Homes of the future: Kevin McCloud on how design is changing — and energy-positive properties that will earn you money

·4-min read
Kevin McCloud  (Channel 4)
Kevin McCloud (Channel 4)

The home of the future will put function before style and be based on a broken plan layout with moveable walls. Above all else, it will be energy positive and make the homeowner money, according to the Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud.

Rapidly rising energy bills and living costs will drive the construction of high quality "resilient" homes that withstand climate change and cost nothing to heat, in fact they should generate revenue – he tells Homes & Property.

"The idea of moving towards net energy positive 10 years ago was just an idea. But now it’s doable and it is possible that your home can earn money. In 15 years’, time we will be living in such dwellings," says McCloud.

The anchor of the long-running Channel 4 series Grand Designs is talking about energy positive homes which are so efficient that they produce more energy than they use. The excess energy is then redirected elsewhere, to charge mobile devices or power an electric car.

A home with no energy bills on show

At this week’s Grand Designs Live show at the Excel Centre in London, McCloud and his team are showcasing such a home. The ModPod Zero Carbon House (sponsored by EDF) will, in theory, run without producing any heating bills. Pre-made in a factory – which is also a far cleaner way of building homes than on-site construction – this modular home comprises just one floor and visitors to the exhibition can walk through it.

It has PV solar panelling on the roof, solar batteries and a smart hot water system. There’s a wastewater heat recovery system is used to power the shower.

ModPod Zero Carbon House: a pre-fab home at Grand Designs Live that shows how homes could run without producing heating bills (James McCauley)
ModPod Zero Carbon House: a pre-fab home at Grand Designs Live that shows how homes could run without producing heating bills (James McCauley)

Any excess heat produced will then be sold to the national grid creating (in this case) income for the local council.

Energy efficiency will dictate what the next generation of homes look like, he explains. "Out of this will come new styles such as much thicker walls for insulation or solar panels worked into the design of the roof. The new aesthetics will come from a much deeper place – a place of sustainability," McCloud says.

Covid-19 will drive creativity of design

The last series of Grand Designs which was aired on Channel 4 in the autumn spanned the pandemic. McCloud describes the programme, which takes viewers into the half-built, mid-project homes of Britain’s most daring renovators, as a zeitgeist – where design reflects what’s happening in society and the wider world.

Many of last season’s projects were planned before Covid-19 hit but nearly all the homeowners suffered delays due to the lockdowns and supply shortages.

"Contractors and sub-contractors were falling by the wayside during the pandemic and it was almost impossible to get a construction price in advance as the cost of materials was changing so rapidly. The price of steel doubled in three months and timber is now three times more expensive than it was," says McCloud.

"I usually give people a hard time for not sticking to their budget but at the moment I almost expect them to be 30 or 40 per cent over," he adds.

However, he believes hard times drive the best design. "There is no cheque book architecture at the moment, people have to think creatively rather than just pay their way out of a hole. I have seen homeowners rope locals and friends into finishing their build projects and drive dumper trucks themselves."

The Streets series 2

This ‘hands-on’ approach is evident in McCloud’s self-build series showing on Channel 4 tonight. In this second series of The Streets (which started in April) he visits Graven Hill in Oxfordshire, the UK’s largest mass self-build site to witness the trials, setbacks and successes of people trying to build their own home from the ground up.

The Streets:  McCloud followed couple Carlos and Maite in one episode. They bought their plot on the site in Bicester for £234,000 and had a budget of £280,000, ultimately going over budget by £30,000 (Channel 4)
The Streets: McCloud followed couple Carlos and Maite in one episode. They bought their plot on the site in Bicester for £234,000 and had a budget of £280,000, ultimately going over budget by £30,000 (Channel 4)

Over the last few weeks, McCloud has followed couple Carlos and Maite who bought their plot on the site in Bicester for £234,000 and had an overall budget of £280,000 – they were £30,000 short of their final needed amount of £310,000 to fully complete their plans. The angular home of larch and steel is sculpture like with an art gallery space inside.

Latest episode: Joanna and Ben built a ranch house on the inaugral self-build street in Glasgow (Channel 4)
Latest episode: Joanna and Ben built a ranch house on the inaugral self-build street in Glasgow (Channel 4)

In this week’s episode, co-presenter Natasha Huq witnesses the creation of a whole new street in Glasgow.

Glasgow City Council have given six families an opportunity to construct their wildest visions on a small plot located near the city centre and the first project to go up is an American ranch-style home.

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