Tuesday, 12 January 2010


I've choosen a rather enigmatic title for this posting. It is not often you read about "Imbies" but I wanted to find a title that both fitted the posting whilst not attracting loads of Google hits.

Now don't get me wrong, I love getting new readers but I want interested readers who will stick around not people who just stumble onto this blog in error, show up on the analytics as 3 second stayers before retreating in search of what they were really looking for in the first place. For that reason I always try and find a posting title that won't attract people in error. If you look back over some of my earlier postings you'll see what I mean.

Anyway, today I'm posting about my Self Build IMBY (hence the title). For several years I've fancied the idea of self-building my own home. Finding a suitable plot of land in a lovely location and then building the house of my dreams. All the aspects of a perfect house whilst incorporating all the latest environmental features. I've imagined spending months living on site in a caravan whilst we worked (or supervised) the project to reality.

Turning the idea from concept to reality would also make an interesting blog. At least I hope so although I would hate to build up your expectations too highly at this stage.

Finding the plot is the hardest part of self-build. Securing it in a competitive situation is difficult. There is nothing more frustrating than losing the plot. Now where was I? Oh, right, I remember! Recently I read in the newspapers about how many new houses have been built in the gardens of existing houses. This gave me the inspiration for my plot. You may recall seeing the following picture on a blog posting I did about fourteen months ago about our garden makeover:-

I'm showing you this photo again (a) to show you the plot for my new house and (b) because I think it is important at this stage to establish my recycling credentials.

It's important to me to use materials that are local, natural and cause minimal pollution both during occupation and when the property ultimately end its useful life. Many aspiring self-builders could start with such noble purpose but ultimately compromise in its execution. I was determined not to fall into that trap.

I was also determined to go for a minimalist approach to the design and to incorporate an open-plan layout. I showed my initial plans to Mrs Troy and Troy Junior and both felt I had achieved these objectives. All three of us decided that we wanted to be thoroughly involved in the construction stage and even Troy Junior volunteered to help with the brick laying. I felt this would be a great education for him as he quickly grasps concepts such as load-bearing walls. Construction-wise, the biggest problem is the roof but even here I wanted my green credentials to be clearly on display.

You are probably now anticipating lots of blog postings over a period of several months but the simple truth is that when Troy gets a bee in his bonnet he just gets on and quickly completes the job. So the fact is this "Self Build In My Back Yard" is already finished. Here's a photo with Troy Junior already in occupation.

The building has a negligible carbon footprint. It is minimalist, open-plan and at home in its environment. The roof is plastic, due to load bearing issues, yet manages to be the most green feature of the house! For those of you that worry about recycling, the house has natural drainage and in fact my most recent photo of the house clearly shows this in action.

Oh well! Back to the drawing board. At least now I can't be accused of being a "Nimby".

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


Troy Junior goes back to school tomorrow (Wednesday). The teachers have been there since Monday but the first two days of term are "PD Days". PD stands for Professional Development and they are used for teacher training and updating purposes. I believe the concept started many years ago when these training days were called "Baker Days" after the government minister who first introduced them. I'm not sure when they changed the name to "PD Days".

I have had a potential brainwave - "Troy Weeks". I say potential as I'm interested to hear your feedback on my idea. I'm calling them "Troy Weeks" because I want the kudos should the concept turn into reality.

I've blogged here before about the enormous increase in the price of resort hotel rates, air-fares and package deals during the school holiday periods. A week at Easter or in the July/August period will cost more than double a similar week during the school terms. All the bargain offers tend to be during the school term. If you take your child out of school during term time to save a fortune on holiday costs then this is virtually guarenteed to be an "unauthorised absence" and in theory at least can lead to the parent being fined. As a Parent School Governor I have the added pressure of having to set an example and therefore have resisted the temptation to take Troy Junior on holiday during school term.

My new concept of the "Troy Week" solves this problem. During the school year there are five PD days. Normally they are taken over the course of the year, one day at a time (although this January two have been combined). The timing of the PD Days is set by the Local Education Authority so there is consistency within a region - all children being off school at the same time. A "Troy Week" would combine the five PD Days - taking them all together in one week. This would allow teachers to go off on residential training courses and have proper in-depth training and updating on new techniques and changes to the curriculum. There would be more time for in-depth target setting per pupil and more time to evaluate pupil progress and development needs in a calm and considered way. School policies and procedures could be thoroughly reviewed and revised.

There would be benefits for the school and the teachers by combining the five PD Days into a "Troy Week". Now lets look at the benefit to children and parents. If the various Local Education Authorities choose different dates for their "Troy Weeks" (eg. Suffolk in November, Yorkshire in May etc. etc.) then all the nation's families would not be going off on holiday at the same time. Suffolk parents could choose a week in the Canary Islands, Tunisia or Cyprus off-peak in November whilst Yorkshire parents would go off-peak in May. With thirty school weeks to choose from then less than 4% of the nation's parents would be holidaying at the same time. There would not be same peak demand and pricing during the "Troy Weeks" that there is during normal school holidays. There would be no excuse for parents to take their children out of school unofficially just to save money or to make a nice holiday actually affordable. Unofficial absences would be cut dramatically. It would also relieve some (a lot?) of the pressure for holidays during the school holiday period therefore reducing peak pricing on those weeks too.

To me the concept of a "Troy Week" has so many benefits but with minimal disadvantages. Do you agree? I'd love to hear your thoughts. In years to come when you hear a neighbour say "We're off to Tenerife for Troy Week" you'll remember me and being one of the first to read about the idea here first!