Grand Designs, series 17, episode 5:ultra-modern eco house and 'Renaissance bastion in Bolton' generates its own electricity

The construction of a state-of-the-art contemporary home in the outskirts of Bolton proved more challenging than this small team of family and friends could have ever imagined... 

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An Englishman's home might be his castle, but this week's Grand Designs explores the tough, often emotional journey of a family who decided to build their very own.

Paul Rimmer has spent his whole life working with bricks, but decided to apply his skills to his "swan song", to something that would cement his reputation as a builder: an ultra-modern, 4,300sq ft timber-framed home built to the highest eco standards.

He decided to put it on a 1.5-acre paddock on the outskirts of Bolton on the edge of the West Pennine moor, and over the road from the barn he converted in which he and his wife Carol, a caterer, brought up their family.

Not content with the new challenge of working largely with wood and concrete, Paul decided that its timber frame would be built on site and that the only crew would be himself, his daughter Abby and his long-time friend, carpenter Graham White.

At the start of the project, Paul says: "It will cost what it costs. I will pluck a figure of £350,000 out of the air."

The house's concrete and steel raft foundation is built hard against a 45-metre retaining wall and the complex timber frame clad with stones on the ground floor - where there are five bedrooms, a gym and a utility room.

Paul and Carol Rimmer with Kevin McCloud; (right) The vast staircase leads into an equally vast living and kitchen area, with various snugs tucked off it (Channel 4)

Upstairs, however, housing the vast living area and various snugs, the outside is clad in waterproof planks of wood formed from offcuts and recycled paper cups.

The roof is half covered in turf, with the other half fitted with a vast bank of photo-voltaic cells to generate electricity.

Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud says: "The only contract here is a contract of trust. What a wonderful idea to construct something with your friends, your family."

The upper floor is clad in waterproof wood planks formed from recycled paper cups and offcuts (Channel 4)

During the construction of the £100,000 groundworks, a broken concrete pourer and endless rain and high winds slow the 15-month build to a crawl and put the first dampener on the pair's spirits.

Carol says: "We were just pouring money into a big hole - heartbreaking really."

After spending £58,000 on glazing, the couple's savings start to run out and they reluctantly put their barn home on the market.

With no takers, they are forced to seek a £200,000 bridging loan, which is at first declined and work comes to a halt for weeks.

Despite the immense financial pressure they faced, Paul and Carol's only argument was over her desire for Shaker-style kitchen doors and his for something much more modern.

When Kevin returns to see the couple, he finds she got her way over the doors, and Paul proud of the result of his labours, on which they eventually spent £550,000 after a bridging loan was finally approved.

Comparing the house to a castle and describing it as a "Renaissance bastion in Bolton", Kevin says: "Erupting heroically from the muddied field of battle is this structure that emanates power and generates it, too."

With a typical builder's modesty, Paul concludes: "It turned out better than expected. It was a risk, but…."

Grand Designs is on Wednesdays at 9pm on Channel 4.


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