Preparing for Grand Designs Live: Kevin McCloud on his ‘Self Build on a Shoestring’ competition

As we all know I love Grand Designs Live.  I will be in Birmingham in October to see the wealth of companies exhibiting within interiors, gardens, build and kitchens and bathrooms.  With numerous seminars and ‘ask the expert’ it proves that it isn’t any ordinary exhibition but one which is informative and celebrates sustainable living.  Look out for the companies awarded Kevin’s Green Heroes and a must is The Garden Designer of the Year Competition.  This year’s concept is ‘Urban Kitchen Garden’ designs, and my friend Liz from Poppyhead Consultancy is a finalist.  I know you will all join me in wishing Liz the best of luck

In preparation for this years event Kevin McCloud tells us about how he got into architecture and his ‘Self Build on a Shoestring’ competition.

Kevin McCloud Grand Designs Live SMALLHow did you get into design and architecture?

I started by pursuing a (terminated) career in music, and then I went to Cambridge to take a degree in languages, which quickly changed to philosophy, then finally to the history of art and architecture. I then retrained as a designer and led two weird, parallel lives designing both in the theatre and in people’s houses. I’ve designed exhibitions, graphics, product and spaces, settling eventually – for no particular reason other than people bought the stuff – on lighting and furniture. I really enjoyed it all and had some great experiences.

Why are you so passionate about design?

My passion for design really stems from the huge influence my father was on me whilst growing up. He was a rocket scientist and engineer, who taught me that there is no such thing as fear of technology, a man who believed in the power of science and invention. He was a man who strewed bits of car engine over the kitchen table every weekend.  I appreciated how things worked and were put together and the intricacies of their designs.

Why are you launching the unique ‘Self Build on a Shoestring’ competition?

Self-Build doesn’t just happen on television.  Every year between eight and ten thousand of us commission a new home for ourselves or even build it with our bare hands.  The National Self-Build Association is dedicated to making that easier, cheaper and more accessible, which is why we’re launching a competition to design a budget Self-Build.  We’re looking for designs for simple-to-build kit homes that can be adapted to suit any need and reconfigured and skinned to fit anywhere.  This competition will appeal to all those brilliant architects, amateurs, building companies and kit home firms who believe that the future in housing is self-build.

What advice would you give to those considering a self-build?

Very easy – spend the money on the bones.  Spend the money on the stuff that is there forever, not the frippery like kitchens and bathrooms which can be replaced.  Think of the architecture, glazing and core materials

Why is the environment important to good design?

Our houses and taps and spoons all form part of the environment we make to surround ourselves with.  And that connects to the immediate local environmentGDL13_1956 SMALL like our street or town, which in turn is part of a global environment.  We’ve stopped appreciating the human energy and the valuable natural resources that go into making everything around us and think of most of our possessions as throwaway items. Even a self-build on a shoestring can incorporate innovative ideas to showcase that low cost homes don’t have to sacrifice design and sustainability.

Grand Designs Live opens from the 4-6 October at Birmingham NEC, what should visitors look out for at this year’s show?

The show gets bigger and better every year making it hard to highlight just a few features. Eco-conscious visitors should look out for the handpicked selection of Kevin’s Green Heroes, which include the latest eco-innovations and technologies, some of which are being exclusively launched at the show.  Sustainable, eco-living should mean more choice not less, and each of the latest Green Heroes show case this with emphasis on value and craftsmanship.

The Garden Designer of the Year Competition, back by popular demand at the NEC, will also be on display. I’m really looking forward to seeing this year’s ‘Urban Kitchen Garden’ designs.  Last years competition was a really tough call, so I’m excited to see what pioneering concepts this years entrants come up with.

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