Posted on 7th November 2019

Grand Designs on an Electric Future

Grand Designs has always had sustainability at the heart of its production, both on screen and off. Many of the houses featured focus on sustainable living solutions and six Grand Designs titles have been albert certified since 2017.

The team at Boundless measured their predicted carbon footprint for the most recent series (using the albert carbon calculator) and identified that the largest impact of the show was the many miles of car travel around the country. Due to the small team travelling together with their kit, it is usually more practical for them to share one production vehicle rather than take public transport. This led the team to look for an electric car to mitigate this part of their footprint and travel around the country without local emissions.

As the car was going to be used on screen as well as off, Boundless went to Jaguar to source a (paid) loan of the Jaguar I-Pace. Kevin McCloud was filmed in the vehicle driving around the country and visiting the featured building projects. These shots were then seamlessly integrated into the existing format, adding to the production’s ‘editorial sustainability’ aims.

Initially, the team had some concerns about the electric car. They knew they would be spending a lot of time on the road so it was important that the car was efficient. There were concerns that charging the car would end up being difficult and time consuming however, these worries quickly evaporated when charging turned out to be less of a challenge than expected. The main consideration was scheduling in the additional breaks for charging the vehicle, but as the car’s full range is 230 miles it meant that even driving from London to Manchester only necessitated one 30 minute charging break had to be added, which production pointed out should be happening anyway!

Charging ahead

The other teething problem with the car was getting used to the methods of charging. Some chargers are faster than others and it took a while to get used to which ones to use. Most require an app to pay but after a few charges all the apps were easy to use.

Using an electric vehicle saved huge amounts on fuel. The overall cost of charging the vehicle was less than a fifth of what would be usually be spent on fuel over the production period.

One huge plus of using electric cars was the positive feelings of the team. Assistant Producer Rosie said it was “a lovely change to be driving through beautiful countryside locations and knowing that you’re not polluting the area. The cars are  next to silent so you’re not making the world worse in any way.” The team were often approached at motorway service stations and quizzed about the electric vehicle, converting others to the benefits of electric cars by singing its praises.

Grand Designs is not the only Boundless production that has gone electric – The Apprentice S15 is featuring electric taxis on screen. This will not only reduce the production’s carbon footprint but also help normalise electric vehicles with the audience.

Sourcing electric taxis directly from LEVC has given financial savings and helped filming. The silent vehicles make sound recording much easier than the loud diesel models used for the previous 14 series.

Overall that’s a win for everyone, except the passenger departing the programme…

If you want to help build a vision of a sustainable future with your production, discover your powers of planet placement here.