At one time – as the photograph shows – the Warehouse in Allison Street was unwanted and unloved.
The former building’s manager, Dave Clare, was one of a group who attended meetings at Lyn Roberts’ house in the ’70s, before the prospect of using the Warehouse was in sight. Richard Trengrouse remembers moving in and cleaning out the building with Birmingham Friends of the Earth volunteers in the late1970s. Dave gives the exact date of moving in: April 1st 1977. From then on, BFOE had the good fortune to use and eventually own the nineteenth century Digbeth building.
Over the years it has been transformed; its most dramatic first move towards sustainability was made by Dave Clare, with regular DIY help from Keith Stein. Dave had been involved with Birmingham Friends of the Earth since the 1980s before coming to work for them full time in 1990.He was involved in helping to establish the Eastside Community Group, before retiring in 2007 and, about a year before he retired, he was interregnum manager of the Warehouse Café for six months.
In the 90′s I remember him showing sceptical visitors a real curiosity: energy efficient light bulbs which had been installed in the building. Many thought they would never ‘catch on’.
In 2005 Dave announced on the website that a solar water heating system had been successfully installed in the Warehouse – and at the beginning of April a real-time temperature display could be seen in the Resource Room.
By 2007 the Warehouse offered more evidence that ‘low carbon living’ is both possible and attractive, with tenants including the Sprocket cycle shop, the vegetarian café and the One Earth shop (Birmingham’s only vegan shop).
The water was very well-heated by solar panels, a biomass boiler to heat the radiators had been installed and the reception area had been insulated to a very high standard.
Phil Burrows, the second enterprising building manager, has continued the quest for energy efficiency and overseen the light and welcoming transformation of the entrance area.
Last year an Open Day was held and he was able to tell visitors about the work done to reduce carbon emissions:
- solar tubes on the roof provide hot water
- the biomass boiler burns wood pellets
- the solid walls of the reception area have been insulated on the inside
- at the time, work in progress,12 inches of polystyrene were being fixed onto the the long, north facing wall of the building and rendered – twice the thickness that current building regulations require.
The contractor was Jericho Construction, a social enterprise that aims to get unemployed people back into work
The demonstration was paid for by the Dept. of Energy & Climate Change’s Local Energy Assessment Fund, in order to inspire other property owners with solid walled buildings to consider insulation.
As 60% of a house’s fuel is used to keep the rooms warm and rising fuel bills are a big concern, Phil told visitors about the new Green Deal, which offers a way to pay off the costs of insulating the solid walls of their older houses over time, from the energy savings which led to lower bills..
He ends on a high note: “Delicious vegetarian food sustained us, accompanied by a bottle of Rhubarb 1990 wine, well-matured in our cellar”.