My wife Pooky and I started thinking about building a house in 2010. Pooky has a patch of land in the rural outskirts of Bangkok, and it’s beautiful out there. In 2014 we investigated options for getting a house put on that land in the simplest way possible, since neither of us are very interested in construction or house design. The simplest option, I imagined, was a prefabricated house which arrives on a truck. I would point to where we wanted them to put it, have lunch, and come back to see it finished. However when we started investigating costs, we saw that baht-per-meter, prefab is a very expensive option in Thailand.
The next avenue was hiring a house building company. The way this works is by looking at a catalogue and some scale models, choosing the one you want, giving them some money, and waiting about a year for it to be built for you. We found a company that seemed reliable, and got to the stage of discussing with their architects how we would be customising one of the stock plans. However when we realised that we wanted some heavy customisation, including a separate building in which I could teach English and Reiki, we felt that working with their stock designs was too restrictive. And we also discovered that by desigining and building the house ourselves we could get even more for our money.
In 2015 an architect drew-up initial plans for a modern one-storey house with a flat roof and lots of glass that felt minimalist, spacious, and open. This was exactly what we were looking for. Unfortunately, when I researched the ecological aspects of the design, it became clear that in the tropics lots of glass means lots of heat passing directly into the house. It would act like a greenhouse, and would require massive amounts of electricity to keep cool with air conditioning. We were also put-off by the architect’s high fees, and so set-about desigining the house ourselves.
The process of designing the house made us consider what we actually wanted from the house. Through countless redesigns we arrived at a one-storey house design that would function well, only to change our minds and opt for two stories. We bought books of stock designs for two-storey buildings, which were much more varied than the ones presented by the house-building companies, and found one that we really liked. The blueprints for these houses are available, but given the their price, and the amount of customisation that we required, we ended-up finding a new architect who would take our initial concept and make a working house design out of it, including all necessary blueprints and structural calculations.
At this stage of the project we were already in 2016, and things started to speed up. The architect was free to devote all of his time to our projects, and after a couple of revisions we had the complete set of drawings in our hands. While I began drawing-up the model in 3D, we were also researching as best we could how to find a trustworthy contractor. We arrived at a long-list of five, which we soon reduced to a short-list of three. We met these three contractors once, again, and then suddenly we had got to the end of a meeting with a contract negotiated and an offer of his team moving to the site in three days if we felt ready. Three days!
The contractor came to the site for an initial inspection on October 30th, and on the same day the builders started setting-up their accommodation for the six months that they will be living and working on our land. They will start digging the foundations within the coming week.
How are we feeling about all this? One Thai word, ตื่นเต้น, covers it pretty well: nervous, yes, but excited.