Kevin McCloud Picks Best Ever Grand Designs

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Kevin McCloud might be the best known face in the arena of self builds, unique architecture and timber frame housing – and his groundbreaking television programme Grand Designs this week celebrated its 100th completed house.

Undoubtedly the TV show has inspired a whole generation of self builders to take up the challenge, and warned them on some of the pitfalls they might encounter along the way.

To mark the occasion of home number 100, Kevin talked to Radio Times about his favourite ever homes featured on Grand Designs over the years, so we’re taking a look at what inspires him when it comes to creative self building.

With 200 hours of filming required for every episode and 13 years spent on building sites around the country and in Europe, Kevin says he thought he might have seen it all by now, however innovation continues to be what drives his passion for the show, he says. After all, the programme has been running throughout the boom and bust times which lead to the current economic recession.

“The biggest change I have seen over the years is that people’s ambitions are much less grand,” he says. “Because they can’t spend their way out of a hole the way they could before the recession, it’s been good for their ingenuity.”

One of the biggest debates in a Grand Designs is one of preservation when it comes to modernising an old building. Undoubtedly, the clever solutions to honour a building’s shell have pushed some of these inventive builds into Kevin’s favourites.

Who can forget the 99 foot tall water tower with five foot thick walls that provided one of the most challenging builds ever seen? Certainly not Kevin, and it’s one of his most memorable builds. And how about the 14th century castle in Skipton which had to be so carefully restored to meet English Heritage’s stringent guidelines, charting the change in the way the organisation approached these sort of developments.

Ingenious construction ideas also feature highly in Kevin’s list. He says: “When I look back over the many episodes of Grand Designs, I realise they’re like historical documents, charting the progress of ideas and progress.” Ideas which were once brand new in adoption in a grand design may well be a common feature nowadays for architectural builds.

Kevin’s other love is for houses that in their own way are a standard house that we all live in. “When I encounter houses with seven bedrooms, a Pilates studio and a home cinema I slightly glaze over,” he says. What really inspires him his a relatively modern house which is a “wonderful new exploration of the form”.

Last but not least, Kevin clearly values the growth in sustainability. When self building, the goal of achieving a build with the lowest possible onwards cost for you as an owner has long been the goal for as long as Grand Designs has run. In this time, Kevin has seen these modifications to create a sustainable home turn from something which would add up to 30 per cent onto the cost of the build, but these days it can be very easy to achieve.

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