Land ahoy

So, we are now back from Cyprus……unfortunately. Coming home every time gets harder and harder!

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I miss it already!

Regardless though, the trip was productive.

We had gone with the aim of looking at certain plots and purchasing one. But, whilst there we also went to look at some land my father already owns. And discovered that the plot is pretty perfect already! Stunning views over Limassol, already in a decent residential area and it is almost guaranteed we’d be able to build what we want.

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There are some land registry issues to sort out now……but that will be a damn sight cheaper than purchasing some land, in a not so ideal location! We are very very lucky as this land…..with this view…..is worth an absolute fortune and we would never have been able to afford this on our own.

Some friends also recently built their house and I love it. They also confirmed that the architect was good and interpreted their wants and needs perfectly. So we went to meet her. She was great, providing guidance on the process and just talking through ideas.

She did also give it to me straight though. Building with straw in Cyprus will be a challenge – but with that will come huge risk. This risk will have quite major financial implications as well as the overall risk that the house doesn’t get signed off at all. There is no civil engineer in Cyprus that deals with these types of houses and it may never get signed off.

Whilst I really want to build with this method…..I can’t afford that big a risk.
So we are going to opt for a timber frame instead. This architect does have experience with building eco-friendly houses and knows the importance of good insulation and design.

I’ve come away very positive……we’re finally getting somewhere.

So now I just have to figure out how to change the name of my blog!!!

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The start is in sight….

In 4 weeks today….we fly to Cyprus.

I’ve been keeping an eye on the internet for land for sale – as well as monitoring the advert of the plot we like (so far). It is still up for sale at the moment so fingers crossed it stays on the market until we get there!

I’ve started pulling together our financial portfolio as well. We have a meeting lined up with the bank when we get there and I want to have everything together.

I HATE WAITING!!! It will fly past I’m sure but I just want to get this project off the ground and get started!!!

We Struck Gold!

Ok, well not gold – but it’s yellow……does that count?

This weekend my cousin in Cyprus came back with the news that they have found someone that can do square straw bales! Yay!

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Ordinarily, most places over there make the large round bales (are the round ones called bales?), so finding square ones is a result. I recently saw on a forum that someone else was looking for straw bales in Cyprus, but they didn’t appear to have any luck – so right now I am thrilled! Whilst My cousin struggled to answer all my questions….it at least means we can go make contact in person when we are there.

The one thing she did find out though…..it would cost 5 Euros a bale…..I sooooo hope that is correct! At a really rough guesstimate, we will need around 600 bales, so at that price – well what a bargain!!!

I am worried that it is such a ‘rare’ product to use though. This year was a bad year harvest wise – so straw production was very low anyway. This is a big risk going forward. What if, when I need them, there aren’t enough square bales to buy??? I need to find other sources. But……other sources will be abroad…..maybe Greece?? Importing the bales will then also defeat part of the point of building from eco materials! The carbon footprint from the transportation alone will be huge, and I really want to put as much back into local businesses as I can.

Fingers crossed for the crops!!! Aaaaarrrrrrgh!

Architect architect, where for art thou, architect…

I came back from the building show armed with various architect business cards. However, whilst a stand was helpful to see previous projects, business cards didn’t help me too much.

As I started trawling through all their websites, I also stumbled across a site called Architect Supermarket. Same principle as the insurance, money and travel supermarket sites…..it’s supposed to be a one stop shop. ‘Why not?’ I thought. It’s worth a try….. But, sadly I wouldn’t say it was the most user friendly of sites, and it really only applied if building in the UK. It was simple enough in that you fill out a form with what you require and the project planned, then see which architects think they can help and call you. However the questions are all very closed questions and don’t give any option for building abroad. Off the back of that – I did get one call back. But after talking to that architect, they basically confirmed they couldn’t help and wouldn’t be able to provide me with a quote!

I also made contact with Straw Works after taking their details from the building show. They seem to offer the whole package at this stage – including training. Their site also states they have done projects in Crete – which ticks another experience box for me. They not only know everything about straw building, but understand about building in that climate as well as some similarities with building regulations. They have also responded to emails quickly……am I on to a winner??

Another of my questions was also answered. You need the land first!! So ultimately now I need to make sure I find the right piece of land when we go to Cyprus in September. In advance of that – this is all I seem to look at every day when home from work!

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The land is taken into account with the design – especially the foundations etc – which I understand. I was told to start thinking about other aspects in regards to general design, but there is not point forking out a load of cash for proper architect drawings now, which then need to be altered once the land is purchased. I think I can safely tick that box at least!

I was also given a task whilst in Cyprus……source some places to get straw – then weigh and measure some bales! Eeeek! Where do I start with that?????? So I now have my cousins over there on the case…..I feel a rather unusual holiday coming up in September! In all honesty though – this will again make drawing up plans easier and should prevent costly tweaks further down the line…..I hope! If windows and doors are planned around the bale sizes, it will make the building easier and prevent wastage and cutting of bales.

