happen.

I think the whole project will benefit from a break, and a period of consolidation and thinking and planning the future.

This is because being the builder is the easy bit. The real job is to hold the vision we share and make it all work.

Reading what I have written so far manages to entirely gloss over the sheer nervous energy, adrenalin and sleepless nights that accompanied the early days of this project for me, if for no-one else.

I did say when we got the Towns Fund money, that it was a responsibility that I could have done without. I quite like struggling, with virtually no money and managing on wit and invention. But this was just too good an opportunity to miss.

However, I had always been quite clear that I did not want to be responsible for phase two if we got main funding for the completion of the renovation of the rest of the building.

Part of the deal is that I submit a report each month to the Board to tell them what we have done with the money.
So here are my reports. They are not the whole story of course, but then what is?

Building C – The Life Factory

Progress Report – October 2020

This was how it was in 2011

By the summer of this year its surroundings had improved but Building C itself had deteriorated even further.

The lift tower and its roof had been badly attacked by water, pigeons and buddleia, the well known building eating plant beloved by butterflies and hated by all builders!

In the main building the deterioration was particularly bad on the inside after another decade of water damage.

Water leaking through the roof rotted out whole sections of floor. The entire floor was covered in about an inch of asphalt (basically tarmac).

Not only is it very heavy but the water gets in underneath and accelerates the rot.

The whole building is in a pretty sorry state.

This shows the basic problem caused by the leaky roof. Years ago water began to leak at the joints of the cast iron valley gutter. It ran down the oak posts and rotted the pine beams they were sitting on, and the posts began to sink into the beams, making the leaks worse and so on.

In fact this one got worse since we started. The post split right off the side of the beam. This meant that the whole roof had now sagged, and was now supported mainly by the trusses ten feet away on either side.

So clearly the priority is to fix the roof.

However, to fix the roof we need to get it properly supported and somehow lifted back up to where it was before it began to rot and sink.

And we need to deal with the elevation on the first bay. This has no ridge tiles, no gutter, some rotten bits and 85% broken glass.

And we need to fix the lift tower roof and kill the buddleia.

So here is the scaffolding on the lift tower.

The buddleia has gone and the roof is fixed but we are keeping the scaffold for other works to the tower.

Here is the scaffolding to the front elevation.

So far we have done quite a lot of cleaning and discovered just how badly damaged much of the glass is.

Nearly all the classic metal windows have been carefully renovated, glazed and painted. This is a pretty good effort and thanks to Olly and Matt and Becks

This is not the whole team. It is a snapshot of who was here that day, but most are part of the core team and the majority live close enough to walk to work. This is a key element of the project.

So the main job is to remove the rotten floor, retain what can be saved, and begin to deal with each rotted post in turn.

We will gradually replace the floor as we go, but to avoid getting the floor wet straight away we will use staging boards on the old floor and new joists.

As far as possible we are using local suppliers for everything we need, and check with the Chamber of Commerce for any local suppliers before we look further afield.

We began by renting some staging boards. Actually these are known universally as Youngman boards. The ones we have are 4.2 metres by 600 mm and unbelievably useful. They are made of a combination of aluminium with a resin type board face, and are an incredibly good design in terms of weight to flex strength. We began by renting them from Yeovil Hire down the road, but they were costing us about £500 a month.

I made a decision to buy instead and we now have about twenty tailor made which will last forever and was a really good decision.

At 4.2 metres they neatly and safely span the 10 foot bay pitch and if you look carefully you can see the one over a section of floor that looks as if it will collapse at any moment.

This photo shows one of the key elements of the whole of phase one, and the fundamental component of the first floor repair and renovation.

It is 3.6 metre lengths of 8″ x 2″ C24 graded quality floor joists from Wrights timber up the road and of which we have used hundreds. OK! 8 x 2 is actually a metric roughly 200 mm x 47mm, but we know what we mean! The point is that they neatly span the 10 foot bays with very little waste and are strong enough to do the job.

So here is a very good idea of what the whole floor is going to look like and you can see the first of the Youngman boards.

However, before we get to the easy bit, each post has to be dealt with individually to get it back up into position and then concreted in or set on steel.

This is one of the trickiest elements of the whole phase.

Oddly we are struggling to find pictures of this process, perhaps because we were too busy to remember to take pictures!
I think there is video.

