Thursday, April 29, 2010

When to start construction of house?

Lot of people ask me or mail me to tell how much it will cost to construct a house

I ask them –Why you want me to make a simple guess knowing very well that it cannot be true?

Golden rule in house construction is simply this:

Start construction tomorrow if you have decided that you need  a house to be constructed

Simply do not worry about how much money you have or how much money you can borrow.At least if you can do the foundation of house it will be great.If you think of doing it after six months cost will be much higher.

While deciding what all facilities you need in the house,remember that every house built in Kerala may last not more than 30 years-at least till the person who build the house die.So consider facilities you will need in the house for next thirty years of your life and tell your Architect to design house that way

A lot of people in Kerala build houses to show others about his new financial status.A client once asked me-“If a person come to where I stay(may be a rented house)and if I simply show my bank passbook to prove that I have money,will that be okay ? So ,I need a house built which will tell everyone about my financial status”

For the purpose of strength and utility you do not have to use expensive materials which may last for hundreds of years.Use material which will last at least thirty years.Then you can bring down cost(If you really want to).If you want to show off your newly acquired affluence it is a different matter


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Elevation for house at Maramon

This house is  going to face main road and  the land available is about an acre.I have suggested house to be built behind leaving lot more space near the road for possible future construction for commercial purpose

The house even though for  a USA based NRI,is being built with traditional Kerala Architecture features.You can see the picture and make your own judgment


It has Poomukham,Chuttu verandah and Nadumuttom all traditional features.One bed room at Ground Level and two more at First Floor with living room for guests and larger family living room for members of family at Ground level

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Again on square feet cost of construction

Even though I have written about meaningless nature of the term square feet cost of construction several times,I still get queries  asking me about square feet cost

Without any data, without studying site conditions, without at least a Basic Plan, how anyone can simply predict cost of the building?

Constructing a house is not like going and buying something from the market. Even in such a case you cannot tell what will be the cost of 1 Kg rice after an year. Even if you start construction immediately, it may take about an year or more for the building to get completed

If someone has told you that there is a fixed square feet cost of construction anywhere in Kerala, you have to understand that it is a lie.

Even flat sellers who have every parameters of building in their choice and discretion keep increasing price from beginning to completion stage gradually

Term square feet cost is coined by nonprofessional contractors simply to get unsuspecting client to start work with them .After the client starts with them they know how to get increases and revisions in cost and by the time project reaches finishing stage, client will be simply anxious to complete the work and at that time he might have become wiser to know that the so called square feet cost has no meaning. I have built more than 200 houses directly in Kerala and designed much more. Each of these houses when completed have different square feet cost. So I simply do not understand the meaning of this ridiculous prediction of cost.

After the plan is finalised  a professional agency can prepare an engineering estimate for structural work and after the structure is completed an estimate for balance work can be prepared

These are more reliable cost indicators as costing is done using Engineering methods.

Monday, April 5, 2010

How I go about designing a house

Every Architect operate in different method or style.In additional to formal training an Architect just like any other creative artist,require creative talent and lots and lots of  commonsense.

When someone approaches me for design of the house I need to hear from him what exactly he is looking for in the house, his limitations , expectations,dreams on the house

After this I have to see the plot,obtain outer measurements of all four sides,directions of each side and position of road access to plot

I may take few days or more to visualise the house suitable for that plot in my mind.Only after the design is clear in my mind, I sit in front of the computer to draw the Basic Plan of the building which gives dimensions and positions of each room or living space and doors and windows only.While designing the house I consider structural engineering aspects and Vasthu aspects also to keep structural cost of the building low and to have peace and prosperity as per Vasthu for those who are going to live in the house.

I do not draw the plan fully.I draw only the outline.My assistants take on  where I leave the work to complete the design and they work on one of the possible elevations for the building later if the client ask for it.

I prefer to do Elevation of the house slowly as the work progresses at site giving me time to think and work out best elevation suited to the building, location and also one which will satisfy  and please my mind.

In the process I may go to uncommon or nonstandard appearance for the building giving more value in appearance for the building rather than the usual techniques based elevation my assistant might have drawn simply to make client happy.A creative work need time, patience and a mind to think and dream differently

But most customers think that Architect can make picture of the house in no time.He can but that cannot be something extra ordinary.Extra ordinary work require time, dreaming and above all a creative mind.

After structure work,how to proceed

When you build your house,after the brick work,concreting,fixing of door window frames and plastering,you tend to think that major part of house building process is over.But the fact is that major part of the house building process which require more money,time, efforts,careful decisions are all pending now.

