HPH110 : Reflecting on my self-build project – with Ben Adam-Smith
Ben Adam-Smith reviews where he is in his own self-build process and discusses the reasons why there will be some changes to future podcasts.
Ben's personal goal is to create his own energy efficient home before he turns 40 in August 2016. Despite his best efforts it is looking increasingly unlikely, though not impossible, that he will achieve this target.
Exploring what houses we should be building
When Ben started the podcast over 3 years ago, his aim was to explore what housing we should be building in the 21st century. While this will always be central to the podcast, by staying close to innovation and the people that drive standards forward, Ben has come to the conclusion that there is really a common sense route for the future of house building:
The Passivhaus Standard
This is one we've covered many times on the podcast and with so many benefits it just seems logical that this is the way that all buildings will go in the future. While you may not necessarily get it completely right first time with regards to perhaps size, layout, architectural flair, materials etc, it will lead to a higher quality of building such as comfort levels, low heating bills, energy efficiency and air quality.
When Ben visited LILAC and Lancaster co-housing he felt it was easy to see that there's a lot of sense in this too. It's about contributing what you're good at and sharing facilities. In a future where we could be facing bigger problems, it seems sensible to want to try and share those problems and face them as a collective rather than individually.
Decreased reliance on cars
When building new houses and new developments they should all be with a focus on how to get people walking or cycling, rather than relying on cars. It should be about creating hubs where the majority of things we do don't involve a car.
Issues for the future
With the flow of people between countries likely to be more radical in the future, it is something that globally will need addressing.
As we're just through the Christmas period, Ben reflects that while he is grateful for the gifts he has received, he sometimes would rather he didn't have the extra bits of plastic. And instead of frequent holidays and travel, perhaps trying to reduce the number of trips, or concentrate them better.
In terms of sustainable economy, it's about just trying to do what we can as individuals: investing in people and companies more wisely when we can and being careful about the choices we make.
Changes to podcasts
Ben feels that while we don't know exactly what we should be building in the 21st century, we know a pretty good amount. We should be turning our attention instead to why it isn't happening.
With the volume house builders, it seems that without government legislation to back it up there just won't be the changes to standards, as they're always going to be about maximising profits.
Investors also play a part in this – until people renting houses demand more and have those choices then investors will keep providing the lowest denominator. If more people managed to build their own houses then the markets for some of these other things would naturally shrink.
For now, and while Ben concentrates on getting his own self-build underway, there will be no more podcasts on retrofitting. While retrofit is a huge and important issue which we'll come back to at some point in the future, for now the podcast focus will be on new-build.
This year the podcasts are also going to focus on the UK. With Ben being based in the UK and having contacts and the ability to go out and find people who are building well, it makes sense to concentrate here. Setting up The Hub was a key goal for Ben last year and in order to develop this and have cohesion with the podcasts there has been a need to start initially by focusing on the UK market. We need to get it fully operational and successful here in the UK first before spreading it beyond. It doesn't mean we won't be interviewing experts in other countries, but we will be making sure they are all relevant to self-builders in the UK.
The challenges to self-building
We're going to be looking at some of the major challenges for self-builders in the UK and see how can we break through some of these.
Finding a plot – having searched for a plot for a year and a half Ben suspects that as he is having problems then other people out there are likely having the same issues.
Finance – how do we make it affordable so that anyone can make it happen?
Planning – trying to understand a little more about the intricacies of the UK planning system.
Some of the forthcoming podcasts will be about finding a quality team for your build. We'll also be having more case studies and perhaps rather than concentrating on their project as a whole we might focus on individual elements in greater depth.
We welcome your feedback so please do leave us comments below.
We've recently added a new chapter to the Long Barrow Passivhaus story. In this episode we find out why Alex Baines opted for a raft foundation, look at some of the planning involved, understanding heave and how it was addressed. We're looking at why Alex has made particular choices while trying to make it all as easy to understand as possible.
We also have a new module on planning permission. We have an interview with Phil Skill, a chief planner that featured on the TV programme “The Planners”. There is also a case study with Kingsley Barraclough on how he successfully achieved planning permission.
As a Hub member there's a chance to network with other self-builders through a special Facebook group.
Hub membership is currently £45 per year while we're in the early days and building up the information we have available to you, but this price will go up in the future.
About House Planning Help
Find out more
Follow Ben Adam-Smith on Twitter