An Architect Calls

“From now on, we live in a world where man has walked on the moon.
And it’s not a miracle.
We just decided to go.”

— Tom Hanks, playing Jim Lovell in Apollo 13

The weeks following The National Homebuilding and Renovating Show were a little frustrating. Having decided that Schwoerer were, at the very least, worthy of serious consideration with respect to replacing our house, we wanted to meet with them to discuss the next stage. We wanted that meeting to be at our existing property, shown above, so that we could discuss how they saw one of their designs best utilizing the site.

Make Us Feel Special

But it was hard to get hold of them. We knew that the UK was effectively a new market for Schwoerer, and that there were very few staff in the UK, but they were very, very slow to reply to emails.

It’s a pet peeve of mine, and we saw something similar with other exhibitors at the show. Why do businesses spend, in some cases, huge amounts of money to attract prospects, and then throw it all away by ignoring those that put their hands up?

All of us want to feel special, to feel as if we matter. All they needed to do was hire an administrator who could keep their (valuable?) prospects in the loop, and not cause us to question, as we did a number of times, whether we were making a huge mistake.

The Kick Off

Eventually, after a couple of false starts, on 16 July 2015 Karl came to visit us at our home. That, of course, gave him the opportunity to look at the site, the orientation, the outlook and the current issues we wanted to fix. He was able to spend a bit more time discussing options with us, and also reiterated the Schwoerer process.

Some work could be done by local contractors, such as the demolition of our existing property and the ground preparation for the new house. Karl suggested that, rather than having two stories only at the rear of the house, we should have two stories throughout. Because of the slope of the plot, the front lower story would be entirely underground, but that would be useful for the (necessary) plant room and could also provide some storage space.

Schwoerer could provide a pre-formed basement that would be installed by local contractors prior to the arrival of the house from Germany. We were reinvogorated: it all sounded fantastic.

The Kicker

Naturally, we discussed costs. We had a budget in mind, and we needed to know how that compared with the budget Karl had in mind. The costs broke down into a number of areas:

  • Demolition of the existing property
  • Ground works to prepare for new house
  • Supply of basement
  • Supply and erection of house
  • Insurance
  • Design fees
  • Landscaping

Karl put some estimates against each item above. We added those estimates up, and it came to about £80,000 more than our budget, and that without any contingency.

About Money

I’m very conscious, as I write these words, that we are talking about spending more money replacing a house than some can afford to spend simply buying a house in the first place.

To some extent, we’re lucky that we can do that. But we, all of us, are fortunate to live in a time where opportunity is afforded to all (at least in the first world). Too many forget that. They complain about the hand they’ve been dealt instead of building an unshakable belief that they can do better.

We’ve worked hard to get where we are (notice the naughty word missing before “hard”?). We’re not alone in working hard, of course, but we’ve tried to think about what we want to achieve and to focus our energies in taking us in that direction.

Sometimes that means hard decisions, tears of frustration, even doubt. And yes, we are nervous about doing this.

It wasn’t easy. Jus’ sayin’.

And So?

After Karl left, we felt dejected. We’d come so far. We thought that, finally, we’d found the way forwards, only to have a bigger number than we wanted put in front of us. We let it sink in for a few days.

Karl had visited us in mid-July; in mid-August we were due to go on holiday. There was a danger that we’d just go on holiday having done nothing, and in truth we’d be no further forward.

We had a discussion and agreed that we should make a decision before going away. We’d either decide we were going ahead or decide we weren’t, rather than just not decide at all.

In the movie Apollo 13, Tom Hanks, as Jim Lovell (the commander of Apollo 13), is having a barbecue in his back garden just after Neil Armstrong has walked on the moon for the first time. After the guests have left, he sits in a chair, looks at the moon, and says to his wife, “From now on, we live in a world where man has walked on the moon. And it’s not a miracle. We just decided to go.”

That quote is a source of inspiration to me. Everything – everything – starts with deciding to go. If NASA hadn’t decided to go, Neil Armstrong would not have walked on the moon. It’s that simple.

On the eve of our holiday, we decided to go.

Next: A Visit To SchwörerHaus