Grand Designs is a BAFTA-winning architecture show on Channel 4, following the lives of couples or families as they embark on building an elaborate dream home – often running well over schedule and over budget in the process.
Over the show’s 18 series, one recurring theme has been the desire to build a home that is as energy-efficient and eco-friendly as possible. People don’t just want a home that looks great – they’re also keenly aware of their carbon footprint and the impact on the environment. Responsibly-sourced materials, energy efficient insulation and sustainable architecture are all phrases you’ll hear thrown around in most episodes.
We’ve trawled through the show’s archives to find some of the most ambitious eco-projects. You can take a look at some of our favourites below:
Hand-built eco-home in Pembrokeshire
Built by: Simon and Jasmine Dale
Location: Pembrokeshire, West Wales
Forming part of a larger eco-village deep in the Welsh countryside, this hand built home takes the concept of ‘low-impact’ to the extreme. It was built from trees felled from its own plot, it’s entirely off-grid and creates virtually no waste.
Starting with a budget of just £500, Simon and Jasmine Dale used their experience from building similar (but temporary) dwellings to create a more permanent, long-term home for themselves and their two children. Although the project wasn’t quite completed during filming, it only cost an estimated £27,000 over two years.
In exchange for planning permission, the Welsh Assembly laid down some strict guidelines – all homes in the eco village were given five years to demonstrate that 75% of their everyday basic needs could be met from the land. This included things like producing their own firewood, generating their own energy and managing their own waste – as well as running a small business.
Simon, a former photographer, and Jasmine, who’s background is in environmental education, were the first to build on the plot and used the opportunity to educate others in sustainable building & living.
Timber-clad hillside house in Worcestershire
Built by: Jon and Gill Flewers
Location: Malvern, Worcestershire
In classic Grand Designs style, this low-energy home was riddled with delays, re-designs and setbacks. Jon and Gill Flewers returned to the UK from living in New Zealand in 2013 with dreams of building their own home. Their original plan was to excavate a large chunk of the sloping site and build a four-storey house that was partially embedded in the hillside. Technical hurdles however forced the architects to re-design the house, bringing it six metres out of the hillside and rearranging the layout onto three storeys instead of four.
The finished home makes use of photovoltaic solar panels, energy-efficient Insulating Concrete Formwork (ICF) and the natural insulation provided by being built into the hillside.
The Farmhouse in Devon
Built by: Mark and Candida Diacono
Location: Honiton, Devon
Mark and Candida Diacono built the Farmhouse on an unused plot of land that came with their end-terrace house in rural Devon. After toying with the idea of building a new home and an adjacent cookery school for several years, they finally took the plunge and started construction in 2015.
The family home features a stunning, curved sedum roof – designed to look almost as if somebody had peeled up a large chunk of turf, revealing a house hidden underneath. The cookery school also has an identical roof. The inspiration for the curved shape came from a farmer’s plough.
The family home has four bedrooms and two bathrooms, with open-plan living areas downstairs. Next door, the cookery school features a working kitchen, teaching space, offices and a substantial cellar where the family can store their produce.
Both buildings were designed to make a minimal impact on the local environment – in terms of visuals as much as energy use. Both make use of timber cladding, sedum roofs, shredded paper insulation, triple glazing, rainwater collection systems and thermodynamic heating and water systems.
The upside-down cedar clad house in Norfolk
Built by: Natasha Cargill
For Natasha Cargill’s newbuild home, eco-credentials weren’t just a nice bonus – they had to be engrained into the very heart and soul of the building. The plot of land she bought was subject to Paragraph 55 of the National Planning Policy Framework, meaning the house had to meet exacting standards of energy efficiency and architectural innovation. The house would have to satisfy the extremely strict Code for Sustainable Homes Level 6. If it didn’t, Natasha simply wouldn’t be allowed to move in.
It was a big risk to take, but Natasha couldn’t find a house that suited her needs and decided that self-building was the only way to go.
As you can imagine, the house has a long list of eco-friendly materials and features, including:
- Eco-concrete which can absorb and release heat, reducing the cost of heating & cooling the building
- Carbon-neutral insulation
- Large, strategically placed windows to maximise natural light
- A 6kW solar panel array
- Sedum roofing
- Various locally and sustainably sourced materials
The home uses an ‘upside-down’ layout, with the bedrooms downstairs and the kitchen and living areas upstairs, giving Natasha and her son Lucas stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
Zero-carbon newbuild in Blackheath, London
Built by: Caroline and Philip Cooper
Location: Blackheath, London
After their children had all grown up and left the nest, the Coopers were left in a house that was too big for just the two of them and too expensive to run and maintain. It was obvious that they needed to downsize and decided they wanted to build their own home, combining Caroline’s interior design background with Phillip’s experience in the construction industry.
After struggling to find a suitable plot to build their ideal home, they had the brainwave of building at the bottom of their own garden.
With the help of their architect son Sam, they managed to get planning permission and create their ideal eco-home. The low-lying, L-shaped home was designed to meet the exacting standards of Level 5 of the Code for Sustainable Homes. Eco features include rainwater harvesting systems, A-rated taps & appliances, computer-controlled lighting & windows and highly efficient insulation.
All images from Grand Designs Magazine.