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Kevin McCloud’s Man Made Home

Lessons for the future: Kevin McCloud’s Man Made Home.ABC1, Wednesday, 8.30pm

Fans of Kevin McCloud – and they are many – know his shtick. He’s an advocate for the importance of design, for how it adds efficiency and beauty – and even meaning – to our lives, especially when properly integrated into the buildings we inhabit.

For 13 seasons his Grand Designs series has tracked, dissected and analysed the efforts of others to build homes. The projects are invariably challenging, outlandish, ambitious, interesting and inspiring. He has shown us that there are life lessons in design and in the determination to follow through to achieve your dreams – yes, it gets a little soppy like that – and he does his darnedest to make us think about the relationship between our lives and our environment.

In Kevin McCloud’s Man Made Home (winner of our 2013 Couch Potato award for best overseas documentary series), he extended these themes by tackling his own design-meets-environment project: an eco forest cabin built using only materials and recycled objects found locally. The series combined vision, ingenuity, lashings of mud, explosions, wood, lots of discarded rusty stuff and oodles of philosophical musings about the state of the planet.

Now McCloud returns in a second season to expand on this personal quest; he has transported the shed to a clifftop in West Somerset, perched above a rugged, grey Jurassic coastline. Here he builds on the original concept to transform his off-grid holiday shack into something wackier and wilder using, again, recycled stuff and local materials.

McCloud’s experiment is designed to see whether turning your back on the mad busyness of the modern world for a simpler and more creative life can make you happier. Ably supported by Will Trickett, McCloud’s guerilla engineer extraordinaire, who can make anything from anything and is the dream-to-reality brains of the project, the result is something special.

In this first of four parts the pair test a hazel-twig-and-sheep-bladder-balloon raft on a trip to get to the local pub; experiment with fish oils for their lighting needs; and salvage the oak ribs and planks of a nearby shipwreck to build a cantilevered deck.

It’s entertaining, a little madcap, inspiring and more. There are lessons for the future in McCloud’s do-as-I-do example. As resources come under pressure and transport costs make it uneconomic to source materials from Malaysian rainforests or buy cheap tools from Chinese factories (made from ores shipped in from around the globe), we will increasingly need to look locally, be efficient recyclers and fall back on practices and skills that have atrophied in the age of off-the-shelf consumerism.

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