Mary lives in London with her partner and her young son. She has an MSc from the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Advanced Environmental Energy Systems in the Built Environment. She is BREAM trained and is an energy assessor for both commercial and domestic buildings. Mary runs her own business, Green & Castle www.green-castle.co.uk
‘So, Mary with all those qualifications what made you decide that you needed to add practical natural building skills to your portfolio?’
‘Well, I guess it all started when I volunteered on the Spiral House in Ireland some years ago. I met Barbara and caught the building bug. Then, later, closer to home I took a course in building a cob, pizza oven which I enjoyed and I thought, if I had practical building skills it might be helpful for me in my work. For example, if I had knowledge of the natural building process I’d be able to advise my clients in a more detailed fashion. I could present them with the bigger picture and a holistic view of sustainability. So, I looked for a natural building programme to join and I found SNaB.’
‘And what modules have you done so far?’
‘Two courses of strawbale building at Perivale and Spalding, two courses of clay plastering at Down to Earth in Wales and at Romsey on a contract build there and two courses of lime plastering at Romsey and Stroud. I’ve also done some of the CPD courses too.’
‘With your new found knowledge what do you intend to do?’
‘It’s a good question and one I haven’t got a slick answer to yet. I want to get a few more builds under my belt first then I think I’ll be able to carve a role out for myself in the natural building sector.
It could be that I’ll bring my skills together in project management of builds or in advising on materials. I’m currently involved with Straw Works and Cuerden Valley Park (CVP – www.cuerdenvalleypark.org.uk) on a Living Building Challenge (LBC) project www.living-future.org/lbc, which is all about using sustainable materials and processes. The CVP building is beautiful and if the LBC part of the work comes to fruition it will be the first building to gain LBC accreditation in the UK.
‘You’ve mentioned in our conversation that you would like to work collaboratively with other natural builders in the UK’
‘Yes, which is one of the reasons why I joined Strawbale UK (SBUK). SBUK is a group of people who are interested and involved in strawbale building in the UK. My interest is probably wider than building with straw to be honest, I like all areas of natural building. However, I am interested in working with others in this sector and SBUK is a place where I’m going to meet and share ideas with like-minded individuals.’
‘I understand that you’re on the board of SBUK?’
‘Yes I got the opportunity and took it. It’s exciting to be in on the ground floor and be able to affect what happens.’