The Ebay Eco-House.

The Ebay Eco-House.

I’m fortunate to be involved with an old school friend who is building a 500 sq. M. eco-home in woods and the disused quarry that houses his vehicle-recycling-plant. He bought the quarry some time ago with seller-finance as the banks wouldn’t touch it. Now he’s bought the disused glassworks next-door too. The whole plot must run to several acres of woodland and field.

Arriving on site I asked to see the drawings, and was handed a lined refill pad with a few pencil sketches and a couple more on envelope backs. What no architect? Nope!

They’d already started work so I asked, who is running the job? “Oh, I just let you guys get on with it, I figure you know better than me how it’s done so I leave it up to you”. Eh? How can you build of a 500 sq. M. bungalow without a contracts manager or an architect?

The old glassworks

So, what about a schedule of works, a Gantt chart or anything to organise sequencing? Nope!

Any preliminary drawings for planning permission? Nope!

A drains layout plan, joist plans, lintel specifications etc. for the buildings inspector? Nope!

And no budget planning, no engineer, no intention to change any of this and very little money!

He’s been told by Planning Control he doesn’t need planning permission, or building regulations consent, to build over the existing industrial building, provided it is a ‘live-work unit’ (cannot be occupied by anyone not involved with the working scrapyard) Also he mustn’t change the original building’s footprint. This gives him carte blanche to be creative, flout convention and use as many of the materials already on-site as possible. Everything else is reclaimed or from ebay!

Ornament at the entrance to the scrapyard

He had about £50K in the bank – not much to build 500sq M! But the scrapyard makes good money and this is no ordinary build and no ordinary client.

I’d never come across anything like it and needed a fundamental shift in my thinking. I’ve had to un-learn about following drawings, making things to tight tolerances and fine finishing. This is about making things work with what is available, a rustic but professional finish. It combines acknowledgement of the reclaimed origins of the materials with a make-do-and-mend philosophy. More like the tree-houses I used to build as a kid than an extension with fully-fitted kitchen for the fussy clients I’m used to.

If this was almost anyone else I wouldn’t give it a chance. But Mark is not ‘anyone else’. He said to me one day “If you think you can do it, you probably can. And if you think you can’t, then you probably can’t.”

I’ll always remember that. If anyone can manage this, he can!

More to follow next week.

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