Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Rubble work for Foundation of House construction

At Cochin Foundation work for house construction is generally costly as most of the land in Cochin are marshy land sometimes without even a trace of sand to depths as high as 12 to 15 metres.At Elamakkara where I have built a house of about 3000 sft in 2004 and presently building a house of about 3600 sft,I had to do concrete piling for foundation to depth of about 14.5 M.Similarly at Vyttila,Kathrikkdavu,Karukappilly,I had to do concrete piling.With after piling works like raising pile columns,Foundation beams,basement brick work,filling plinth etc,Foundation costs in these cases have gone up to about Rs.10 lakhs

At Kaloor,Edappally,Palarivattom,Kalamassery,Kakkanad I could do with less costly rubble foundation as the soil in these places were stable with either abundant sand or laterite.

Rubble foundation traditionally was done in most of the places as rubble masonry using rubble joined with sand cement mix or mortar with low mix ratio mostly as low as 1:10.Mortar when compared to rubble has low strength even after curing with water whereas the strength or bonding is better when used with brick normally with a mix ratio of 1:8.

My Guru Architect Angelique has taught me to use rubble work in dry pack for foundation as well as for basement.She was trained extensively under renowned Architect Lawrie Baker and thus i inherited all those cost reduction methods on building construction.

As usual I never accept anything unless I am fully convinced about correctness of the method adopted.Procedure followed by her were duly followed by me with no change(As I am fully convinced about it)for Foundation work adopted by me using rubble is detailed below:

In a stable soil we do not dig a lot unnecessarily.In southern Kerala there is a widely accepted belief among people that whatever may be the strength of soil,one should dig at least 6 feet down for foundation rubble work for house.After digging 6 feet,mostly very stable soil(sometimes even laterite soil)they put p c c 1:10 in the bottom.Then the rubble worker will simply throw rubble pieces into the six feet excavated foundation area.By such throwing of rubble,p c c will get damaged fully.nobody bothers.Once rubble filling reaches ground level they will build rubble basement above without doing anything extra for foundation rubble work in cement mortar of mix of 1:8 usually with cement plastering on top.If any builder or Engineer deviates from this generally accepted procedure not only the house owner but the entire people of the area will come and start abusing the person showing courage to deviate from the accepted practice.

I have faced this music and felt the heat very well when I built house at Ranni.Neither the owner nor the local people were willing to accept our procedure of rubble work for foundation.Let us see what we do instead.

We do not dig more than 45 cm (1 1/2 feet) depth if the soil is stable.If the soil is hard laterite we do not even go down excavating more than 15 to 20 cm.We do not put p c c in stable soil to be broken by throwing of rubble pieces by rubble mason while doing foundation work.We tell our rubble worker to closely pack rubble in dry pack method for foundation up to a height of 60 cm thereby keeping about 15 cm foundation rubble work above ground level.After this dry pack rubble foundation work,we force fill gaps of rubble work first by putting crusher sand above foundation work and then forcefully pumping water inside.As the crusher sand gets filled up inside dry packed rubble foundation,a stage will reach when no water will go down as it is fully packed with rubble and crusher sand making almost monolithic rubble foundation quite strong base for your house.

After this we build basement again by dry pack rubble work but with a slight inclination sloping basement from 60 cm to 45 cm to a height of 45 cm for basement to add strength.We point outside of basement rubble work with mortar and plaster top of basement with a rich mix of mortar of 1:6.Inside of this rubble basement is open to receive forced filling of filling material usually red sand of powdery nature

At Ranni I had to threaten to leave the work to make my client to agree to follow this procedure for Foundation rubble work and I have also given personal guarantee for the strength of work.Till completion of the work client and people around the area had doubts about our Foundation work.Once convinced Father of my client used to talk about others following usual procedure as fools and I used to enjoy his comments to that effect.

At Thiruvalla I was asked to leave the work due to my unwillingness to follow their time tested or traditional method of foundation rubble work and I left the work in between rubble work.

At Chengannur,client reluctantly accepted my method of foundation rubble work.

At Cherthala and at many other places local people used to call me mad for doing this sort of foundation work and predicted that our Foundation will sink or break open.Once work progressed and nothing bad happened everybody seem to forget about their predictions.

At Kalamassery,another contractor was building his own house near my site .My client was an Engineer.Our neighbour contractor was very much critical about our foundation rubble work"without even a bag of cement".He told my client and his wife about how bad our construction is.He assured my client that our building will sink or crack or foundation will get damaged thereby causing damage to house.
My client in spite of my assurances was jittery.

Neibour contractor has done a retaining wall in cement mortar without proper packing for his boundary wall. As I predicted retaining wall done by him has fallen apart one day and then he silently did it again as dry pack rubble work with better packing of rubble.Therafter he stopped criticising my work and started asking my client about my plans for balance work of the building.Only after that falling apart of bounday wall of neighbour,my client really started believing my words.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Can anyone prepare Plan of your house?

Recently I was amused to recieve an email from a client trying to build a house in a larger plot he purchased for nearly Rs.60 lakhs slightly away from Cochin in an interior location where there is hardly any houses nearby.An NRI he has taken me to the plot recently to see the plot before we go into the plan stage.

At the site he told me that he has the plan of the house ready with him.I thought he might have got it done by some other Architect and that will probably lessen my work as I may have to only modify the Plan prepared.
He returned to his work place in middle east and sent me a single line sketch made by him and said that I should not make any change to his "Plan of the house"

This prompted me to write these lines on preparation of Plan of the house

Even though every person sees houses,not many do not bother to study more on house design or even elementary aspects of house construction.A lot of people think that house plan is something which any one can draw.Cheaper the better.

