Grand Designs Live: Kevin McCloud weighs in on the eco homes debate

Kevin McCloud took part in a panel discussion at the 'ask an expert' booth at Grand Designs Live, Ex

Kevin McCloud took part in a panel discussion at the 'ask an expert' booth at Grand Designs Live, ExCeL London - Credit: Bircan Tulga Photography 2016

The TV host on building a grand, green home and naming a King’s Cross kitchen retailer as one of his green heroes

North London's The Used Kitchen Company was one of Kevin's Green Heroes for 2017

North London's The Used Kitchen Company was one of Kevin's Green Heroes for 2017 - Credit: Bircan Tulga Photography 2016

Kevin McCloud is surely one of the nation’s most beloved homes experts. The host of Grand Designs has watched over projects ranging from hedgehog homes to hobbit holes and shipping container boltholes during the lifespan of the series, which has been running for nearly 20 years. Say what you like about rain stopping play, budget overspend and nothing ever being completed on time, Kevin McCloud knows a thing or two about building an eco home.

Hosted by Jon Martin and Noreen Jaafar, Grand Designs alumni and creators of series 16’s Treehouse, the Ham & High was treated to an eco homes panel discussion at Grand Designs Live that debated how best to approach creating an eco-chic home.

The Used Kitchen Company was started 12 years ago and now represents 600 showrooms

The Used Kitchen Company was started 12 years ago and now represents 600 showrooms - Credit: Archant

“There has to be an incentive,” says Martin, insisting that there is a moral imperative to go green in today’s ecological and political climate. McCloud regrets the loss of the Green Deal by the now dissolved Department of Energy and Climate Change.

“It would be great to see a government that was serious about climate change,” he says, arguing that government-backed solar panel schemes have fostered widespread incorporation of the energy saving systems across the UK. Finance expert Mary Riley notes that many banks and building societies offer lower rates for eco-builds and that green property values can achieve premiums of 10 per cent, with higher council taxes for those that are less energy efficient.

In response to comments by South Hampstead-based RIBA architect Kathy Busheva about the difficulties of retrofitting period properties typical of north London’s Victorian terraces, McCloud believes there is a solution. “The fundamental thing is to address the bones of the building,” he says. “Every building requires a specific response, nevertheless it is possible,” he goes on, suggesting that properly insulating your home should be top of the to-do list when reducing your carbon footprint.

Grand Designs Live featured a range of companies and products selected by McCloud as 2017’s Green Heroes. This year, the list included Egloo, a 3D printed non-electrical heater, a leather alternative made from pineapple leaf fibres from Piñatex and a furniture collection made from recycled silk by Meb Rure.

On choosing his ‘Green Heroes’, McCloud claims that it’s the multifaceted uses of the products that gets his attention. “Wherever possible we try to get something that does more than one thing,” he says. In the case of NewspaperWood which turns newspapers back into a wood laminate, McCloud is hopefu for the future. “I don’t know what it’ll be used for yet, but I’m excited,” he says.

Local kitchen retailer The Used Kitchen Company has been selected as one of Kevin’s Green Heroes. TUKC recycles old kitchens from homes and showrooms and sells them on at a fraction of the price.

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Speaking to the Ham & High, McCloud was full of praise for the eco-friendly kitchen recycler. “They’re one of my green heroes because the kitchen is one of the most expensive but also one of the most wasteful investments we make in our house,” he says. “It goes in, lasts ten years and then the new owner comes along and rips it out. And because they are getting ripped out a lot, they’re a quality which is now thanks to the internet becoming valuable on the second hand market and TUKC very cleverly don’t just buy and sell, but they tailor these into new lives, new incarnations.

“It’s a brilliant thing to be able to recycle not just a fridge, or recycle a sink or a tap, but the entire kitchen which is of course never past its sell life. I defy anybody to show me a kitchen that’s past its sell by date because they always get trashed before they’re finished with. So it’s a great way of reusing and recycling.”

“We’re really thrilled,” says Looeze Grossman, CEO of TUKC. “We started this business because we wanted to recycle and prevent landfill, and it was really lovely to be recognised for doing that.” Grossman began the company twelve years ago and has watched the St Pancras-based company grow to represent 600 showrooms. “We’ve had so much interest beyond anything I could think of. People are really excited at the idea of recycling and I think Kevin’s Green Heroes is a fabulous way of recognising that.”

Grand Designs Live runs until 7th May at the ExCeL centre.

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