Grand Designs usually pisses me off. I get cranky at the supercilious 'im-smarter-than-you tone' of the ever-smug presenter, Kevin McCleod. He seems to actually enjoy the turmoil created by the naive couples who engage architects and builders to create their 'dream homes' with unrealistic expectations and impossibly lean budgets. I guess it makes great television, watching these couples squirm as their dreams get gradually eroded by the inevitable compromises that building often demands.
And so I was surprised by my reaction to a recent episode (a repeat I suppose) in which a couple built their own home in Brittany. I smiled...all the way through it. I was caught up in their dream. Even Kevin's quips and jibes failed to dash their hopes or my enjoyment.
Its long been a dream of mine to build my own house. I mean, actually build it, so watching a couple do this from go-to-whoa, in the space of a year, making the decision to sell their expensive city house in the UK, pay out the mortgage and build a home on a cheaper piece of land in provincial France with the remaining money, was inspiring. They took a year off their paid jobs to do this, and enlisted the help of volunteers for some of the labour intensive parts of the project.
They built an earthship. A passive solar home built mostly out of recycled materials. While the aesthetic is a, hmmm, a bit too 'nuts and berries' for me, I really liked the technique of using car tyres which would otherwise be used for landfill, as both wall and structure for the rear of the building. The wall was made by stacking the tyres in an open bond, packing them with dirt from the site, and rendering the interior and exterior surfaces with pise. Low cost, thermally efficient, insulative and it makes use of a material which would otherwise present an environmental problem.