Sustainability Case Study: Gibson Mill

Gibson Mill generates all its power and water, and disposes of its waste. Run by the National Trust, it aims to have the lowest possible environmental impact, making it a model of sustainable development for visitors.


Water comes from a spring and is gravity fed to the mill. This water is used in the cafe, the caretaker's cottage, and in the toilets, which are low flush with the waste composed on site.

Hot water for the cafe is generated through a biomass boiler that requires one burn a day. 40 tonnes of wood a year are needed to ensure sufficient hot water but the surrounding estate grows over 400 tonnes a year.

Electricity comes from two water turbines supplemented by photovoltaic panels on the roof and is stored in a battery pack, giving the potential to run for four days even if all the electricity generators fail.


There are many energy-efficient devices. The light bulbs are 1.8W and produce the equivalent of a traditional 60W bulb. The fridge is ten times as efficient as a traditional model. There is an electric zip boiler that heats water for drinks.

Heat in the cafe comes from a wood-burning ceramic stove, which is designed to be hugged, continually radiating heat throughout the day. The lift to the first floor, primarily for visitors who use a wheelchair, is human-powered and works on a counterbalance system, and it requires only the smallest amount of physical exertion to raise it.

There are dials demonstrating power used in the cafe, one for the caretaker's cottage, one for the mill lighting and one for the safety systems. All of these dials are explained and on view to the public and form a major part of the educational experience.


The National Trust actively promotes use of public transport, cycling and walking to Gibson Mill, with a 33 per cent discount on entry for people who walk. The leaflet about the mill is only circulated in areas with good public transport links to it.

This is an extract from an article by Guy Laurie in Museum Practice Issue 33, p56-57, Spring 2006.
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