Grand Designs Live Tackled the Climate Crisis and Offered Consumers Pioneering Solutions and Money-Saving Advice

Grand Designs Live returned to Birmingham NEC this week and closed its doors on Sunday 9th October after a hugely successful outing. Welcoming thousands of visitors, the show hosted by Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud, was packed with hundreds of brands and organisations offering visitors the chance to discover the latest trends and explore the newest technologies and designs across four main sectors of the show: Grand Build, Grand Kitchens & Bathrooms, Grand Gardens and Grand Interiors – plus the Birmingham debut of Green Living Live, dedicated to eco-solutions.


With a focus on offering the most pioneering innovations and products across the housing industry, in everything from building materials to interior furnishings this week’s event was one of the most exciting, engaging, informative and fun, to date.

Kevin McCloud commented, “Grand Designs Live continues to bring to life the TV programme and this week the Birmingham show has brought together a collective of some of the most inspiring Grand Designers, endlessly informative experts in architecture, planning, design, decarbonising and sustainability solutions, masses of invaluable consumer advice and money-saving tips, and thousands of visitors with a palpable appetite for self-building or retro-fitting in a greener and more responsible way.”

Offering hundreds of free talks across four stages, including the new Sustainable Future Theatre in Green Living Live, the Interiors Stage and the theatre, visitors had access to an extensive variety of experts and personalities throughout the five-day event covering issues and topics including sustainability, restoration, renovation, upcycling, recycling, energy and money-saving advice, decarbonising, interior design, self-building for less, and much more.

During his opening talk to celebrate 25 years of filming Grand Designs, Kevin McCloud arrived on stage bundled up in multiple layers of clothing to highlight the importance of insulating ourselves as much as our homes in the face of soaring energy prices and the climate crisis.


TV presenter, chef and author James Strawbridge gave a masterclass in practical self-sufficiency stating that “being an eco-warrior is also a great way to save money.” He also advocated that self-sufficiency works better within a community framework, sharing knowledge, produce and solutions and recommended that everyone should undertake an energy audit at home to discover what wastes the most energy.

In conversation with property expert Kunle Barker, Simon Allford, President of RIBA outlined the importance of having constraints when designing buildings, saying, “Without constraints there is no design. Constraints are the grammar that define your text. Constraints nurture creativity. The construction industry is responsible for about 40% of the world’s carbon emissions – we have to deal with that. The UK needs to set exemplary standards and share knowledge. The whole world needs to act. This is the new constraint to make us think harder, there is a big challenge to be innovative and learn from history.” On the future of RIBA he added, “Architecture to me, at its best, is a really nice backdrop to the theatre of life. RIBA is the front door to architecture and architectural discussion. Sharing information and offering open access. An open invitation to the world of the built environment, discussing what architecture is, what architecture will become, and how to look after our environments.”

Visitors also flocked to the theatre for panel talk on ‘How to self-build for less’ with Kevin McCloud, Editor of Grand Designs magazine Karen Stylianides, Grand Designers Ed and Rowena Waghorn, and a panel of architects and planners. Kevin’s stand-out advice for self-builders looking to keep costs to a minimum was to build smaller, ask for help, and engage the experts. He said, “Firstly, most people build houses too big for their needs. I’m also a big fan of assembling teams of expert people rather than imagine you can do everything yourself. Ask for help, the more people you have in your life to help, the better.”

Each day, visitors also gathered to hear the captivating tales of woe and wonder from households showcased on recent TV series’ of Grand Designs and The Streets, including Ruth Grimshaw and Rob Glass of the Blacking Mill in South Lakeland, Leah & Craig Lewis’ who built a sustainable timber-clad custom build, John & Julia McCormack talked about their modernist self-build at Graven Hill, Iain and Jenny Shaillady shared their adventures in transforming their 150 year old bothy in Kinross, and Maite and Carlos talked about their ambitious plans to build a bold, Spanish inspired home.

Huge crowds packed the theatre for the announcement of the winning Mini Grand Designers competition. With an esteemed panel of judges including Kevin McCloud, Karen Stylianides, Kunle Barker, Matthew Freeman from BIID, Professor Elena Marco from University of the West of England, and Azad Azam from DPB Ltd, the shortlisted children from Year 5 at Fordbridge Community Primary School in Solihull watched as their grand designs were screened and discussed on the stage.


