We’ve spoken a lot about building a home in quite general terms, and yet we know that it is a very specific thing. Each person who is considering this path has a whole bunch of reasons and emotions governing that choice.

We find that many people who get in touch all share a common desire – autonomy. 

Now more than ever we see problems and challenges out in the world. Threats and sadness.  And that all drives a desire to self regulate, to be more in control of our destinies. Building our own homes, our own castles, is a very rational response to a chaotic world. While I think it’s ok to use these negative forces to drive our ambition, to form a plan, to work towards something really tangible for ourselves and our families, it is really important that we don’t turn inwards too much and forget all the positive steps that are happening all around us.

We are after all, part of a society. And if we can hold that at the centre of our plans they will be all the richer for it. We’re going to achieve good things together, with our neighbours and our communities; not in spite of them. 

In order to build good homes, we need good design. 

And for us that includes the communities that we are embedded in. Right now there is a real emerging understanding of this in the wider design and ‘thinking about stuff’ communities.  People and organisations doing incredible work to take stock of where we are and come up with creative and innovative approaches to help all of us grow and thrive.  One of those is the Bristol Housing Festival

At the Bristol Housing Festival, we’re asking you to re-imagine better ways to live in our cities. We face a national crisis in housing, a climate crisis, and a construction skills shortage in the industry, but we see in this crisis a powerful opportunity to do things differently. We’re bringing together industry leaders, working with local governments and engaging the public to bring healthy and resilient communities to the forefront of the conversation on housing. 

They are one of many groups tackling the challenges ahead of us with optimism, and we are incredibly pleased to see this sort of work gain traction. It aligns with our own missions and provides rich possibilities for collaboration and inspiration. 

This kind of innovation is what really keeps us going. 

I make time every day to seek out this innovative thinking. New projects, exciting lectures. Small steps by lots of people towards a shared goal.  I find that this not only feeds a professional hunger, and helps me to help people like you, but it keeps my head above water.  It puts out some of the fires (to continue throwing analogies at you). 

We are slowly building up a library of resources to serve as inspiration and fuel for your own dreams and designs, so do keep your eyes peeled for coming developments here at Hartwyn HQ.  In the meantime, if you are thirsty for inspiration or optimism, here’s a small collection to start you off:

Mycelium is up next for its turn in the spotlight.  Good old mushrooms coming to help us stay warm and lower our need for energy. Early days, but VERY interesting.

Indinature – a Scottish startup – is also making homegrown natural insulations, which will further lower transport miles (which is a BIG deal) and boost the industry.

The Cob specialist – This is a brand new company based down in Cornwall manufacturing cob blocks for the heritage market, but will also be amazingly useful for thermal mass elements in our builds.  It’s essentially modular rammed earth. What’s not to like?

If you need another injection of optimism, then I’d also recommend checking out a few books…. 

I just finished ‘The Future earth’ by Eric Holthaus.  It’s a hopeful imagining of our immediate future, based on science and with insightful interviews with world experts. 

Another great one to check out is the excellent From what is to what if by Rob Hopkins. This is a far reaching look at empowering ourselves through asking optimistic questions. The continuously excellent podcast from Jeffrey The Natural Builder has an episode with Rob Hopkins and is well worth a listen.

All of this positivity is infectious. And it seeps into the pores of our plans and designs, and it makes me hopeful and excited for what is next. My biggest issue right now is time – not enough of it to explore all of these amazingly distracting options. I want to do it all!

What’s keeping you going? Is there anything positive happening in your community?

Keep safe, keep optimistic, keep in touch.

Joe