Sunday, November 11, 2007

Why I Like This (Techos de Mexico) Rental I Live In

Since I have been expressing my opinion about some of the buildings currently being constructed around Chacala, I thought I would describe the features of this house, and other houses around Chacala, that I especially like.

They are mostly climatically (is that a word?) and environmentally appropriate features.

I live in the upstairs unit of a Techos de Mexico rental unit. There are eight of these units around town. Aurora's, Dona Lupe's, Maria's, Beatriz's and Gracia's Techos units all share a similar design. Concha's and Laura's units were built unto previously existing homes have somewhat different designs. But similar features. Alicia's was no longer a Techos rental soon after I arrived, and I have never been inside.
Photos are of two-legged water lovers.
The main factors all the units seem to share is good natural light, good cross ventilation, nice bathrooms with large enough ventilation spaces to allow light in, tile floors, and a nice protected outdoor living space. Almost all the units have their kitchens outside, on the covered patio, and four have very nice ocean views. All the units are upstairs.

Anyway. This is why I like this living space a lot, not in any order:

The view in incredible, and can be seen from the bedroom-studio and the patio-kitchen-dining area. It is oriented toward the road and ocean, but has overhangs to provide sun protection for most areas.

The bathroom has a real window, with glass, that opens and closes. and it is screened. The window is large enough to allow adequate natural light and good cross ventilation. It is so humid here the summer, if you don't good cross ventilation in a shower area, you will have endless mold and mildew problems. The shower is very light and big enough that I don't need a shower curtain (read mildew incubator) . And there is room for a chair, if I wanted to sit down to scrub my feet or whatever.
The are no closed cupboards. I can see over and under and behind everything easily, inside and outside. No drawers. No creepy-crawlies surprising me. Or a least not very often. I keep my odds and ends is insect-safe, stackable, plastic boxes with tight lids. Brought down by my son on each trip, filled with cool stuff for me.

The floors are non-slippy tiles. With non-slipppy cement on the patio.

There is good drainage on the patio for when it rains. As opposed to patios with no roofs and/or inadequate drainage, which results in flooded indoor living spaces.

There are only a couple of hours or less a day when the sun shines directly inside my room, from the west. This problem is easily solved in the winter with a curtain for late afternoons, and in the summer by a hanging shade about three feet away from the window. I have metal brackets and a pipe out there, so it only takes a minute to hook up a shade screen.This system lets the air and light in, and keeps the rainstorms and direct sun out.
The windows are good screens with small, somewhat insect-proof netting on all four windows. There are security bars on the windows and over the window on the door.

The ceiling is composing of the small brick arches. The ceiling slopes down from a beam across the middle of the room. So the ceiling is about 12 feet in the middle, and maybe 9 or more at the lower edges.
The windows in the room are directly across from each other, and each window opens like two small doors. So I can open one or both sides of each window. Lots of cross ventilation. Don't need fans from early November until mid-May, maybe later.

The patio has a nice roof, with an overhang that helps keep the rain out. And the sun. For half the year the sun's arc is high enough that the sun doesn't come in on the south side of the patio. In the winter I have to add about a foot of sun protection right below the roof line on the south side of the patio.

The downside on the patio is that I always have to have some kind of portable screening to move across part of the west side of the patio, facing the ocean. For an hour or two in the late afternoon, the sun comes blasting in, and is blinding. Plus I don't want the sun shining on the fridge. The fridge has enough trouble keeping things cold when the temperature hits 88 or above around here. And the sun shining directly on it would not be helpful.

Most homes of many local people in Chacala have their facilities for washing clothes and cooking utensils outside the house. Some have showers and/or toilets in separate buildings.
I have never asked, but I assume it's because cockroaches are more interested in wettish areas, and general don't come into dry indoor spaces. Same with food and dirty dishes and ants and many other insects and spiders.

Because it never gets below 60F here, all kinds of life forms are alive and well here. Keeping cooking and washing areas slightly separate saves a lot of trouble. And it's much cooler in the summer to keep the cooking and dining outside in a covered open area.
There is no wood in this home, except for a small table that I use for a night stand and bookshelf, and two small boards I use for shelves on my work tables. I soak the boards in clorox water every three or for months and haven't have any problems. And I inspect the table regularly for signs of termites. I have been in a number of higher-end homes in this area. Places with wooden doors, wooden cupboards, wooden beams etc in their homes. And those homes tend to have serious termites infestations. Which require spraying with very toxic chemicals.

This house is built of cement block, concrete, roof tiles, floor and wall tiles. bricks and steel beams, and windows and doors of steel and glass. Six of the patio beans are wood. The others are steel.

The only complaints I have about this building are that the septic and the roof tinaco aren't big enough for even two people. The tinaco needs to be filled at least every other day if there are two or more people showing and toileting here. And the area above the septic is never dry in the rainy season, and often wet the the rest of the year. I call in Black Water Pond.

I am very lucky that this house has empty lots on either side. And it's footprint in small enough so it doesn't fill the entire lot. There is a front, sloping area where I can garden, and larger empty space out back. Someday someone will build on the lots on either side. But this house have a couple of meters on either side of the house that aren't built on, so it will never be a lot-line to lot line house.

One of the new houses in house has quite a bit of space one side of their house, and a decent passageway on the other. On that side it backs up to public property that will probably not be built on more than it already is. I like how that family didn't go lot-line to lot-line. I think it's ugly to do that if you can possibly avoid it. Like by buying a fatter lot, or two lots.
There are wonderful books, magazines and websites to learn about natural ventilation, natural light, environmental sound building practices, and how to ensure pleasant outside spaces to that living in this hot humid (summer-time) climate is comfortable. Air con is not healthy, it;'s environmentally unsound. And your body never gets a chance to acclimate.

When I first got here I was amazed to see people wearing jackets in the early mornings in winter.When it was a freezing 74F degrees. Now I understand. Now that feels cool to me too.

One of my favorite things about life in Chacala is that I can spend almost all my time outside. My patio is comfortable and has a nice little breeze most of the time. I can enjoy the light and the view. It's nice for visiting and hanging out. I like my bedroom/workroom being private and separate. Although I do show people my bedroom and bath, if they are curious. Especially local women, who are usually very curious about my things. I love it when a friend likes something of mine that I am willing to part with. It makes gift giving easy.


1st Mate said...

Those are some great design concepts, not expensive, very traditional and obviously the result of many years of trial and error. We do definitely have the termite problem here in Sonora. And open cabinets and cupboards are a style now; I remember seeing a bachelor pad on TV with them.

Hey, are you using your spellcheck now? This was one of your best posts yet. Love the egrets.

wayne said...

Very good description of your place. Even without photos it was easy to visualize it. I would love a ceiling like yours.

On another note, Ouch! That font you chose sure was small to my slowly aging eyesight! Thankfully I know how to zoom!