Grand Design Live 2007

I was in two minds (I am a Gemini!) but I eventually decided to have a day out and headed up to Birmingham for this event. There's masses to see and it really depends what you're after as to how much you get from it. I have to say - apart from an armful of leaflets and a bag of sausages, I didn't get much and it wasn't really worth the trip.

Although there's a whole area on Build - there was very little about the actual building aspect. There are a couple of places where you can get advice from the experts (architects and planners) and have your grand plans reviewed but most of the show is made up of companies selling their wares. If you want to look at underfloor heating, radiators, kitchen fittings, bathrooms, outdoor eating and the top-end of the market, then it's the place to go. I really can't see me ever wanting a spa pool.

I came back with a couple of leaflets from the oak-timber frame companies there and eventually tracked down a company that runs courses on straw-bale buildings. There were a few companies such as Huf Haus that produce kit form houses. I also picked up back issues of the Self-build magazine for only £1 each. Plenty of tips and ideas in these. The talk on Going Green - was pretty basic. We're all much more eco-savvy these days. There was very little around on that aspect which was disappointing. A few companies selling solar panels and the UK Renewables that have all sorts of ideas for renewables.

Solar water heating panels - will require your existing hot water cylinder to be replaced. Grants are available but the overall cost is between £2-3,500.

Solar electric panels
- are expensive to install and not that efficient. £10-15,000. Although if you generate enough electricity you could end up selling it back to the grid but not for as much as you're buying it for.

Wind turbines - although you can now get these in B&Q, these need to be installed with a direct line of sight (or line of wind) to the prevailing wind. If you're built up area like mine - there's little point as there's too much turbulence from houses, trees etc.

Underground heat source - seems to be coming more popular - can't seem them allowing me to dig up the road to install one.

There are plenty of shopping opportunities if you want some art for your walls, sparkly chandeliers, ornate furniture or the ultimate in ladders or even a new drill set or perhaps a fondue. If you were the process of accessorising or wanting to choose the type of flooring for your kitchen/bathroom and have plenty of money to spend, then you might find something useful.

Some of the couples from the Grand Design TV programme where there to talk about their own projects and how things are now the cameras have gone and they've actually been living in their homes.

First find your plot.
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