At the time we made the decision to demolish the exiting house and build, I was much more hands-off than I would become. This was at the height of the so-called “technology bubble” and I worked for an American software company that provided a share option scheme. As far as I was concerned at that time, I would just hand the whole project over to Ian the Builder, come back a year or so later to a new house. The value I saw in my employers share options would more than cover such an arrangement.
Between the summer of 2000 and April 2003 when we finally got planning permission, the world became a very different place. The US technology-driven economy was already on the slide from about mid-2000 - well before the tragic events of 11th September 2001. I remember watching in silence the horror unfolding on TV in my London office on that day, not then realizing what far reaching consequences this event would have. The US closed ranks, the economic decline there accelerated and the War on Terrorism and more recently the Iraq war and the US National Debt that created massively devalued the $ exchange rate.
For me this meant the original budget that I had to build the house effectively halved. I have Planning Consent for a pretty large house, and unless I want to go back and start the planning application process again, that’s what I have to build. The advice I have had about seeking an amendment to the plan is not promising. Because I got approval via an Appeal, the Planning Department is unlikely to entertain any Amendments; they will simply say I have to apply for new consent.
So since last April, much to the exasperation of Ian, I have become very hands-on. I have looked at every aspect of the build to see where we can achieve economies while adhering to the original concept and the philosophy of the project.
I want to build a house that takes advantage of modern construction materials and techniques to minimize construction time and create an energy efficient environment. As we hope to stay in this house for the foreseeable future I plan to incorporate a number of features that have relatively high capital costs and longer pay back periods. This is especially true of the heating and power systems. I also want to take advantage of any government grants available for the kind of systems I am installing.
While this is a modern construction, I still plan to use traditional materials and processes for aesthetic effect. For example, the roof tiles are hand-made clay, and all interior plastering will be wet plaster rather than dry lining.