It takes several very carefully placed Acrow props, a five ton lorry bottle jack and almost infinite patience. It took us two days to jack the first badly damaged one up about eight inches a few millimetres at a time.
This is because what you are actually doing is jacking up the entire roof, under the supervision of an exceptional engineer.

We have begun the renovation of the lift tower.

And we are creating a new entrance to the building which will serve as the main entrance to the workshop and as goods entrance for materials for the renovation without disturbing the garden.

So we have begun the painstaking process of dealing with each of the rotted posts, and much of the dreaded asphalt has already gone. It is a good beginning.

It is now November 5th 2020

Robin Howell

Building C – The Life Factory

Progress Report – November 2020

November 29th

We are now confident that we can find the skills we need from those who live nearby.

We are also increasingly confident that by taking a small team incremental approach to each element of the renovation we can avoid the need to involve major contractors.

This means that the majority of the payroll goes directly into the local community.

There are three main problems with the roof on the first bay.

The ridge tiles were stolen many years ago, and so the ridge itself and the rafters and batten that the top row of tiles hang on are in pretty poor shape. Almost all the glass is broken and damaged.

And the gutter seems to have disappeared.

However, the south roof face generally is in surprisingly good condition and the damage is pretty much confined to the top few inches close to the ridge.

So we have removed the top row of tiles, and used exterior ply with a new batten attached to it at exactly the height of the original. This board sits on the second batten down and is secured to the sound rafters.

To repair the ridge itself we are using structural foam. This is an ingenious way to stabilize the whole ridge and hold it together.

Structural foam is waterproof, strong and very sticky. It is the ideal thing to stabilise the whole ridge which the photo above shows is now reinstated and ready for conventional ridge tiles.
Glastonbury Reclamation have been collecting original clay ridge tiles for us for the last few months. We have enough.

We have decided to restore all the glazed section with traditional “like for like” Georgian wired glass. It is expensive but it will look great.
The new gutter will be black plastic because it will look fine, is very durable and a lot cheaper.

The most technically challenging job this month has been repairing a split main floor beam. Once more it is water that has done the damage. The photo below shows that it is only the rain water pipe that is holding the beam up at all.

The detail photo below shows just how bad it is. Once again the repair process was made possible by good advice from Nick Maclean, the project engineer, and anything up to six acrow props to complete the two stage process.

Fundamentally Nick tells me what has to be done, and it is down to me to work out how to do it. It is one of the things I am quite good at, and with unswerving support and help from the team, especially Matt and Becks, we sometimes think we can do anything.

And again we seem to be a bit short on photos of the job itself.
I think it is partly because we get a bit carried away with doing it and only afterwards remember we should have taken pictures!

The first element is to lift both beams either side of the brick column a few millimetres at a time to do two things. One is to squash the split back together and the second is to lift the whole thing far enough to get the steel supporting it in underneath and replace the pad it is sitting on.

Nick tells us what we have to do, and I know how to do it. That is our combined virtue! And me and Matt and Becks did most of it ourselves, but everybody would drop everything at a moments notice if we needed a team effort to do something heavy.

I can’t tell you how inspiring that is!

The first photo below shows the split nearly gone.

The second shows the entire beam suspended above the column with Rob’s hand underneath!

The whole roof above this beam is now held on four acrow props!

The picture above shows the steel in place and the beam resting on a new pad.

The one below is after we repeat the whole process to lift the roof off the beam so that we can get the top steel in.
It is now done!

One of the intentions of the project was to provide toilets and showers for the immediate community with access from outside the main building.

We had already demolished a small wall on the west side next to the stream. The bricks from this wall have provided the pathways for Bon’s garden.

We are now creating two lots of toilets inside.

One is the “public” one and the other is for the exclusive use of the youth centre inside the building.

Unfortunately we cannot include a disabled toilet in the community one because of the outside access, but there will be one available in the Red Brick Building.

This area will also include a cleaners utilities room for the building, electrical controls and water heating for all the toilets.

The original toilets are being restored.

The walls are not tiled but constructed with glazed bricks, now almost a collectors item!

These are being carefully cleaned as what is known as “a hospital job”. If at any time you find yourself with nothing to do, you can go and carefully scrape paint off the bricks! The bogs are not currently a thing of great beauty but they work.

