Retired IT consultant Robert Taylor, 53, and his partner Kate are building their own environmentally-friendly home in Languedoc in the south of France. Here Robert describes how and why they are doing it

What Brought You to France?

Slower pace of life, Sunshine, less expensive to live.

What Made You Choose This Part of France?

Less expensive, good transport links, lots of sunshine

Can You Briefly Describe the Project. What Are You Main Aims/Intentions with This New Build?

We bought a newish house on a large plot with the intention of making it eco-friendly. We had already renovated an old house in the same village and sold that. We then embarked on a renovation of the existing house with an extension and large abri that has a summer kitchen and a pool table and plenty of space for sitting near the pool as well as room for a garage and a caravan

What Inspired You to Do It?

To have a ‘self-sufficient as possible’ house – to show that it could be done. We are not tradesmen, just two retired professionals with time and determination.

What Have Been the Principal Difficulties You’ve Faced?

Getting planning permission was difficult but we have French friends, one of whom is an architect who helped us. The building work etc has been straightforward. Read about what needs done, plan it, then do it. We gave up on local tradesmen; the good ones are very busy and the rest are expensive but unreliable.

How Open Have You Found French Suppliers/Trade to Building an Environmentally-friendly House?

We have done a lot of the leg work ourselves. We got the polystyrene blocks for the pool from Finland, for instance. We do however have a good relationship with our local building supplier for all the normal stuff like blocks and cement etc.

What Would Be Your Advice to Anyone Contemplating a Similar Project?

Research it before starting anything, then cost it, then take a deep breath and get on with it. There are times when you get disheartened but it’s the same with any task. Also get an account at a local building supplier and use their experts to source materials. Use the internet for more exotic materials. Getting a supplier is a bit like dating – you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find the right one.
The renewables market is a bit like the double glazing industry – there are plenty of people who purport to be suppliers but not many, in our experience, that actually know their subject. Also, prices can be unrealistically high so get lots of quotes and check everything on the internet. Get technical information from the internet for any chosen technical supplies (like PV [photovoltaic] panels or solar panels)

If You Had the Chance…Would You Do It All Again?

Yes of course, but then we are both quite extrovert. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea though.

Any Additional Observations You Want to Make?

We have what we consider an idyllic life here. Kate and I both had high-pressure jobs in major multinationals, with good salaries. We took voluntary severance at about the same time and formed our own consulting company so that I could work until I was 50 and then draw my corporate pension (much reduced…for early withdrawal). We work most days at the moment on our project in sunshine mostly – even when it is cold. No horrendous commute, and the outdoor work keeps us fit. The people in this part of the world are very friendly and we join in with the French village/social life to the full. Our village is mainly French people and we like it that way.
We think it is unhealthy to have a high percentage of foreign nationals in a community. That causes too many social issues. Now we can modify/build a house that is energy efficient and use solar energy for most of the energy needs.
That should encourage others to follow and hopefully that will make a difference to the planet.

For more information on Bob’s project visit:

http://smartfrance.blogspot.com

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