Over the years we have worked on many projects to renovate the building, using eco building techniques and materials. We done all this on a very tight budget, with the help of wonderful volunteers who have worked hard to help us create the Eco Centre.
1. Solar hot water - one of our first projects was to build and install 9 DIY solar water heaters using local wood, copper piping, sheeps wool insulation and perspex covers. We have also bought a further 2 commercial water heaters, waiting to be installed. This was paid in part by an Eigg Green Fund Payment.
2. Wood fuel for heating - we removed the defunct oil fired boiler and replaced it with a super efficient wood gasification boiler and water storage tanks. It is fuelled with wood logs that we get from the Eigg forestry team.
3.Fruit forest garden - the old kitchen garden had not been used for over 10 years, and was waist high in weeds when we found it. We have gradually transformed it, using permaculture principles, into a forest garden/orchard, with over 120 different fruit and nut trees, vegetable beds, honeybees, compost area and tree graft nursery.
4. Passive solar heating - we have built 2 lean-to greenhouses on the side of the building help bring in some passive solar heating through the windows. This was a tricky job, as the windows are so high, we had to build a wall first for the greenhouse to sit on. In the process of building a third one on the flat roof above.
5. Micro hydro and Photovoltaic panels - Bob rebuilt an old turbine to provide us with a 2k hydro. We had to install 1 mile of pipe up the hill in a steep gorge to where the small dam is - this was only possible with a group of very hard working IVS volunteers! We also have 3 PV panels fixed on a stand on the flat roof. It has a tracker on it, which makes the panels move with the sun, so as to gain maximum sunlight.
6. Windblown timber milling - Before we moved to Eigg, the Eigg Forestry team had cut down some mature douglas fir trees, which were in danger of falling on the building. These became the focus of a major 5 year project to cut and dry our own wood to then use in the building renovations. We bought a portable wood mizer to move the massive trunks and cut into planks of wood - easier said than done!
7. Wood drying - after planking the wood and cutting to various sizes, we had to dry the wood for 12 months, before it could be used for internal building work. 2 large rooms became drying areas full of wood, with dehumidifiers running, powered by the hydro.
8. Carpentry - once the wood had dried we moved it to our workshop to use for construction purposes. We rebuilt door frames and surrounds with decorative finishing, skirting boards, architraves and shelving.
9. Insulation in roof - the building may have a grand design, but had very little insulation in it when we arrived, so absolutely freezing in the winter. We wanted to use something ecologically sound but all the commercial products were very expensive. A the same time, the local farmer was about to burn loads of sheets wool, as the market price had plummeted. So instead we took it, washed and dried all the fleeces and put them up in the loft! Very labour intensive job but satisfying being able to use a very local resource that otherwise would have been wasted!
10. Insulation for windows - the building has old wood frame sash windows which are very draughty! We couldn't afford to replace them, so built our own secondary glazing instead. Large sheets of perspex are attached over the inside of the window, which can be removed in the summer. Then we had some very creative volunteers who were able to sew thermal lined curtains for extra warmth!
11. Floor restoration - some of the original oak flooring had warped with the damp conditions. We didn't want to throw away this valuable wood so constructed a wood steamer to straighten out the planks to reuse. Other areas where the wood had rotted, we used our own wood, cut tongue and grooves in it to make new flooring.
12. Renovation - walls covered in damp mould, dry rot in the woodwork, dumped rubbish - that was the state of the building we found it in. Over the years there has been lots of cleaning, washing, scrubbing and painting, by family, friends and volunteers. Still some to do, but we are getting there!
Projects still to do - lots of minor renovation work inside, repair flat roof, replace roof tiles, build compost toilet and grey water system, build an outside workshed..thats just a few things on our job list!