I can’t tell you how pleased everyone was to see the Portaloo go!

The picture above shows the open roof at the east end of the second bay. The south slope is the first section to need complete replacement due to the collapse of the whole lot.

The first job was to create a whole temporary floor to provide a safe platform to work off. In fact this section of roof is a very simple job. It is a rafters, purlin, felt, batten and tile job like millions of roofs on Victorian terraced houses all over the country. The tricky bit is to match it in with the rest of the roof, and the fact that it hasn’t got anything to lean against until we can get the whole semi glazed north pitch in.

The original design of the building was based on regular 10 foot sections between trusses. This means that we can use a standard length floor joist which will ultimately be a final floor joist. However, it might get used several times before that to provide temporary platforms to create safe working areas.

This saves both money and materials.

The picture above shows the roof section felted and battened, and the one below with the tiles on, and a new flashing up the right hand side.

I did get into a bit of trouble here because there is a photo of Rob and Becks lolling about on the roof without hard hats!

When this was pointed out, I managed a grovelly apology, and expressed my extreme gratitude that it had been brought to my attention. Naturally I emphasised how important H&S was to us all. However, I did mention that my job was not to enforce H&S rules but to keep my team safe, and that I was taking that very seriously. So I hope that was clear

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So this is a before and after.

This roof section and all acrows and propping and jacking up of entire structures has been about two things.

One is to make the first floor structurally safe, and the other is to get the second bay roof into a good enough shape to be able to reroof it.
The key to this is to get the rainwater valley gutter straight and with a regular fall of about one inch in ten foot over 30 metres or so.

The photo above shows the result of all that effort.

We are now in a position to begin the repair of the north face and after many years finally keep the rain out!

This progress report went in early in December

Robin Howell –

Building C – The Life Factory

Progress Report – December 2020

December 30th 2020

Covid continues to be a concern for the older members of the team, particularly with the emergence of the more contagious strain. We are being very careful and hoping the vaccine will rescue us ancient ones before we are forced to stop.

We are half way through the programme, and the first section of the roof is watertight! The reclaimed ridge is complete, the rafters and flashings at each end have been repaired, and the whole face has been reglazed.

It looks great, and makes a fantastic difference to have been able to replace all the glass since very few panes were without cracks and holes.

Once the gutters and downpipes are put in, the scaffolding on that face can come down.

The most spectacular event of the month was the installation of the SPIRE – ASPIRE – ASPIRATION!

We do realise that such a piece of structural art is not strictly building repairs, but making, and doing and creating is exactly what The Life Factory is about. And aspiration is a key element of the opportunities it will seek to create.

We have also commissioned a mural on the east wall which you will be able to see properly when the scaffolding comes down.

Thanks in part to the generosity of the local artists who created them, the cost of these stunning additions to the project will be less than 2% of the budget. We hope you will agree they are worth it.

At the bottom end of the scale of sexy photogenic improvement has been the final removal of the last of the asphalt flooring which has been a painstaking, dirty, dusty, heavy job done mainly by Matt, Bex, Voijte, and latterly Jeremy.

Actually, I have done my share of this one. I am very lucky that over the years I must have breathed in copious quantities of plaster dust, asbestos, roof insulation as well as the asphalt, and am still here.

This means that we can make final decisions about which sections of floor we can repair and which definitely have to come out.
The next picture shows the last major section of this phase that definitely does have to come out!

I mentioned before that floor joists will probably do two or three jobs before they finish up in the floor, such as providing safe platforms for the roof repair.

The section below is a good example. At least part of it may finish up being left open so that there is height to put in some climbing wall or rope sections for the youth club. However, we will put joists and temporary decking over all the key areas to provide safe working platforms for the roof repair.

The most important, but completely unphotogenic event of the month is that we have ordered the Kingspan roofing system materials for the north face of the second roof pitch.
We hope to be fully prepared and ready to go when it arrives.

The next series of pictures show the amount of labour intensive repair work it has taken to prepare that section of roof. Once again the fact that it is possible at all is due to our engineer Nick Maclean. And the judicious use of concrete.

Nick used it to stabilise structures in the East India Dock buildings he rescued in London and there is a surprising amount of concrete in the resurrected SS Great Britain in Bristol.

The technique is pretty much the same as used by dentists worldwide but with somewhat bigger instruments.

