Q&A with Presenter Kevin McCloud on the development of ecohomes and the importance of building a healthy house

Our editor, Karen Stylianides chats to designer and Grand Designs presenter, Kevin McCloud about sustainable housing, indoor air quality and the benefits of building healthy homes.

By Gemma Parkes | 20 July 2018

Our editor, Karen Stylianides sat down with designer and presenter Kevin McCloud to talk sustainable construction, ecobuilds and the benefits of building a super healthy home.

grand designs presenter kevin mccloud on stage at grand designs live london 2018

Image: Alistair Veryard

Have you seen an interest in eco buildings develop over time and has it changed the way that people approach them?

In terms of sustainable construction, I think it’s become so mainstream now – partly due to planning requirements. Also, I think most of us now look at the cost of fuel and heating our buildings and think that’s a thousand quid minimum, I could use that for holidays or beer if I had a properly insulated, properly ventilated sustainable house. So, if you’re building new it’s a bit of a no-brainer and if you’re refurbishing an existing property, it’s a bit of a no-brainer.

Whether people embrace in one hand, living ecology and super-low carbon lifestyles with zero jet travel and an electric car and bicycles is another matter. I do think anybody building first of all is invested in low energy consumption and actually most people are pretty interested in the idea of getting best value for money, in terms of the materials because building consumes vast quantities of materials. You learn very quickly to build a slightly smaller home is much more convenient, has much lower impact and it’s a sort of short hop, if you like, from energy consumption to resources.

In other words, so many people who start are thinking, ‘I just want to reduce my bills’ and they actually very quickly end up saying, ‘you know what? I can’t cope with much more stuff and I want to build something slightly more modest.’ So, I think from my point of view, I’m in a very comfortable place watching people do that and I’m quite interested in that conversion that people go through rather than simply making films about die hard dive-in-the-wall, nero-beard green champions and enthusiasts.

So self-building could maybe lead the way as an example for sustainable measures that can then go out into the wider building industry?

Absolutely, self-builders are our great experimentalists. They are heroes and our champions because they sell their grandmother to raise the money to build something which is often very experimental. They’ll push an idea out there or invest in a piece of technology that no one else has tried – and hats off, I’m absolutely a-gone and in awe of the way they do that. What you see them do is what the more enlightened developers will be doing in five years – if it works – and what perhaps social housing sector will be doing in ten. Now it’s quite common to find a social housing project, super-insulated with managed ventilation and air sourcing pumps which we think of as sort of standard stuff but ten years ago, fifteen years ago, nobody had heard of it.