18 October 2006

Starting to build our house.

This blog was born only a few weeks ago, but we've been building our house for seven years and one day I'll get together all the photos, notes, drawings and ideas that we had while we were building and put them on a website. ...One day.

The ideas for the house at Sourrou began about 14 years ago when Fabrice and I were living in the cabin and negotiating buying the land here. I've always been interested and involved in building and renovation and one of the Open University courses I did to develop that interest was Design: Processes and Products. (T263) The course content was invaluable in structuring my ideas about the "Perfect House".

Fabrice is a qualified stonemason and like me, is fascinated by sacred architecture, building techniques and the harmony in nature of buildings and objects. So although we come from different worlds our ideas merge and our skills are complementary.

My original idea was to build the house in straw. When I broke that news to Fabrice, I was surprised when he said "Great!" and showed me his sheep shed where a straw bale wall had been built more than 30 years before by his grandfather - unrendered and still in good condition.

So eventually, the difficult and very stressful negotiations for the land right next to the cabin (How lucky is that!) came to a close. We got the CU and the Mayor got his hectare with the springs on it (but that's another story...) We then applied for planning permission for the house which would be in straw, off-grid, built for solar gain, using basic geometric principles, with materials sourced from our land or nearby and as energy efficient as possible.

That all sounds pretty sensible to me, but I suppose my appearance and the way I have of rabbiting on about things that I find fascinating give the impression that I'm a bit of a hippy and the original flowery plans which I drew up (Complete with French spelling mistakes!) didn't go down at all well with the Mayor or the local planning department.

Our fireplace in the finished house phase 1Getting planning permission took almost 2 years of refusals, reapplying, waiting for results, redoing the drawings, and referring again and again to my "bible" at that time from the collection Concevoir et Construire : Les plans de votre Maison.

Finally, planning permission was granted and we started work.

There are some photographs of the building process in this link:
Construction of the first phase of our house at Sourrou

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