Cwm Maethlon Eco Hostel

An eco-hostel in Snowdonia National Park.

Emmaus are a charity that work with homeless people. Their Communities enable people to move on from homelessness, providing work and a home in a supportive, family environment. Companions, as residents are known, work full time collecting renovating and reselling donated furniture. This work supports the Community financially and enables residents to develop skills, rebuild their self-respect and help others in greater need.

The Bristol branch of the charity had been bequeathed a site in a spectacularly beautiful part of the country, the valley of Cwm Maethlon in Snowdonia, to be used as a retreat for both companions and workers. It was intended to form an integral part of the work done by the organisation.

The building, known as the Old Powerhouse, is the last remaining building on a site the has been used for slate quarrying, lead mining and more recently hydro-electric power generation. The brief called for accommodation in the form of an eco hostel -it had to be self sufficient in every respect -maintenance, energy use and business operation -it is fundamental that it is not a drain on the resources of the charity.

A site visit was followed by a bid submission in which we outlined our aims for an appropriate and sustainable solution -one that created accommodation providing privacy and comfort to enjoy the environment, and a shared experience for the visitors. The practice was supported in this by sustainability consultant, Bill Gething.

Our feasibility and initial design envisaged wrapping the building in a cocoon of insulation and local timber cladding to achieve a minimal energy requirement, near PassivHaus standard. The energy strategy involved maintaining a background environment with energy from renewable sources (solar and hydro-electric), with wood burning stoves to supplement the heating at peak periods. Sustainability ran through all aspects of the project, from selection of local building materials to supporting the local economy.

Sadly Emmaus Bristol decided to focus their energies on a more local site to secure their primary operation, and the project was not realised. However -there was a silver lining, and the practice was engaged to refurbish Backfields House for the charity, just at the end of our lane in Stokes Croft.

Askew Architects have since been in discussion with potential new owners of Cwm Maethlon, to develop the buildings as a family home. 

This is such a beautiful area that we have uploaded (right) a gallery of landscape and archaeological features on the site -enjoy!