Diary Of An Eco-Builder

Will we have moved in by Christmas? All I can say, in truth, is that we have absolutely no idea
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Despite our radical environmental specification, Tree House was not considered to be grand enough for Grand Designs, so the inevitable question in the pub does become a bit irritating after a while. In retrospect, however, we are deeply relieved not to have the extra stress of co-ordinating a television crew within a schedule that is frankly a complete fantasy, even on a day-to-day level. Bursting into tears on Kevin's shoulder on prime-time TV would also have been less than totally cool.

Although I'm always upbeat in this column, sustained by my undimmed enthusiasm for eco-design, I have to confess that the last 10 days have been pretty grim. Two weeks ago, our timber frame finally reached the moment for the roof to go on. This point in the project had been anticipated for some time but, despite foreman Steve's constant reminders, our contractor did not get round to specifying and ordering the materials for the roof until the day that they were needed on site. Two weeks later, we still have no roof. I have finally had to accept that for all the "good" reasons for delays on this project, there is one inescapable underlying reason: our contractor is chronically disorganised.

I hold out little hope of finding an effective treatment for his condition, but I am personally feeling much better after taking the waters at the annual conference of the Association for Environmentally Conscious Building (AECB) in Taunton. The conference took place at the Somerset College of Arts and Technology where the Genesis centre is currently under construction, an exciting building that will demonstrate in its own fabric a wide variety of approaches to sustainable construction (www.genesisproject.com). As well as exploring such issues as building with cob, sourcing reclaimed materials and the very best practice in eco-renovation, I was also able to have a good gas with like-minded people about the highs and lows of eco-building. Contractor problems? So what's new?

The AECB is a stimulating network of people committed to changing - radically - the way we build. It has a large professional membership but welcomes self-builders and eco-building enthusiasts of all kinds. The association website (www.aecb.net) gives details of how you can join, membership benefits and a range of information about environmental issues in construction. As the AECB has a strong lobbying focus, this is a good network to join for the nation's benefit as well as your own.

I have found that another way of getting some much-needed perspective on our problems is to show people round the site, preferably friends who have not seen it for some time. This always leads to reassurances that the house will be absolutely fabulous, although I think our friends Katie and Simon rather missed the point in admiring the "sun trap" on our roofless top floor.

One way or another, my optimism and enthusiasm always return. But there is a chill at my back. I really didn't think I would ever have to face this, but for the first time I have to take seriously the dreaded question pressed upon me by the ghost of McCloud: "But will you be in by Christmas?" All I can say, in truth, is that we have absolutely no idea.