A man who was made redundant from a ‘soul-destroying’ job filling in spread sheets has started a new business constructing eco-friendly garden buildings.
Steve Christie believes there is a market not just for the traditional ‘granny-annex’ but also for parents whose adult children cannot get on the property ladder.
His firm Ecosmart Garden Buildings creates homes using ‘passive house’ techniques – ensuring high levels of insulation and air tightness and cutting drastically on energy consumption.
In 2008 the 50-year-old was made redundant for the fifth time during his career in electronics – just as he and wife Helen were embarking on building their dream home in Grendon Underwood.
“I thought rather than pay some hairy builder to build it, I’d do it myself. As it turned out it was not as difficult as I thought it would be.”
Running low on cash, the couple sold that home and set about building another property in the village.
It was at this point Mr Christie phoned up an Irish company regarding a timber frame and they told him about passive building techniques.
So successful has it been on his own home, he decided to forge a living out of it himself and has now overseen several successful projects as far away as Islington.
“I didn’t want to go back to a corporate life and this seemed like the way forward for me.”
He opted for constructing garden buildings as he didn’t ‘have the background or funding to do full-scale house building’.
Nevertheless, the garden buildings can be fully kitted out with en-suite bathroom, kitchen and bedroom.
“I read somewhere recently about one in four 18- to 28-year-olds living with their parents. My kids are 16 and 14 and I can’t imagine still having them living with me in 10 years – if they are they’ll certainly be in the building in the garden!”
He said a fully furnished building costs around £1,000 per square metre, making it much cheaper than building a traditional extension.
And while there are other garden building firms out there, he believes his passive techniques which result in extremely low energy usage will draw in customers.
“If I can get two projects a month I’d love to be able to employ some people and also have a factory manufacturing the panels,” he added.