VCW 2017 update – We’re Turning TWO

Valley Community Workspace Inc is turning two. On the eve of our second AGM, as Chairperson I get to brag about what we have been up to in the past year, and update you on how things are going.

It’s hard to believe almost two and a half years have passed since a small group of us took a first peep at the Allen St garage. Our vision of a shared work space where we could build and promote the kinds of projects and values needed for a fairer, low carbon future has slowly materialised into a place packed full of cool stuff and exciting projects that give me a thrill every time I walk in the door. The coolest part about VCW is that on the same day you might have a computer geek or two, a master welder, a couple of bicycle experts and an industrial electrician under the same roof. What can you not achieve?

VCW officially became tenants of the Valley Project earlier this year, with a five year lease agreement signed off between VCW & the Project.

The VCW structure means that we have space available for paid commercial tenants as well as for volunteer groups. We are just finalising sublease agreements for current commercial tenants James Hardisty (Control Focus), Nathan Parker (Dunedin Electric Bikes) and in the near future Christine Keller (the LoomRoom). Other groups and individual members currently using the space are the bike workshop, led by Peter Mc Donald and Ross Gilbertson; Makerspace (Paul Campbell, Ian Rees); the Valley Anvil (Steve Ward); and Tim Bishop, Rosemary Penwarden and Tom Bond.

Thanks to Tim we now have a hot desk available in our co-working office space and electronics lab with free wifi and occasional printing.  Access starts at $30 per week or $10 per day.

Last July we opened our doors to Mayors and City Council staff from all around New Zealand during the Local Government NZ Conference where we got to show off some of our projects. We also held a jewellery repair workshop, and in May this year hosted a cosy homes workshop in conjunction with the Valley Project.

On the cosy homes theme Tim’s Living Rooms project deployed automated home temperature and humidity monitoring systems to a number of NEV homes last winter.  SHAC (Sustainable Habitat Challenge) and the Dunedin Makerspace are collaborating to make a home performance analysis app to help people be warmer, dryer, and save energy at home.

We led the development of two applications to EECA’s Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund, one for a feasibility study for a Dunedin wide electric car sharing scheme, and the second for the purchase of a community owned demonstration electric car for Waitati and environs. The car share feasibility study application involved recruiting partners with the DCC, ORC and Polytechnic, and for the demo car application we partnered with Blueskin Nurseries. While neither application succeeded in gaining EECA funding we did make useful connections and had some excellent discussions about EVs and their growing presence in our city.

Below are some further short reports from members:

Makerspace has been teaching kids how to work with Arduinos and working on a low-cost robot platform. Besides their regular sessions on Saturday afternoon and Thursday evenings we have been holding weekly workshops for young people from PACT.

Via VCW, Makerspace is promoting our Community Test Bed to emerging scholars – our collection of keen volunteers who are interested in assisting university and polytechnic research projects that touch on themes of sustainability or low-carbon societies.

The Valley Anvil space has been reasonably quiet recently as Steve Ward has been working on other projects. However, Steve is still concentrating on retro-fitting and repairing electric bikes. “Every job increases the skills and experience I have to offer, and I am more than happy to talk to people about their ideas and aspirations for electric bike projects. The retro fitting has been excellent for making electric bikes for people with specific needs.” Steve’s current project is to build a modular tiny house and he has been investigating innovative heat transfer systems in preparation.

VCW Bike Workshop Report 2017 by Peter MacDonald

The community bike workshop has been an active and sustainable part of the Valley Community Workspace this year.  So far this year 44 bikes of various sizes and numerous bits and pieces have been donated by locals and others.  We have sent out 35 whole bikes for donations and sold 4 while attending to the needs of around 170 customers, many of whom did work on their own bikes.  A couple of highlights: Otago University Child Care took 7 balance bikes for use in their centre and Pine Hill School is taking 6 bikes for the use of their pupils after running the Cycle Skills in Schools programme earlier this year.

We have also gone outside to do a clinic at Otago Polytech for students and staff and assisting the North East Valley Normal School with their weekly Wheels Days.

The workshop is open for 6 hours per week at present and we would like to have more volunteers especially ones that could be trained up to run independent open sessions and extend our hours. We would also love more customers to reduce our stack of bikes!

From Nathan: Dunedin Electric Bikes (DEB) has increased hours: Thursday/Friday 9-2 and Saturdays 9-12.30 and continues to work out of VCW with a steady flow of clients wanting to buy, repair or convert.

