Podcast: Lloyd Alter on House Planning Help about everything TreeHugger

ben and family
© Ben Adam-Smith and family on the site of his future home

We go on about size, price per square foot, location and more.

House Planning Help is a website run by Ben Adam-Smith to help people in the UK who want to build their own houses. This is daunting anywhere, but it’s particularly hard in Britain where there’s not much land and every bit of it has a history. It’s taken Ben years just to find the property he’s standing in.

I have been interviewed by Ben before, and when I was in London recently he came over for tea with his fancy microphone and recorded a podcast where I covered a wide range of issues that will be familiar to TreeHugger readers. Listen or download here.

Some of the big issues we covered:

Don’t measure value in pounds (or dollars) per square foot

Build house costs© Build LLC: different parts of houses cost the same no matter how big you build.

A bigger house may cost less per square foot but that is a dangerous criterion for measuring value. He explains, “It will cost you more per unit of area to build smaller but the aggregate, it will still cost you less.” Operating and maintenance costs will also be less with a smaller dwelling.

More in TreeHugger: Why Construction Is Expensive, Especially When It Is Small and Green

Balance location with lifestyle

resilient home© Alex Wilson

Lloyd recognises the dilemma for self-builders who want to minimise their carbon footprint but can’t afford the expensive land located close to facilities. Low energy buildings can reduce environmental impact, and changing habits can also mitigate high-energy consumption. Someone Lloyd knows – who lives 9km away from town – cycles, uses a hybrid car when he has to drive, minimises shopping trips and avoids ordering things delivered by truck.

More: Alex Wilson creates a more resilient homestead

Simplicity should be designed into the house in the first place

So-called “smart homes” are fashionable but Lloyd is wary of unnecessary complexity that adds cost and needs maintenance. “My attitude is, I like a dumb home!” he says, citing the Passivhaus as a good example of this. Using less power means no need for a smart thermostat or a complicated solar panel system connected to the grid. “The house takes care of itself,” he says.

More in TreeHugger: In praise of the dumb home

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