I hope someone comes up trumps on the straw! That will make life so much easier!!

Sketchup!

I’ve mentioned before that I recently downloaded Google Sketchup to help me get an idea of the house I want.

After a few YouTube tutorials, I set off developing ideas. Easier said than done!!

Playing around with this programme has stolen a fair few hours of my life! Literally! I was becoming so engrossed, 5 hours would whizz by, and I’d only created 2 rooms!

Anyway – several weeks later……this is our first initial plan……

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It doesn’t look that great compared to what an architect would produce, but blood, sweat and tears went into getting this far!!!

I am going to be interested once the final thing is built to look back at this initial post and see how different the finished product is. I wonder whether it will look even remotely similar!!

So, ultimately we want this to look relatively English from the front, with a Mediterranean feel at the back. Hopefully I’ve managed to achieve that somehow!!

At this stage, this was purely on look. Very little consideration was given to the way it will be built and whether the design is possible using straw. However, as more thought and conversations have been held about the build method, I am growing more confident it is possible.

The intention is this will be a non-load bearing straw house. In Cyprus, the traditional way to build is with a concrete frame with supports through the concrete to help the building be ‘earthquake’ proof. So in my head, we’ve stuck with that. The plan is then to infill the walls with straw. Some general conversations with architects have also confirmed that concrete is a good material to use in hot countries because of its thermal mass and ability to absorb heat, slowly releasing said heat during the evening as the temperatures cool (or something along those techy lines!). Another benefit of using this traditional method for the frame means builders out there can already do it, have expertise in that area and so finding a contractor to do the job should be relatively easy. The final, biggest benefit is that hopefully it will help us clear building regulations and be able to keep banks happy to give us a mortgage!! Unusual build styles or ones not used often (if at all) can lead to banks shying away from lending against it – or they devalue it.

My only other comment is – yes, I did intend the roof tiles to be blue! A lot of research has led me to some photovoltaic tiles that look like normal roof tiles. The only thing with those – they only come in blue!! Hmmmm….slowly getting used to the idea now but I was a bit worried at first! However, I do think these are a much better option than panels and will hopefully generate all the electricity we need and more, to possibly earn us a little extra income each month too!

What came first? The chicken or the egg?

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With this process, I am having the same dilemma – obviously not the chicken scenario…..but land or plans? What should you get first?

I actually think, for me, they almost need to be in tandem. Whilst I obviously need the land before I can build, for me to visualise whether a plot of land is right, I find it useful that I have an image of a house in my head so I can place it on a plot, imagine the view from the windows, understand the level of privacy we’ll get in the ‘back’ garden.

So far, I’ve been quoted €10,000 for full architectural plans. GULP! How much??? I know ultimately I will need to spend that much, not only for builders, but also to get planning permission as well as negotiating a mortgage. But……surely tweaks will be made dependant on the land we end up with? Certain modifications because of the soil type, shape of the plot, access roads….?

So, I’ve gone for a do it yourself job! I downloaded an awesome programme for FREE called Google Sketchup. Pro versions are available at a cost, but the free version has more than delivered on what I needed! YouTube also provided significant assistance in how to use it effectively!!

Creating a first plan on this gives us the perfect starting point. Apparently it will also makes things so much smoother and easier when a real architect comes into play as they have a very good idea of what we want.

Next time I’ll put up my first attempt…..it will be interesting to see how different it will be by the time it is built!!!!!

Where oh where to build!

Ok, so to build a house, you need somewhere to build it – it does help right?!

I want to build in Cyprus, so that decision is at least made! My siblings and I do already own some land over there too, but it was all handed to us from our dad. None are in a location I would like to live in.

That sounds ungrateful doesn’t it? I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth and all that. But – I am only planning to build this house once. I have already spent so many hours considering what will make this house everything I want and need. I envisage my husband and I growing old there – not moving again in a few years time. So, I could settle for the land we have already, or look for somewhere we will be happy to live for long time.

I’ve therefore been scouring the internet. Google has been my friend!

There are lots of sights that have land for sale – but many of them seem to cater for ‘tourist’ buyers, charging unrealistic prices.

My favourite site so far – West Coast Cyprus – has lots of plots (which is again a good sign that people use them) and at reasonable prices. After making enquiries through the site, I also discovered they are managed by a well known name – Antonis Loizou. I had already heard of them and know they have a good reputation.

I’ve seen one plot I particularly like and it seems good value (it even has sea views, albeit in the distance!).

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But now I have to wait until we go, hope the land hasn’t been sold in the meantime & figure out the finances!. We don’t have a huge pot of money to draw from, so the majority of this project will be funded via a mortgage of some sort. I have a feeling we will have a busy few weeks when we go in September! So much for a relaxing holiday abroad!! I’m sure it will all be worth it in the long run though!