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We have passed our halfway point in Chiang Mai and are now eating into our remaining six months. In November 2014 we move into Gaun’s family home in Si Bun Ruang, Isaan and start building on our land there – my post about buying the land can be found HERE.

I have been giving a lot of thought to the type of design I want and have started to price out things like inclusions so we are underway even if just on paper so far.

The house project will be a separate section of the blog and will follow the whole planning and building process. Post-build I will keep it up to date with the development of the garden and other goings on related to establishing a home here in Thailand.

This being the first entry I thought I would share my thoughts on the design and in the second post some of the rough costs I have researched relating to inclusions.

I am a little nervous about the whole process but that will sort itself out as we progress in research and planning. I engaged a builder to build a house from scratch a couple of times in Australia and have also arranged numerous renovations and even had a go at building a small extension myself, which worked out pretty well. However Thailand poses some unique challenges.

Firstly there is the language barrier and my reliance on Gaun to learn English building terminology so she can translate what I want into Thai. Many of the Thai construction words themselves will be new to her so a lot will rest on her shoulders.

Secondly Thais build in a totally different way to what we regard as normal although the basic sequence is roughly the same i.e. plumbing goes in before slab is poured – not that this happens in all cases as I have read on building forums here! Concrete replaces our brick veneer, steel replaces timber in things like roof trusses and walls aren’t load bearing in general. The heavy lifting is done by concrete piles, which are the first things out of the ground, even before the slab. I am reading a lot of stories from the forums, some of which are very helpful such as, which covers all of Thailand or, which is  more specific to where I am building. By the time I am ready to build I will have a good understanding of the pitfalls and good concepts which will help me achieve a decent standard of house.

Thirdly I will be engaging a foreman to oversee the build but probably not a formal builder. I will never have been this “close” to a build before. This cuts down on the costs and allows me to buy the building materials myself directly from the suppliers. The secret is getting a good foreman who can put together a stable crew. Building workers can just be farmers in-between harvests so that in itself poses a challenge. I will be on-site all day every day and everything will be monitored and checked. Living just a hundred meters away in Gaun’s family house means that it is easier to be totally involved in the build at every stage. Many farang I have read about are building while living in their home country, which leads to some nightmare outcomes.

I have designed a house which combines my concepts of what a tropical living space should look like. It is very different from most of the houses I have seen being built here which follow the Australian design criteria of build it as big as possible and use air conditioning to overcome the shortfalls in sensible design to reduce the impact of heat.

Impossible to live in a structure like this without air con. Thin concrete walls and minimal eves ensure maximum transfer of heat inside.

Uncomfortable to live in a structure like this without air con.

A smaller example.

A smaller example.

I have gone with a version of the traditional Australian concept of incorporating verandas to both keep sun off exterior walls and provide an outside living space undercover.

My design has a large roof area of over 300 m2 but an internal living area of around 160 m2. All the rooms flow into outside living spaces that are under the main roof, which will be well insulated. The house is simple with only five rooms and two en-suites, but the rooms are large and will be uncluttered spaces, which helps promote a feeling of coolness in the tropics.

All the main rooms have windows opposite each other to promote flow through ventilation and allow for the cooler evening air to circulate. Roof venting and electric fans built into both the ends of the roof will expel hot air in the evenings.

A draft version to give you an idea of the concept.

A draft version to give you an idea of the concept.

The grey coloured floor in the external area is the space that will be under the roofline. The lounge at the front overlooking the front garden and flowing into the kitchen/dining area. The dining area opens to an outside dining space through big sliding doors. Two large bedrooms at the back, both with en-suites and the main with a small office area – my retreat! Sliding doors from the master bedroom and lounge lead into the outside living areas, which will have overhead fans and a full cane lounge suite and lighting.

View from the other side showing the courtyard space that will have a dining table .

View from the other side showing the outside dining courtyard space. Sliding doors from the second bedroom give access to this area too.

Originally designed in Excel, as have been all my house designs.

Originally designed in Excel, as have been all my house designs.

Here you can see that the kitchen has a big pantry space and the small office in-between the two bedrooms shows clearly.

The laundry will be outside under extended eves at the back as is standard in Thailand.

This plan is still in draft stage but I have “lived” with it for a little while now and it feels quite comfortable and workable to me. It will be interesting to see if the “live” photos look anything like this plan in 12 months time!

The second blog post under this topic explores the cost of house inclusions in Thailand so have a read of that too.

If you enjoyed this story please leave a comment below. It is nice to know someone is reading!

Thanks for dropping by.