Sunday, September 30, 2007

Designing a Home in Chacala's Climate

These photos are just shots of doors, not related to this post
I supposed it's obvious that I am a very opinionated person on some topics about Chacala. Examples being: screaming jetskis filling the air with fumes and the water with petroleum residues. Drunk teens and adults driving motos. Children driving motos and jetskis. Draining a motor home's toilet's (black water) into a hole in the sand under a motor home on Chacala's lovely beach. Or glass bottles being left on the beach. Or dogs that that bark at strangers during the day. And dogs the require leashes because their owners haven't trained them to voice commands. And dogs who jump on children on the beach. Speeding trucks driving thru Chacala.I also have a strong opinion about building anything in Chacala without attention to climatic conditions, water drainage, and natural features in the landscape. Environmental concerns. I am ignoring, for the moment, issues like ugly buildings, and buildings built with no concern for their impact on the neighborhood. Or buildings with no space reserved for parking. Or poorly designed buildings with structural problems, that were built without the oversight of an competent, experienced architect/engineer. Or buildings that push the limits of regulations about height and access. And so on.I think in the past, when local people in Chacala first started building with concrete, bricks, and blocks, people didn't know much about cross-ventilation, natural light, and shading. My guess is that they mainly wanted watertight roofs and some security. But times have changed.

Maybe it's time to try to build structures appropriate to the environment and the climate. And with some energy efficiency. This obliviousness to climatic and other environmental issues seems to be continuing in Chacala. Right now I see places being built in Chacala with no apparent awareness of the importance of climate in designing any building. In my opinion, a home is just more comfortable and affordable to live in if it is designed with an awareness of how the sun, shade, and breezes hit the house through-out the year.

There are question to consider when designing the building. Is attention being is paid to the prevailing winds, and to where the rain come from? Are there underground springs above, on or under your lot? Where does the watershed drain in relation to your lot? What will happen to rainwater if all the vegetation is removed from the hillside?
It seems to me that a designer has to balance keeping the sun and rain out of the house, and letting the natural light and breezes in. Cross ventilation is a necessary in a town with high air temperature and humidity for half the year.

Houses need to be oriented in relation to the sun, not just the lot-line and the road. With an awareness of how and where the sun will enter the house during different seasons. And where the shade will be, and during what seasons. And where the water will flow from the roof during a heavy rain. And where the rain will be able to enter the house. Where rainwater that collects around the building will drain off to. The designer could be aware of the prevailing winds and breezes, in order to cool the house naturally and provide protection from wind-driven rainstorms.

Chacala's high humidity requires good natural ventilation. Bathrooms must have adequate natural ventilation. Not just the 8"X 8" screened hole in the upper wall. Bathrooms need natural light in addition to adequate ventilation. Nothing like going into a moldy, damp, smelly bathroom for a shower. Storage for clothing and linen also need to be well ventilated with fresh air, and light. And to have protection from rain and sunlight. Clothes hanging in closets or folded in drawers during the summer get mildewy very quickly. And folded clothes and linens make nice snug dark, dry, and warm homes for scorpions. Any place that you can't see under or around is a potential home of creepy-crawlies.

Outside covered patios are important for comfortable living in this tropical climate. Attention should be paid in order to make sure the patios are shaded year round. There are a number of new houses around Chacala with patios that can't be used because they were built without attention to sun/shade issues. Windows have been placed on east, south, and west walls with no shade from the sun. Or protection from the rain. There are homes with where windows must be closed during rainstorms. Result? No cooling breezes. And when the power goes out (regularly during rainstorms) you have no breeze, no fan, and no air. Some of the new buildings around town have exterior doors with no protection from the rain. And patios that are too small for even a little plastic chair and too hot to sit on.

Once in awhile I ask someone who is building a house (developer, builder, or owner) some questions about things like cross-ventilation in their home. And often they say gaily, "That' s no problem, this house will have air conditioning!!!!

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