After getting any plan prepared by anyone,they ask the Architect to prepare a very good elevation for the plan as if Elevation is something totally unrelated to the Plan.I keep getting several mails asking me to do a "real good elevation" for the house with the plan forwarded.No architect has a magic wand by which he can make "good Elevation" for any Plan.

Plan is the most important document for the house construction.It gives drawing of the house when you cut the building at window level and remove upper portion and then look down from top.

While preparing a plan what I do are the following

1.Visit the plot where the house will come up and study site conditions like soil,surroundings,road access,level of the plot,directions and visualise the future house to be built with that extra insight and talent of an Architect.Many people think that just by obtaining four side dimensions of the plot an Architect can draw the plan.I am not denying this.But visiting the site and visualising or imagining the house in that plot with the extra talent and creativity of an Architect can make a lot of difference to the plan of the house.

2.Study requirement of the client in detail with detailed discussions.Guide the client on many aspects of house design and construction to obtain his views and requirement details.

3.Find out from client his budget restrictions if any.

On this point .most of the clients I have met did not want to share his financial plan for the house.Most of the prospective clients try to downsize their budget indication thinking that telling about exact financial condition may prompt me to raise my charges or cost of construction.Giving a wrong idea on your budget can create problems at plan stage as I or any other Architect will not be able to plan exactly suiting to your budget limitations or possibilties.This may result in a house with lesser facilties due to wrong message on your financial capabilties or facilities which you may not be able to complete fully due to lack of funds.

4.Incorporate Vasthu aspects in design

5.Use structural engineering aspects to ensure structural stabilty of the house and to reduce cost of construction.

6.Find out optimum use for every bit of building to be constructed to avoid wastage of space and to enhance utilty for space in the house.

7.Use special features of Kerala architecture and modern architecture inputs.

8.Plan to be prepared with an eye on elevation.To obtain a good Elevation Plan has to be made with that intention in mind.Elevation will be good if and only if Plan is prepared to get a good Elevation.No Architect can make a good Elevation for any Plan.

Above all lot of common sense will have to be used while preparing the Plan.Here years of experience in designing and building hundreds of houses play a vital role.

I have heard several times people telling me that he knows everything about house construction.Then I will ask him-How?
He will reply-I have constructed one or two or three houses depending on persons.

I have directly constructed more than 200 houses and designed much more.Still with each building construction,I study several aspects which I have never noticed earlier.When the Architect has this treasure of experience,plan prepared by him can only get better.

So never try to design your house by yourself or go to less qualified less experienced person for preparation of Plan attracted by possibly lower charges.You will lose more money due to improper design and construction and when you realise the mistakes and shortcomings,it will be too late.You cannot do anything about it and you will have to live and suffer all those problems and deficiencies unless of course if you are rich enough to construct another house correcting your mistakes.

Before I conclude I should talk about another common wrong impression by prospective house building clients.Many get impressed by Plan and Elevation of houses built by others or displayed in websites of builders..
So,I keep getting mails saying that I want a house like this without even bothering to check whether that particular plan of the house will fit in your plot dimensions,requirements and above all your budget constraints.

You have to understand clearly that any plan and Elevation will not suit your plot.You have to obtain that unique plan ideally suited for your plot,requirements,budget,tastes etc.Instead of trying to become an Architect on your own, leave that job to the expert,Architect and do not forget to give him all those information on what all you need in the house including your dreams and hopes for the house.
Architect will guide you properly.

Before deciding on which Architect to choose try to understand and find out more on the works so far done by the Architect.If you feel happy about his qualifications and experience in handling residential projects,then allow him to do the work without disturbance .

In my traditional christian family, years back it was considered great to have priests and nuns in the family circle even though of late their credibilty and status have declined a lot.When one client approached me for guidance right from selection of plot for house construction and related documentation,I thought I will be designing the house also.But when it came to preparation of plan of the house,just as we used to proclaim about having our own priest from the family,he said relative of his wife is an Architect and naturally he will do a better job than me possibly due to relationship.

But when I saw the plan prepared I could make out several basic flaws in the plan which will ultimately turn out to be inconvineances leading to lesser utilty for space and cause for increase of cost.He was not willing to listen to my mild suggestions and insisted that the Plan is the best possible having prepared by a relative.When the construction moved on, he realised the flaws but it was too late to do anything.

The relative also gave him a three dimensional Elevation for the house.When I told him that even though picture looks good with the colours,house built like that will not look good,he simply laughed at me.But when my prediction on deficiencies of Plan became clear to him,he told me to prepare an alternate three dimensional elevation whatever may be my charges.

Even though money is yours if you do not give Architect proper professional freedom to decide and choose the best for you,you may not get the best work from him.After all for him it is only one of the many houses he design and build.For you it is the only house you build in your life time for you and for generations to come.Make the Architect feel good for you to make him put that element of extra care for your project

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Less than 2000 square feet 4 bed house design

1900 square feet plinth area two bed rooms of size,300 x 360 cms (10 feet x 12 feet),two more bed rooms of size 300 x 270 cm(10 feet x 9 feet) with three toilets close to bed rooms(almost attached) house design is now ready with me
This house has got sit out at entry,living space as big as 450 x 360 cms(15 feet x 12 feet),Dining space as big as 330 x 405 cms with a stair moving up by the side of dining,Kitchen and work area spacious enough.
A guest bed close to living space with toilet nearby which can be used also as a common toilet,double height area above dining space at first floor,balcony and family living lounge at First Floor.Three bed rooms come at first floor.
Living room is seperated from inner rooms of the house providing privacy for family members to move freely inside the house.
Even though it is an economical design,the house will have a very attractive external appearance.Another major advantage for the design is that every room is well ventilated with almost day light natural lighting inside rooms
For this economical but good design please write to me at