Thursday, 26 August 2010

highland housing expo!

going by Wikipedia: "expo" may refer to:
"a warm welcome to the Highlands"

Before we went to visit the Highland Housing World's Fair I had been wondering why the media cover of this once-in-a-life-time event was so sparse and why when ever I came across an occasional comment e.g. on Twitter it mostly referred to "nice pictures" taken during that "fabulous day out" mixed with those empty phrases like "fantastic", "interesting" and "worthwhile". Here is the exception to the rule: "ir-is.html">auchterness"

Well, now I know.

Getting this exhibition started had its pains; anything from "wrong location", "bad timing", "illegal site", "no interest", "too expensive" to the usual yet ambitious exaggerations like "...the fair will be the first of its kind in the UK and will be an innovative development of 55 homes which will be at the cutting edge of modern design and sustainable building techniques".

It might be the first but the rest of this official line was and is wishful thinking; hollow words but occasionally those bounce back. The catalogue says: "52 fantastic houses designed with the future in mind". Whose?

There is no accounting for taste, so why discuss it; but the quality of craftsmanship is measurable and any figure appointed to what I saw would be sub-terrestrial; it is an insult to any craftsman's pride. By no means should that expo be taken as a showcase of what Scottish craftsmanship can achieve and I dare include Scottish architecture in general, today and in future. (No wonder snagging lists come in endless series...)

cutting edge? no, lots of cut edges!

As one being interested in energy (construction plays a major role), its generation, consumption and conservation I took a look at the official consumption figures of the various houses; reading the latest fantasy novel offers more realism and truth. You will find all figures here. Same goes for U-values like 0.12 for a wobbly sandwich "filled" with glass wool accompanied by the line "we are the only ones approved to build to Passive House Standards in Scotland...".

wrapped in "sustainable" rubber

Total rubbish those figures; those are misleading the customers, building control but also politicians that far too easy tend to immediately put those fancy headlines on their flags not knowing what they are talking about (example? "wood is carbon neutral!" - but the terms "draught proofing" and "Zero Carbon Housing" ain't any better!).

It is obvious that there is a lack of control and thorough examination to separate what is pure marketing b...s... and what has de facto been built standing up to scrutiny. To make matters worse the houses are tiny, family unfriendly, the bedrooms even smaller; whoever drew them up obviously sleeps in 3/4 sized beds and is short.

The rest, sorry, was no better; it seems like "kitchens" and "windows" as well as "bathrooms" had been contracted out to one major supplier, each; may be that cut cost and made those a fortune but it did not follow the idea of an "expo" where you (normally) would want to demonstrate what is possible (tomorrow) and show an eye-opening and mouth-watering variety.

And one last thing for now: may be I am the last species of its kind but even if that was the case I would still believe that a customer wants to learn and understand and not "be sold for stupid"; that's German for "taken as a fool"! Instead of placing trained and knowledgeable staff able to answer any questions and give background information the positioned secondary pupils, nice, beautiful and friendly, repeated stereotypically, at best, what the fabulous but meaningless posters and leaflets said, anyway and only.

Flower House, finally now open, five days to go...

If you don't have questions but want to have a look, may be where the flowers are, hurry up.

Carpe diem!

Also, 27-08-2010: eco, friendly, green and credentials

Update 29-01-11

BBC: Housing Expo "Ghost Town" resident loves her new flat

Figures released by Highland Council on Friday showed August's exhibition of the energy-efficient homes made an operating loss of £514,000.

Almost £651,000 was spent on expo, but ticket sales amounted to £137,000.

Ms Meikle said she had been on a waiting list for an affordable property for four years.

The Inverness Courier: Housing Expo to mount sales drive in bid to recoup £6m

Cash from each sale is to be returned to the public purse as part of an agreement with the Scottish Government, which underwrote the controversial housing scheme with £6 million of taxpayer's money.

The Highland Council: Scotland's Housing Expo - Socio Economic Study

Visitor numbers peaked at weekends and during the last week
There were many visits by groups of professionals from different parts of Scotland
Visitors particularly interested in learning from the Expo included a leading property specialist from Australia and a reporter from the Chicago Tribune
The average visitor stayed at the Expo for just under 4 hours

Average socio economics at its best...