Saturday, 14 July 2007

Does Everybody Hate Newbuilds?

Some dejected plumbers struck up conversation in the lift recently. They were keen to share the news that all fittings, walls, ceilings, roofs, brickwork, as well as the foundations, girders, and well everything here in Dovecot Towers is cheap, shoddy and possibly dangerous. We get a lot of that round here. They also exposed the reality of a bathroom covered in what seems to be luxurious tiling: whenever they start a repair, they must rip out all the tiles and start again, as it cannot be removed in part sections.

When builders describe homes like my own, I am told of filigree brickwork with the wind whistling through, and wobbly, earthquake imitating foundations. Eventually, I succumb to wearing a hard hat when taking out the bins; well, you can’t be too careful, and I might get brain damage from tumbling boulders and sharp masonry. Builders are convinced my home is a machine of death, and predict my premature demise. They are carving my gravestone: ‘…we warned her about those newbuilds.’

Plasterers hate newbuilds. They speak ruefully about thin, miserly applications of second rate rendering, slapped on haphazardly where waterfalls of damp are waiting to pounce. Roofers bemoan the flat roofs, cracked slates, and leaking surfaces. They take some pride in their work, and realise that slapdash standards do nothing for their professional reputation.

Even the man who repaired my washer hates newbuilds, and he lives in one. It’s not just buy to let owners reluctant to pay for his work (he now demands cash upfront). While his brand new home was being finished, he was persuading the builders to scrap any white goods which came inclusive; he has his own fridge etc. As they were installing his washer drier, he was removing it, straight to the scrap heap.

Architects hate newbuilds, because they have little input in their design. There’s one huge, supposedly luxurious new-build near to me. It’s covered in off-white tiling, like a municipal urinal. It has tiny windows, a minuscule balcony, and looks like a secure unit for serial killers (who also really hate newbuilds, and were driven to kill when living in one.) One, now notorious, high end apartment block was ‘imagined’ by a fashion designer, with no training in (or experience of) architecture.

Everybody hates newbuilds. Estate agents would - without their halo slipping - describe the cupboard under my sink as being ‘…compact, with excellent access to amenities’. Even they hate newbuilds, but are constantly pressured to rent them as a priority, as buy to let owners walk a financial tightrope, and can’t afford empty flats. Estate agents disguise reality with words like ‘fresh’ and ‘new.’ Eventually, they develop a guilty expression, and convert to Catholicism, seeking absolution for the mortal sin of persuading tenants to pay rent on a buy to let newbuild.

Most workmen believe that within ten years, these detested new flats will be demolished. Who builds them? Who designs them? And who’s daft enough to live in them? Meanwhile contractors all agree on one thing: they are coining it in, from hours of large scale, long term, and therefore costly repair work. Which means that workmen are unique: they really, really love newbuilds.

No comments: