Kaprálův mlýn Scout Environmental Education Centre
Kaprálův mlýn is a Scout environmental education centre in the Czech Republic that operates with minimal carbon footprint. A former mill, the centre is located in a unique karst landscape with many different habitats nearby, including caves. This provides great opportunities for visitors to connect with nature, and many Scout groups have organised their camps and trainings here. To spread the environmental message, the centre also offers programmes for students, undergraduates and has a kindergarten within its premises.
However, when the centre was first leased to Czech Scouts in 1993, it was just an abandoned ruin. It was after thousands of hours contributed by volunteers and a major renovation in 2008, that it became the Scout centre it is today.
After much planning and hard work, and inspired by Alex Kapral, an inventor and former Scout who lived here in 1940s, the centre was turned into a model eco-friendly house that was opened to the public in 2012. Its more than 40 eco-friendly features lower the environmental footprint of the main lodge, which has 60 beds, to almost zero.
In Central Europe, heating and preparation of hot water consume 85% of the total household energy. The process leaves the heaviest impact on the environment as they are still prevalently based on fossil fuels. This is not the case with the centre as a third of this energy need is provided by solar power, a quarter by fire wood (renewable source) and the rest by heat pumps that extract heat from the ground. To be 100% green, the electricity used to run the heat pumps is generated by renewable sources – biogas and photovoltaic.
The best thing is that the reconstruction cost for the centre was lower than what it would have cost to reconstruct a similar conventional building, proving that smart solutions are not about big funds but big ideas. The eco-friendly centre also requires 10 times lower the cost of heating for similar conventional houses and is more energy efficient.
In 2015, a house for volunteers who help to run the centre, was built with an even more ambitious aim: to minimise the fossil energy used for the construction of the house.
Kaprálův mlýn is also used for research and training of future construction engineers and designers by Brno Technical University. Students of secondary schools also visit the centre to learn how to apply physics in everyday life to lower their environmental impact.