Default Thai Building

When I post in the group I will promote a particular point of view, but although I tend to be enthusiastic I am not fanatical (I hope). I see my main role to be informative and encourage members to think about what they want to achieve in such a major project as building a 'forever' home. Although I personally support concepts like having a cool house, no steps and other design ideas, I have no personal commitment as to what individuals in the group build. Totally 'up to you'. You make your decisions and live with outcomes that have zero impact on my life.

What does make me a little frustrated is when people build by default. That is, they make minimal decisions themselves and hand over those to the builder, draftsman or partner (or all three) and just hope it all works out in the end. That lazy attitude can result in unexpected outcomes, which you may or may not like.

Let's take the inclusion steps as an example. I really don't care if you have steps into your house or not, so this is not me pushing any agenda. When I conceived my house, it was on the basis that, because each room had big sliding doors opening into what would be a stunning tropical garden surrounding the house, everything would be at ground level. I was surprised therefore when the builder came to me and asked how many steps I wanted at the door to my bedroom..........."what steps" was my reply 555.

What I hadn't stupidly realised is that all Thai houses have footings built on top of the ground, which by default raises the house the height of the footings, requiring steps and isolating the rooms from the ground, not what I wanted. I come from Australia and in my limited experience of building there, all footings are dug into the ground and the default is a house at ground level unless you specifically want it raised. I suspect that the Thai raised footing default might have become the norm because of the amount of rain here, and digging holes is best minimised. Makes sense, along with getting the roof on early to protect construction from rain and sun.

The Thai raised-house outcome is most likely the default you will end up with. The builder, the draftsman and your partner will justify it by things like snakes can't get inside (get insect screens) and it is good for flooding, even if the location has never been flooded in generations. The real reason in most cases is that this is how it has always been done, and like other comfortable traditional decisions made by Thais like using red bricks, it is an unthinking default. If you are comfortable with this design then absolutely no problems, but please make it a decision in your own planning process, and don't be surprised when it happens that way.

I buried my footings and now have a house and rooms that flow at ground level exactly as I wanted.

The whole cool house thing is another. I know I get passionate about this, and my apologies to the non-believers. Once again, I personally don't care what you build; hot, cool or in-between, but please make that a choice when planning. Some people love the heat inside and out, and so minimise insulation and open windows and forget about window placement. But please take responsibility for that outcome. Don't hand it over to others, because by default Thai build hot houses, and then have to buy extra air conditioners to make the house liveable. I had a friend visit, and he commented at how cool my house was (we've only run the air con in the living areas twice this year) and he said to me "I must look at getting insulation in my roof'. Well yes. It had come as a surprise to him that the result of his hands-off build was a hot house and excessive use of air con as a result.

I wrote about the four-metre column placement default yesterday, and that comes under the same category.

Again, my point is that if a raised, hot house with a column in the middle of your lounge room rocks your boat, go for it. Who am I or others to say otherwise. However, If you have some concepts in your head about the type of house you want to spend the rest of your life in, and have personally paid for, and these don't match the Thai default, then get in early, establish your authority (the man with the money ALWAYS has authority) and do it your way.

I was so lucky with my wife. Right at the design stage she told me she had never built a house, and I was paying, so everything was up to me. She was hugely supportive in the building process, and could manage a construction project these days, but I got the house I wanted and we both love. It can be done without ruining a relationship. The draftsman/architect and builder are employed by you, so unless they do as told get another one. More difficult with the wife of course 555.

To some readers this will all be ho-hum, give it a break Tony, but I hope these words will make a difference for someone out there. The photos are of my place, to demonstrate the flowing connection I wanted between inside and out, and how steps would have ruined that. I totally realise this is a Tony priority, so please don't get stuck into me that I am on my barrow again


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