Hello, I’m Simon. About 2 years ago, I decided to build a family house on my own.
I don’t have a background in building & construction, although I have done some DIY projects. For example, I’ve sympathetically renovated a mid 1800’s workers cottage, doing some of the larger tasks myself, like lifting the roof, replacing rotten timbers where necessary and re-laying it with beautiful Welsh slate, but nothing even close to the scale of my current building project.
In my wider sphere of life I’m a polymath. I’ve got losts of interests that I’ve always maintained in parallel and I’m finding that these interests are combining to help me along the rocky road of doing a self-build on my own.
In the design and building of this house, I’ve beeen particularly interested in being environmentally conscious in how I go about it. I hesitate to call it an ‘eco’ house because I’m not entirely sure that’s a very meaningful word nowadays, other than it typically adds a few zeros the end of builders’ and material quotes. What I mean by environmentally conscious is that:
- I try to minimise waste as far as possible (waste is a huge problem in the construction industry);
- I try to use locally sourced materials if possible (in some instances impossible in the construction industry due to systemic supply chain structures);
- I use recyclable and natural products while taking a balanced view on environmental impact and cost. For example, using wood fibre insulation manufactured in southern Germany where the forests are facing environmental collapse and having the product shipped, by lorry, to the UK. How good or bad is that? In terms of life-cycle, probably better than many other more mainstream options;
- Inherent in the design of the house is the intention to provide a comfortable and healthy internal environment in all seasons, reducing the need for heating and cooling input. For example, building for breathability and well insulated;
- I try to take a balanced approach to resource input into the house (e.g. do I really need a huge crane or high capital machinery where I can do a job using a little ingenuity instead?)
With the way that the construction industry works, having an environmentally conscious approach seems to add to the challenge. The construction industry is not particularly transparent in this regard, nor is it, in my opinion, entirely honest.
For my own survival during this project so far (and it isn’t anywhere near finished yet), I’ve relied on my experience working in the field of psychology for a lot of my life. This has helped me in some very important ways:
- In how to approach complex tasks and decide how to proceed appropriately, or sometimes simply to find my way, small step by small step;
- To solve problems;
- To view the process as a learning experience;
- To not get hung up about making mistakes – I don’t see them as that – they’re about gaining hands-on experience. When you’re learning to do anything new, you’re always going to have to go through a period of being bad at it. But that doesn’t mean the end result is going to be bad if you proceed with care;
- Not to get too stressed about it all and to let go a bit;
- Not to let the prevalent attitudes in the construction industry cause me to question myself or my capabilities, nor let it put me down;
- To take care of myself in the midst of what has probably become the hardest undertaking I’ve experienced in my life – both physically and mentally.
My other background career chapters and interests that provide input into getting this project done include:
- Practising and teaching Tai Chi Chuan;
- Working at a senior level in one of the world’s largest professional services firms as a senior manager and consultant;
- Working independently as a consultant on the topics of information management and knowledge;
- Psychological coaching of world-class athletes who compete on two-wheels, E.g. mountain biking and motorcycle racing;
- Executive Coaching;
- Racing motorcycles;
- Engineering motorcycle race engines and high performance exhaust systems;
- Mountain biking;
- I do love to read – lots about lots of different topics;
- I acquired a long-term condition that disabled me for a number of years and now requires constant management – this is one thing that has taught me a lot about self-care and self-awareness when things are getting too much.
But one of the most enduring interests I have and which has stood me best so far is that of how we learn; how we learn to think and change how we think; how we learn to do and change how we do; how those two combine to help us navigate our life and the world around us. Goodness knows I’ve needed this as the construction industry is a curious world indeed, especially when you’re coming in as an outsider and self-builder!
I have a growing niggle that this page is starting to make it sound more like a self-development blog than a self-build blog. I’m sorry of that’s the case, but in my experience, these are the things that, in the inevitable ups and downs of doing all this on my own, are more important and challenging than the building work. The actual building work has often proven itself to be the simpler part of the journey.