building in the tropics

Living light in the tropics

A prefabricated and modular design approach is becoming increasingly relevant as climate change warms the planet. Buildings that are more responsive to the tropics is as critical as ever. Designing and building a home in a tropical climate requires consideration of a number of factors including: orientation, solar shading, and passive ventilation. The type of windows and their placement to create an ideal thermal comfort level without the need for air conditioning. Consideration to materials used for roof and walls. Incorporating outdoor spaces that offer great functionality.

Site Orientation

The house’s orientation on the site determines how well it uses the prevailing winds and protects against sun exposure. These factors are dependent on your project’s location in the world. 

Ventilation

Having a constant flow of air moving through the house is critical for creating a comfortable indoor temperature. This is achieved by allowing cool air to pass from one side of a room to the other.

Wall Materials & Construction

Lightweight materials are generally better for tropical climates for their thermal qualities. This idea has been unpopular in many regions, including Thailand. In several tropical areas, concrete blocks, in-situ (cast-in-place) concrete, or masonry bricks are preferred. Materials such as wood, metal and cement boards on a framed construction system cool down rapidly. This process creates a more comfortable environment at night. 

Water & Energy Efficiency
Climate change has heavily affected the world we live in, with experts forecasting that environmental conditions will worsen. Issues such as depleting fossil fuels and the carbon emissions from burning them is a concern. Those issues and the changing rain patterns we are experiencing across tropical regions are serious concerns that will impact our future when designing a house for the tropics

Shading
Shading from the sun prevents walls and other surfaces from heating up and transferring that heat to interior spaces. Direct sunlight through openings can significantly increase the internal temperature. Shading to stop direct sunlight from entering the house is ideal. 

Exterior Spaces
Incorporating exterior spaces such as patios,  verandas, and courtyards is beneficial to have as part of the house. Our climate is such that these spaces are habitable throughout the year. They can also provide shade to interior areas of the house.

Roof Design
The roof is the single most exposed area to the sun’s rays of any building and, as such, has the potential for radiating a lot of heat into a house. Light coloured, reflective roof covering materials reduces the amount of heat that passes through. 

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All you need to living light in the tropics… healthy for your family and the planet.