You dig out all the soft rotted stuff exactly as a dentist does. In the one above you have make sure all the bits are in the right place which meant putting in some steel, jacking up a joint to push it together and then putting some shuttering round to stop the concrete falling out.

This last bit is exactly what the dentist does when he screws that band round your tooth before filling it with whatever dentists use instead of concrete.

Above are a couple more dodgy bits.

And here are four more posts shuttered up and ready for cavity filling.

And a couple of the finished article. It is an extremely simple, strong, and elegant way to save all the good timber and stabilise the whole structure.

We have a cunning plan to use a modified hydraulic access platform to provide us with the disabled lift. We finished up ordering a new one from China having failed to generate any enthusiasm from local companies. Although now complete, due to a worldwide container shortage, Brexit and Covid, we may have a problem getting it here in time.

We packed up for Christmas on Wed December 23rd at lunchtime and we will start again on Monday January 4th.
Unfortunately we are not able to pay anyone for time off but each of the team got a £100 Christmas thank you for their hard work and dedication to the project.

I popped in yesterday to check that we weren’t flooded and nothing had blown off. Half the team was there, doing stuff!
I love them all. Thank you.

Happy New Year.

This would have been submitted in the first week of January 2021

Robin Howell – robinhowell.321@gmail

Building C – The Life Factory

Progress Report – January 2021

February 2nd 2021

I was hoping to be able to tell you that the roof was on and the scaffolding was down. Unfortunately, Kingspan, almost the only big organisation supplier we are dealing with, announced that it was “rescheduling” our agreed delivery date, which has delayed both.

It is big, arrogant, fat and inflexible organisations like this that cost us all money.

So, we are very close, but no cigar!

Now the scaffolding is coming down at the front the mural can be seen properly and looks great.

It refers to the image of the Leonardo painting of the connection between God and man. This is the connection between nature and technology. Thanks to Dan and the team.

The roof will be completed in the first week of February and the scaffolding should be down as well.

These louvre shutters have been made on site using a heat baked Scandinavian pine called Thermowood which is not treated with any chemicals and should last fifty years without maintenance of any kind.

Earlier in the month we were preparing the “north face” for the Kingspan system, so that as soon as it arrived we could crack on.

In the picture you can see the old fashioned roof hatch we made so we could get out after putting the last panel on!

Below are a couple of pictures of the Kingspan system once it finally arrived.

Although bulky, the sections are not heavy, which made them easier to offload and handle as well as sitting more lightly on the roof structure itself.

Although it is technically in Phase Two we have made some temporary repairs to the next roof pitch with tarpaulin just to help to keep the water out of phase one.

Due to climate change the central valley gutters are no longer rated as adequate. This is not because of a significant increase in the total volume of rainfall, but because showers are becoming more extreme, which means you can get a lot of water in a short period.

An elegant way to solve the problem if you can is to take an extra outlet from the gutter. So we have made a central hole, and run it to the outside in a “secret gutter” along one of the trusses. This has instantly doubled the capacity of the valley gutter.

Doing this also demonstrated one of the key elements of this project which is retention and repair rather than demolition and replacement.
There was a lot of concern about the rusty condition of the cast iron central gulleys which serve the structural purpose of holding the walls together as well as taking the water away.

The picture shows the section we cut out. It shows only surface rust and is probably good for another 500 years!

This shows the “secret gutter” which now takes water from the main gulley between the pitches out through the north wall and into the gutter system.

As soon as we are dry we need to get the first floor in.
The rotten sections have now been removed and new joists are mostly in place. Our engineer has deemed the remaining floor “good enough” to be strengthened which will bring the whole thing up to the same level.

It also brings us close to the point at which we can begin to evict the pigeons from phase one!

There is less light from the new section of roof which is a unfortunate compromise that has to be made with concern for the cost of heating in the longer term.

We made a decision of principle to restore the first pitch and it looks and feels great, but there is a price to pay in terms of heat loss.
We are hoping that as part of phase two we will be able to make some further improvements to the roof insulation and airtightness of the building as a whole.

This photograph shows some of the homes of a community of up to a hundred people living on the edge. It provides us with more than half our build team, and many more would help if we had jobs for them to do.

The provision of toilets, showers, and a couple of washing machines is a small contribution to the well being and economic sustainability of a community already using less of the world’s resources than most of us. It has now been dubbed “The Peoples Laundry” and hopefully will be open before the end of April.

