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The eco-house concept is finally coming of age

Variety is the spice girl of life I believe and last week there were a number of interesting property related stories knocking around.

The eco-house is a concept that has been with us for some time. My first experience of this was two decades ago courtesy of a French architect client of mine who wanted to build an invisible house which is completely underground in Acton, west London.

His name was Pierre, or Potty Pierre as I called him, as I thought the idea was bonkers. But perhaps I got it wrong as an eco-house has just been built in Kent which, while not underground, nevertheless relies on similar principles to Potty Pierre’s.

Common to both projects is the interesting use of crushed glass to make the floor slab because glass absorbs heat better than wood or concrete and slowly releases it when the temperature drops.

Again both projects make use of rainwater collected within flat roofs and recycled to flush the toilets and for use in the washing machine.

So old Potty’s idea wasn’t as wayward as I first thought. I’ve often wondered whether or not he ever built his invisible house.

I’ve promised myself that one day I’ll go back and take a peek to see if he built it properly but, of course, I wouldn’t be able to see it would I?

I have been around a bit. I can’t quite recall the Law of Property Act 1925 but only because my memory’s shot, so it’s always a surprise when I see a new idea.

Falling well and truly into this category we now have a company called Ad Hoc Property Guardians and I think this idea’s got legs.

Here’s the deal. In this sprawling metropolis of ours there are hundreds of empty properties just waiting for squatters to move into and smash up – just ask the Duke of Westminster.

At the same time there are hard-up potential tenants all over the place looking for a cheap pad, so put the two together and Bob’s your colonel, as Arthur Daley used to say.

Ad Hoc matches empty properties with hard-up tenants who become property guardians.

The fun bit here is that many of these properties are commercial including empty fire and police stations, schools, waterworks – anywhere squatters would fancy.

The benefit for the property owner is that their property is occupied, which prevents it from being squatted, while the tenants get cheap digs.

Around the corner from my office is a disused fire station which is being occupied by one of these guardians for £60 a week when the average rent in W1 is many times that.

The only drawback is that it all sounds a bit spooky. A bit like that film Night at the Museum. Only those with an adventurous spirit must apply.

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