At the moment this is a small business that works for me and my family and has the potential to grow as circumstances change.

From an environmental angle – about 99% of all ebike packaging is being recycled or re-used, we are moving over to using lubricants that are more people and planet friendly and a significant amount of my personal transport to and from VCW is combined with ride sharing or use of ebike.

The ebikes displayed in the “shop” window have assisted with sales and the windows were fitted last year with a glazing film to increase safety from a fall and to stop uv light from damaging the bikes.

We are now also using the adjoining brick garage for ebike storage and some retail display.

The garage was repaired at the beginning of this year – roof leaks fixed, new gutter/downpipe, exterior wall repaired and now the garage is fairly weather proof. The garage is also nearly all lined out and the patch of weed/bramble out the back cleared away and replaced with natives.

DEB’s range of ebikes has increased with new makes and models being added to as I write.

VCW has been a great place to establish an ebike business. I have felt empowered and supported by other space users (collaborative colleagues) and the physical situation of a quiet no exit street close to buses and cycle lanes is a winner for many of my clientele.

The team at Control Focus – James & Stu Hardisty, Melcom Hibbard and apprentice Tadhg Kelly – specialise in industrial automation and electrical systems. James is off to the Solomons this week to install off grid solar panels, a wind turbine and batteries in a remote village. Before that he installed an industrial electronics system in a lime crushing plant in Dipton. James’ van is in a similar holding pattern as Rosemary’s car, awaiting completion as a fully electric work van. They hope to be working on more electric conversions as opportunities arise, especially larger vehicles like a bus, truck, passenger van or train – all within scope. We need more sparkys!

From Christine: The LoomRoom is in its fourth term of weaving classes in 2017 with individual projects by new and more experienced weavers as well as the odd group project. There is a group of about 15 active students per term while there is also a cloud of weavers coming now and then. We are waiting to move into Allan Street to do an exhibition and set up at least six floor looms (including 2 computerized) as well as giving a home  to the 20 plus table looms. We presently have more looms that need to be upgraded again with help of the Makerspace and there will be common projects in future setting up LED lighting for the looms as well as projects to warm up the weavers who will work in the large open Museum space. I also plan to build an enclosed heatable class room with the help of Steve Ward.

We can’t wait to move into Allen Street and especially thank Nolan for his work to facilitate communication between all involved parties.

Pam McKinlay and I have been part in the Art and Science ‘Art in Space’ Exhibition and presented our work in Hamilton at the annual symposium of CTANZ (Costume and Textile Association of NZ) in May. In July we are part of the ‘Art and Genetics’ show and I am presently working on a piece for ‘Art and Revolution’ in October.

Rosemary and James from VCW have been helping to set up the Silverpeaks Solar Co-operative (SSC). We will begin with a bulk purchase of solar panel systems at discounted prices for members. If there is enough interest, next steps will include: development of a decentralised peer-to-peer electricity system; making local solar electricity available to those who can’t afford the upfront cost; training and employing local people; and for those who can, pitching in to purchase an extra panel or two for appropriate community buildings (eg: schools). SSC can also look at bulk purchase of solar hot water systems (separate to pv (photovoltaic)) for new and existing systems. While we currently have more than enough interest for the initial purchase we may be able to extend the next order to cover more people in the Valley. Please contact Rosemary (0221856966) if you would like to know of future plans.

Delay in building works for Museum Space has been frustrating for Valley Project and VCW members, especially Christine, who is waiting for this to be completed so she can move her weaving workshop, the Loom Room, from King Edward Court to the VCW (see Christine’s report above).

There continue to be a few water leaks in other parts of the building. Meanwhile future plans include installing solar pv on the roof, a ducted heat pump system and a more comfy kitchen space as we are able.

Lastly, I would like to disclose that my dark blue Honda City is still not yet electrified, although we almost have all the bits to get it there. I look forward to a more unreserved brag next year. Free rides all round to those who have shown interest in the ‘progress’ of my electric car conversion. Interested parties now include viewers of “Charged As”, an initial production by a group hoping to secure funding for a TV series on electric cars:

Please join us for drinks and nibbles at 5:30, Tues 25 July, for VCW ‘Sustainability snapshots’ & a short AGM. We look forward to seeing you!


Rosemary and the VCW organising group

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