Exclusive interview with property expert and Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud
Ahead of the Grand Designs Live exhibition at London's ExCeL Arena at the start of May, property and design guru speaks to Stephen Maunder about his new series and his thoughts on design and innovation in new homes.
Has interest in the sort of projects undertaken on the Grand Designs show increased with the general optimism in the property market over the past year?
We deal with some very ambitious projects in our new series, but the problem in the market is that it's been difficult for people to get mortgages and finances have been tight. The projects we feature take a year to film and are often the result of three to four years of work. Our current projects were undertaken in the teeth of the recession, so we're yet to see any buoyancy come through.
Do "ordinary" homeowners have access to these kinds of projects?
Many people baulk at the idea of adventurism on TV, and that's deliberate on our part. We go out of our way for the experimental - we need these people and they set the way. People on Grand Designs would sell their mother and go through hell and pain for their project. We're grateful to these people and I salute them, but the rest of us should probably shy away!
Are there any new technologies or materials that are going to be big in 2014?
Without sounding negative, the new technologies we expected haven't really emerged. The recession stifled innovation, research and development. What is interesting is existing technologies maturing and becoming more viable and affordable. Solar generation may have taken ten years to peak, but now it's becoming commonplace.
Does the level of design and use of materials you see from volume housebuilders in the UK depress you a little bit?
It depresses me a lot, but it's all about selling a product. The general crapness of eighties and nineties noddy new-style period architecture is universal, but some believe people might like it and that it will never become dated. When Prince Charles started building Poundbury, we started to see lookalikes popping up with Georgian porches and the sides of buildings looking like barns, like a fake version of Jane Austen.
Do you think homebuyers can be persuaded to pay more for interesting design and more eco-friendly new homes?
I think it's already happening. Homes that are lower energy, higher specification and cheaper to run always attract a premium. Anybody who has spent more than three and a half minutes in a better designed home will understand its value. It doesn't have to cost more to get a better home, and it's entirely possible on a budget. Design is all about making things better for less.
Is there anything from the next series of Grand Designs that you can tell us about that was especially impressive or inspiring to you?
We're very excited about two projects in Northern Ireland where we're following young architects. During the Troubles, architecture in Northern Ireland was very traditional, but a period of stability has brought investment and a forward-looking view, both culturally and socially. It's great that Ireland is pushing for contemporary architecture and we're delighted to be showcasing that.
Grand Designs Live returns to the London ExCeL Arena between 3 and 11 May 2014.