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Minister opens UK's firstgreen builders' merchant

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The uk's first ecological builders' merchant was opened officially by detr minister Angela Eagle on Tuesday. Based in Southwark, central London, Construction Resources is the brainchild of Richard Handyside, a man with a background in computer software but with a long-term interest in environmental issues. The company acts as distributor for a number of products, with small quantities available from the warehouse attached to its Southwark centre. This commercial activity should fund its mission to communicate, the subject of the rest of its centre.

This is intended to demonstrate environmental products to three sets of people: architects and other professionals; the general public; and tradespeople who need to learn to work with these materials. The materials range, said Handyside, 'from the technically simple, such as earth render, to state-of-the-art heating systems'.

There are displays not only of materials themselves but also of the way they can be used: for example a section of a typical Victorian house showing how it can be upgraded with materials incorporating wool, recycled newspaper and a wood-fibre board. Cork and coconut fibre are also used in insulation materials, and wood fibre and clay for sound insulation. There is a pavilion constructed from unfired clay bricks and clay render, a typical wall built with fired honeycomb bricks, and a demonstration of an Australian Trombe wall system which uses cardboard instead of capillary glass.

As well as a network of trained installers, the organisation is building up a register of environmental architects, energy consultants and services engineers. The concept of a 'green' builders' merchant is common in Germany, says Handyside, though it is new here. 'A lot of architects want to do the right thing,' he said, 'but they haven't been able to source the products.' Details, tel: 0171 450 2211.

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