The judges said they were blown away by the imagination and sense of fun of the designs. Commenting on the challenging judging process Kevin said, “We nearly started fighting, we kept changing our minds, there was a lot of debate. But I’ve never had so much fun judging a design competition.”

The winner’s are:

Judge’s Choice – Akira Kibinda Camera House. The judges commented on its modern and contemporary design, the magical psychedelic room, the moat and the way the waves were drawn.

People’s Choice – Nate Graham. The judges said it resembled the lair of a Bond villain and loved the submarine docking station and helipad, the great fun design, and draftsmanship.

Another huge success with visitors was Ask an Expert, which was booked out throughout the five days. Specialists from a range of fields including architecture, interior design, finance, sustainability, and planning were available for one-on-ones with visitors. Many visitors brought plans, drawings, and budgets along to their meetings and gained useful tips, tricks and ideas from their sessions.

One of the finance experts, Peter Hunt Cert CII(MP) Cert PFS CeMAP, Partner at Moneywatch Finance said, “The Ask an Expert arena was very busy with a wide variety of enquiries regarding finance & mortgages, these included not only people who were seriously looking to self-build but also people looking to renovate their existing homes, I also saw quite a few first time buyers who wanted to know the process for obtaining a mortgage & how the home buying process worked. The consistent question that nearly everyone needed to know was, how do you calculate how much we can borrow and do all lenders lend the same amount as each other, of which they certainly do not, different lenders assess income and expenditure in different ways, this results in a wide difference in the amount of mortgage they will approve. My big tip is, no matter what you are planning to do, always start with solid foundations whether you are starting out on your self build project, a renovation, or you are looking to buy your first home, solid foundations starts with the finance, understanding your budget and knowing your mortgage limits are. This is key to a successful outcome, always get qualified professional advice.”

A new addition to the show, the Interiors Theatre in partnership with the House of Upcycling, offered a vibrant and inspiring mix of upcycling demos and interior makeovers.

As the consumer trend for de-cluttering and tidy spaces continues to flourish, talks on organised space and de-cluttering from experts and influencers including the Style Sisters, were delivered to overflowing audiences.

With hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers, Style Sisters Gemma and Charlotte furnished visitors with a lesson on detoxing your home to create space and a calmer home, and handy tips on how to make it more energy efficient. The UK’s leading authority on professional upcycling for interiors, the House of Upcycling, showcased five member artisans in furniture restoration and refinishing to upcycled lighting, artcycling to decoupage, enabling visitors to learn about the skills used by professionals to create designer-upcycling.

The new Theatre presented the latest ideas for furnishing your grand designs offering exciting talks from home furniture and furnishings brands, interior designers, and stylists. The Energy Saving Trust hosted helpful Q&A’s on how to change the way we heat our homes with the insights and analytics team outlining why we need to decarbonise heating systems in our homes.

The much-loved and increasingly popular feature, Kevin’s Green Heroes, staged a brand-new collection of the best conceptual, useful, and eco-friendly ideas and products chosen by Kevin McCloud. His new selection comprised innovations that conserve wildlife such as insects and bees, used recycled materials, and helped consumers to make eco-choices more affordable. Talking about his chosen designs Kevin said, “These products are the vanguard – they set out the innovations and products of the future.”


Richard Morey, Director of Media 10 commented on the final day; “It has been brilliant to be back in Birmingham. It has been a very busy, fun and enlightening five days, catering to every aspect of home design and build. With the addition of Green Living Live, an increasing focus on sustainability and energy efficiency, and the introduction of new live theatre stages, Grand Designs Live offers a stage unlike any other for providing invaluable and useful advice for our visitors, along with inspiring features and exciting brands. The hundreds of hours of free content and consumer advice was the best we’ve ever offered and also a great reflection of the change in our visitor’s priorities - not only do they want to hear about designs, but they want to know how to reduce their carbon footprints, reduce energy costs, and how to do their part in fighting the climate crisis. A huge thank you to all the brilliant experts, organisations, and partners who have worked so hard and given their time and energy to make Birmingham 2022 a show to be proud of.”


The next edition of Grand Designs Live and Green Living Live will take place from 29th April – 7th May at London ExCeL.