Some people think that Architect/Engineer is not required after the structure is ready.You need him more now to give guidance and advice on every step forward.There are options plenty for every item of work and technology changes bring more options almost every day.Your Architect will be quite conversant with the latest technology and trends because the suppliers and service providers will be educating him continuously on technology changes,new methods and trends.

First thing you have to do is to get the Electrical cutting done on walls for switch boards,light points,power points,main switch boards for each floor of the building,main switch board for the house,Meter board for the house etc.As internet and telephone can be wire free you do not have to worry about them except if you are particular about having old fashioned telephone with wires.In such case,you will have to plan telephone wires to wherever you need it in the house.

Your Architect will be the best person to guide you in planning electrical wiring.You will have to tell him what exactly you need, ask him what are the options available to you and together you can discuss and finalise what you need before the Electrician can start cutting your brick walls to lay pipes to carry Electrical wires.

Once plastering is over,you can start plumbing work.Here again you will have to discuss in detail what you want with the Architect and find out from him options available for you.It is better to visit sanitary shop or still better display centers of sanitary suppliers to find out what exactly is available and how much each option will cost.Make sure that your Plumber and Electrician are quite knowledgeable about latest technology in the field.I have seen in many places especially interior locations where the local Plumber/Electrician will still be operating with technology he was handling when he started the work.When you show him the latest equipments and systems he will simply tell that it will not work or it will create problems later.The real truth is that he is simply trying to hide his ignorance.In interior locations,I have noticed that Plumber and Electrician tend to be one single person without a team to support and work for him.Whatever that single person feels comfortable to do is what the house owner ultimately gets as house owner in general is reluctant to have a more knowledgeable team to handle the work for fear of displeasing the neighborhood Plumber cum Electrician.Professional agencies do not handle both plumbing and Electrical work together.They do either of the job and not both

Once these processes of initial work of Electrician and plumber are over,you will have to think about putty work for both interior and exterior walls prior to painting.I will write about it later.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Less than 2000 sft single floor house with four bed rooms

I have written earlier about less than 2000 sft plinth area four bed room two storey house with all bed rooms attached with toilet.This design along with less than 2000 sft four bed room single floor house design suitable for rural areas where land is not a constraint is now ready with me.

This design has two bed rooms with attached dress and toilet.Another two bed rooms which share common toilet very near(almost attached).Other usual additions like separate living,dining,Car porch,sit out,Kitchen and work area is available.Those interested for these designs may write to me to

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Importance of Plan of the house

Naturally any person thinking of building a house will have an outline about the plan of the house.Some people send to me coloured rectangles in Excel sheet marking each rectangle as some type of room like Living room,bed room etc.It is quite fine up to this.But the trouble starts when the client insists that whatever he drawn as per his understanding ,imagination and capability is the best that can be done and  the Architect is just a person  capable of drawing whatever he indicated with drawing techniques he might have studied or practiced.
What I call as Basic Plan of the house which gives position of each room,dimensions in correct scale marked using Auto Cad design methods is the most important document of the house and the starting point of every activity of  construction of the house.
I need to go and see the plot where the house will come up,study site conditions,directions,nearby roads,canals,rivers and I have to visualise in my mind  the house to be built with the facilities called for by the client.This visualisation process  by which I draw the plan of the house in my mind drawing,erasing,adding,correcting may take  many  days and some times more.I do not start sitting in front of the computer and start drawing in Auto Cad plan of the house just because client who think that drawing a Plan is only a child’s play start demanding plan within days of site visit.
In fact it will be beneficial for the client if the Architect take more time to develop the plan considering all possibilities and allowing more time for his creative mind to design something different,new and better.But in many cases client does not allow this time and finally due to pressure from the client I and many other Architects simply try to modify some of the earlier works suiting requirements of the client and send Plan to the client.In fact loser in this is the client who demands immediate drawing of a Plan for him simply forgetting the fact that more time given to Architect will get him better work.Client quite often also forget the fact that Architect may have his routine works ,other pending works and other commitments.
Similar is the case with Elevation of the house.Unlike Plan,same Plan  can have different elevation possibilities.When Client demands Elevation of the house within a specified limited time frame,a junior in the office of the Architect start drawing using usual techniques guided by the main Architect with some suggestions again of usual Elevation techniques.But if you give time to the Architect to develop most appropriate Elevation to be developed during the period of construction of the building you will get much much better work.For this you should have patience and trust in the capabilities of the Architect and should not have ego generated demands like” I want to see how the house will look now itself”
All my good works were done in cases where I had freedom of developing Plan and Elevation of the house either due to ignorance of the client or patient understanding of the client.
I have repeated  several times some designs of the house much against my wishes simply due to the insistence of the client that he want picture of house to be built immediately and Plan of the house within days of site visit.