When people from northern regions retire, many choose to settle in a place far away from the ice and snow of winter. Moving to the tropics is the dream, and for many people, that dream includes building a home out of plans they have been conjuring for years. Unfortunately, some of the elements of cold weather homes are not very effective in tropical conditions. Also, insects and humidity bring new problems. Instead of trying to keep the heat in, the goal is to keep it out or get rid of it as soon as possible. Here are a few rule-of-thumb strategies for building a dream home closer to the equator.
Hire a Local Builder: Although you may have heard terrible things about building practices outside your country. Until you have lived in your new location for a few years, even if you have much experience building houses, you will not understand why things are done differently. You can usually find a house plan (called แบบบ้าน in Thai) and quality builders from an internet search. But make sure you get references and check their work.
- Orientation and Ventilation: Shelter from heat and humidity is the primary job of the tropical building. If a building is designed with local conditions in mind, this job is made easier. Have your windows and hallways designed to create airflow, keeping in mind the direction of the prevailing winds. Having naturally powered airflow through your home is much nicer and less expensive than air conditioning. Airflow is also critical in fighting humidity and mould. Stale air causes a lot of problems quickly in the tropics.
- Roofs: The essential part of any house is a roof. Hence the saying, roof over your head. But in the tropics the value of the roof increases, as you are trying to escape the sun as well as the rain. For this reason, wide overhangs are going to make your life a lot more comfortable. Use your roof to cover outside living areas and areas near the home. You will have a cooling effect, and you may never enjoy your outdoor spaces unless they are covered.
- Wall Materials: In northern climes, softwood lumber makes framing a house a simple process. But this is not recommended down south. The local bugs and humidity would make short work of a softwood structure. Hardwood is an option, but the price is often extravagant. Energy-efficient bricks and other lightweight materials are a better option. The lighter you go, the better your heat dispersal will be too.
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