The blue roof bracket is welded from scrap metal found on the site and a few scrap car wheels.

The access is now complete, and we plan a little bridge over the stream to make getting to it easier.

Steve and the team have done a great job on the decking and access for the toilets and they look great.

We have designed electrical system to be as flexible as possible.
So it is based on key distribution boards in The Youth Factory, the main workshop, the first floor and the utilities “block”.

All wiring is on the surface and run in cable trays and baskets, which will also carry the fire alarm system, data and telephone cables etc. This has been set up on a grid system which will allow us to run almost anything we like wherever it is needed.
It is simple, very robust, and flexible.

Our timber merchants are holding the flooring for us until we are ready to go.

The hyper inverter air source heat pump heating system will be arriving on February 15th and will be complete by the end of the month.

The fire alarm system is due for installation in March.

The lift is on its way from China and is due in Southampton on March 4th.

We are finally at the point where we are beginning to feel we are winning.
Which I am afraid is bad news for the pigeons.

This report would have gone in during the first week in February

Robin Howell –

Building C – The Life Factory

Progress Report – February 2021

March 3rd 2021

Phase One of Red Brick Building C is now weathertight, safe and secure, as agreed.

By March 31st, the floor will be in, and we will have spent the £250,000 in accordance with the conditions agreed as part of the original agreement for the accelerater fund Project in Building C.

This is a considerable achievement by a dedicated and assiduous Build team, working to compressed deadlines, restricted by Covid conditions, and in adverse winter weather.

We look forward to the bigger job of the renovation of the rest of Building C in due course.

When it finally arrived, the new Kingspan roof went in pretty much according to plan

This detail shows the new outlet in the valley gutter which effectively doubles its capacity to remove rainwater.

The picture below shows the new roof from inside.

Because the acrylic panels are translucent rather than crystal clear as they are on the wired glass front pitch, the overall light level is reduced but “softened”.

The floor is looking great, thanks to a small dedicated team, who should manage to complete the whole thing in the next few days.

These are the outside units for the Mitsubishi Hyper Inverter Air Source heat pump system.
There are a total of five larger units and a small one in each of the toilets.

The principle of the inverter air source heating system is that it draws its heat from the atmosphere. This means that for each kilowatt of electricity consumed we can generate 5 kilowatts of heat.

The system is incremental and can be added to which makes it very flexible, without a disproportionate capital spend on boiler installations for example.

The principle of using electricity could fit very well in the longer term because there are a number of proposals for the alternative generation of electricity in the bigger picture that Building C and The Life Factory could take advantage of.

Here are a couple of pictures of the ceiling units which will provide the main space heating for the workshop area, the ground Floor youth area,

And the first floor activity area of phase One.

The workshop area is going to be a major contribution to the renovation of Building C and to the development of The Life Factory in particular.

In simple terms, as I understand them, this was the deal we had last year as one of the projects backed by the accelerator fund element of the Towns Fund proposal.

Our job was to get phase one of Building C weathertight, safe and secure. This we have done.

It involved restoring the font pitch, which we have done.
Reroofing the North face of the second bay, which we have also done. And completely replacing the first floor of phase one, which will be completed in the next few days.

And finally, we had to absolutely, definitely, “failure is not an option” spend the £250,000 by March 31st 2021.

This will also be done .
So, thanks for all your support. Job Done.

Well done all of us!

Robin Howell, Project Leader. March 3rd 2021

Mendip District Council, and those involved in the Towns Fund bid for £25 million sent me an email asking for a final report on the £250K Phase One of Building C The Life FactoryProject which had been such an important part of my life since January 2020, and had utterly consumed me for the six months of the Phase One Project.
Unfortunately for them, by that time I had already escaped,

Dear Jane, Tina, and Julie
Thank you for your email. I am afraid you have now got all the post mortem paperwork you are going to get out of me for this phase of the whole thing.
As I recall we had a very simple deal. I think we have done a pretty damn good job on our part of it whilst you have contributed mostly bugger all that was of any actual use.
And apparently I have had a stroke. My Medical advisers tell me that on no account should I do anything which is remotely likely to upset me. I am afraid that ticking boxes on your tedious forms comes well up that list.
Best Regards,

Copyright March 2021