The spirals in flowers and seashells have inspired many to create manmade masterpieces along more natural lines for centuries. By paying attention to the spiral paths that air and water prefer, for example, we are better able to manage such elements. In the tropics, many times inspiration, as well as solutions, come from Nature.
Tropical architecture is not a style, it can look traditional, ultramodern or high tech. Rather it is a strategy, one that consists of achieving a comfortable and cool temperature in your home through the use of passive design elements. In conjunction, climate responsive architecture deals with living in areas where there is high humidity levels, hot temperatures, a great deal of annual precipitation and high solar radiation. For those building in the tropics, one should adopt traditional strategies that include the use of sunshades, overhangs, breathable cavity walls, building orientation, maximum ventilation, and carefully consider choice of materials.
“A house is built with boards and beams. A home is built with love and dreams.”
Modern advancements in the field now extend beyond these last principles. For example, we are now considering that square corners should be rounded to allow air to be charged with negative ions, create ozone and attract good Chi energy. We have now begun asking ourselves the question – The floor that you walk on, does it affect how you walk, how you feel? Yes. The homes we live in shape who we are, and affect our health, our bodies and our states of being. By using natural materials, shapes, colours and textures we are attempting to align ourselves with Nature, and that is one of the biggest comforts we may be able to find, that is, living in harmony with our surroundings.
Bamboo, a wild grass, is strong and grows in poor land conditions. Years ago, bamboo would be eaten to dust, and was considered a poor man’s material; these days, when treated it is a viable building material, it can last a life time if properly used. This last advancement should inspire us not only to give our assumptions a second look, and to truly look at what we have at our disposal, but also for us to be more foreword thinking and to build exceptional structures for future generations, as they could very well last far beyond our lifetime. The example of bamboo shows that there have been revolutions not only about the materials we use, but also about perceptions. What was once deemed not fit to be used but yet that grows in abundance, has now become a sought out material as we have found a way to mitigate the negatives, with this renewed outlook we also show promise for those who are yet to come, via the use of abundant and renewable building materials we are ensuring that prosperity is part of the future portrait. Nevertheless, no bamboo pole is alike, and there are no two stones that are the same, and yet they all fit together when one is able to take that time to place each stone and each piece of wood in it’s rightful place. When designing with bamboo one must consider that each piece is unique, and so each piece is hand selected with care, those are the sentiments that go into your home while it is being built.
And so, in the grand scheme of it all, it would appear we are are back to valuing the artisan, doing things by hand, versus via big pre-fabricated machinery. We have gone back to consulting with the skilled craftsman to assist us and create a home that is uniquely ours, and one made with nurturing. In our modern times, incorporating valid strategies from the past with new innovations that protect our future interests, are simply a must. Truly, the keys to success in tropical building are to use local, both materials and skilled labour, and to let the environment take the lead, that is to design your home based on the land. Furthermore it is a chance to invent your own rules. If you don’t want walls, and want to let the natural light in, by all means, push the envelope and create something new, look for creative solutions or invent them – skilled craftsmen are standing by! Living in the tropics provides a chance to get creative and invent your unique space that will inspire you, that will allow you to put your best foot forward, everyday, and with every step.
Here are a few established, key concepts to help when you are building or evaluating a tropical home for purchase:
- Air flow is vital for staying cool and comfortable. Interior partitions should not block air movements and your exterior should be designed to fully utilize air circulation. Vents in roof cavity or upper air openings should be present as they will allow hot air to escape. Definitely, let the air in. After all, the breezes that come in from the Pacific Ocean are full of energizing ions, and most importantly you are breathing in truly fresh, clean air!
- Concrete and paved areas should be kept to a minimum as they can store and reflect a lot of heat. Avoid putting them in the path of cooling breezes or try to create shade over any large areas of concrete or paving. They can also create problems during storms where they can create pooling during heavy rainfall, rather than the rain soaking into the natural earth where each drop falls.
- Think of your garden and outdoor area as an extension of your home. The best living spaces are those that flow from inside to outside seamlessly, so you can make the most out of outdoor living – take full advantage of the seasonally warm weather year round!
- Roof insulation is always a great investment and will keep your home cooler – it is a must!