How construction expert Daniel Ashville Louisy went from social media star to TV host
Daniel Ashville Louisy has loved building since day dot. While other children played football in the park, he went on the hunt for hydraulic rams. His zeal never wavered. As an adult, he started a construction business. But his passion could not be contained – so he started sharing his world online.
Today, 130K Instagram followers and 460K YouTube subscribers lap up his videos where Ashville, in typical ebullient form, waxes lyrical about growing his fleet of lorries or building a concrete diving board. One, titled ‘A Day In The Life of a Construction Entrepreneur’, has clocked some 2.5mn views.
His energy bounces off the screen. No wonder then that National Geographic got in touch and asked him if he’d like to front a programme for them. Fittingly dubbed Building Impossible, six episodes chart the world’s most daring, precarious and altogether unbelievable builds, from an Alpine tunnel to a South African bridge.
We sat down with 41-year-old Ashville ahead of its release on Thursday, September 14 at 8pm.
When did your passion for building begin?
“I always wanted to build. I was obsessed with building, engineering, trucks, trains, from a really young age. I was far too young but I always wanted to labour on building sites. On the way to school I’d be staring at dustbin trucks. ‘What’s going on here? I want to press the button.’
“I started off building houses but it took a turn because I realised that I was having problems with the supply chain so I started to provide my construction company with services that I would get elsewhere, like waste management for skips, supplying sandstone, concrete etc. So I have a construction company which builds but then I have a sister company that provides services to other companies within the construction industry.”
How did you get involved in Building Impossible?
“In 2020, around lockdown, I started to share my experiences – because when I wanted to know what was going on, nobody would tell me a thing. I had to just learn by making mistakes and making a fool out of myself on occasions.
“So I began to document what I was doing, and I thought to myself, ‘I am going to be true to what I do.’ There’s a lot on social media, everything is nice, you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve got this car, you’ve got this watch, everything’s great, you’ve got loads of money, never had a bad day. I thought nah nah nah. I’m in the yard, dirty, this is the problem, I have a puncture and I just wanted to share it.
“I bought the flagship, the biggest machine I’ve ever bought to offload trains, and I made a video about it. I was so proud of it… I put it out there just to share it. I didn’t think anything of it. There was no TV. Nothing. And a production company who worked with Nat Geo saw the video and contacted me… We got on a Zoom and they said, ‘If you could do any show in the world what would you do?’ And I told them what we’re doing for Building Impossible, that’s what I’d want to do: the most difficult, impossible, anything they think that can’t be built. They put it on a deck and showed Nat Geo. And here we are.”
Why impossible buildings? What will viewers get out of the series?
“Because we need to know how. We should never be afraid of the vastness. What I try to do in the show is break it down and give comparisons to things that are residential so people can develop an understanding and think ‘aaah’.
“I have questions, questions which need answering, and I want to share that with people to show them that it is possible and they too can understand it. Like don’t look at a big building and think you’re silly because you’re not – there’s a way of explaining it to people, it’s all about the delivery. I’ve tried to break it down so everybody can feel comfortable with mega builds.”
Can architecture answer the world’s challenges?
“The first thing is that anything’s possible. And one of the things with that is it’s irrespective of location. The South Africa project is in a remote location – they had to build roads to get there, they had to make all the material on site. And the bridge is being built over land with its own ecosystem, with baboons, leopards, black mamba snakes. It’s a completely remote location and they have built infrastructure in order to build this bridge.
“But when the bridge is finished, the infrastructure can stay in place to make trade links between parts of the country that couldn’t trade previously which is going to have a massive economic impact on the entire country and put loads of local people in work. Construction projects in remote locations can breathe life into an area and help the people there advance and step up and make good for themselves.”
What’s been the greatest lesson?
“I find it fascinating that in every country I went to construction meant something different and is viewed in a different way. Sometimes here people frown upon it. However, you go to a country like South Africa and the fact that you’re building a bridge that people can use, you’re regarded like a doctor. If you’re working on a building site, you’re basically an engineer. In America as well, construction is not frowned upon, construction is a great thing. Steel workers are incredibly proud of what they do.”
Why are you keen on getting more young people into construction in the UK?
“I think it’s really important to let young people know about the construction industry and the fact there’s so many ways you can be in it: you could be a bricklayer, a carpenter, a plumber, an electrician, an architect, an engineer, work in the planning department, drive trucks – there’s so many ways into construction and it can provide people with a very good living and they can be part of something to be proud of. We have a problem right now with labour but we’re going to have a much bigger one down the line if we don’t start getting more people into construction.”
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