Market Values

“The improvements you’re making and seeking are commendable, but they’re just not what the market wants at the moment…”

These were the words of my estate agent this morning. Yes, the Victorian House of the Future is on the market. I will explain why in a later post as it hasn’t been an easy decision. In the meantime, a second viewer, who rents a house on my road, is interested but thinks the house needs “too much work”. I quite agree – all Victorian houses need a lot of work, indeed all old buildings need work, continuously. That’s what keeps conservation architects, conservation officers, builders, roofers and a plethora of other professionals, including me, in business. It wasn’t that comment that got to me today though. It was that even now, in a climate catastrophe and cost of living crisis, the energy efficiency improvements made to my home are deemed worthless in the housing market.

Underfloor insulation that took weeks to complete, involved the whole downstairs furniture and belongings being packed up and removed and is preventing considerable heat loss from the ground floor of the house = no value.

Loft insulation that required the attic to be emptied and a new floor installed over the insulation so that the whole space can now be used for storage, minimising heat loss through the roof = no value.

Extractor fans that continuously remove moisture from the bathroom and kitchen to considerably reduce risk of condensation and mould in this traditional, solid wall construction = no value.

Solar PV panels that have reduced our electricity bills to £1 or less per day, required scaffolding to be erected on our property and on a neighbour’s with an inordinate amount of co-ordinating, organising and supervising on my part = no value.

Comprehensive planning application for a complete decarbonisation retrofit of the house, including a loft conversion and conservatory that I measured, drew up, applied my expertise to and submitted at my own expense over a period of 5 years = no value.

Even the stuff that I assumed would make the house more marketable such as the EPC rating going from F to D so the house can now be rented out when it couldn’t before = no value.

It’s true that the Victorian House of the Future project is about reducing carbon emissions not making a profit. I care that we are headed for extinction with a load of drawn out, tragic, avoidable suffering for all organisms before we get there. I thought if I could demonstrate how to do it, provide a sort of template that an ordinary family without an architect for a mum could just pick up and repeat, then that would appeal to the consciousness of most people. My thought process was clear: I know I can’t do it all myself, I’m just not well enough, but you can do it – and here’s how!

It felt like a no-brainer to me that a house that was cheaper to ‘run’ in terms of fuel bills and that brought a household closer to carbon neutral living would be more desirable, not less.

I did, naïvely it turns out, think that others would have the same train of thought. I realise, because I have had so much support for the project, that I must be occupying a rather large echo chamber of eco-activists all banging our drum but not making any difference, and I admit that realisation is at once painful and terrifying. I’m not sure whether it is possible to reach the masses with this project and the message it is attempting to deliver – to create a home that consumes less and is harmless and healthy for both people and planet. I truly believe we can’t live the way we have been for the last two centuries any more. The words of Pakistani architect Yasmeen Lari stick in my mind on a daily basis and motivate me, so though I feel despondent today, the project will continue tomorrow. Referring to the floods that overwhelmed over a third of Pakistan in 2022, Lari summarised the cause of global warming as being: “…due to the unfettered over-consumption of the global north”.

That means us.

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