just a little bit more to add about landscaping the McDonald Residence in Roatan, Honduras

Many clients want a pool to enhance their island home. For the McDonald residence in Palmetto Bay Plantation the design called for an infinity edge pool visually connecting the central house to the ocean.  We chose to use proven, local construction methods.  The foundation for the pool was fabricated with concrete footings and the double thick, steel reinforced concrete block retaining walls.  This method is not common in the US due to the high cost of labor and the requirements for “overbuilding” the structure to assure stability and integrity.  However, in Central America the local skilled labor was experienced with the techniques and was very cost effective.  The entire wetted surfaces of the pool and infinity edge waterfall were finished in glazed tile – the effect was beautiful and practical. In the US this pool can be considerable expense costing >$100K but using the local available materials and methods the actual cost was reduced by 2/3.

One the many desirable features of an island home is luxurious plant growth and the many options for landscaping.  I encourage my clients to take advantage of the native plants set in natural groupings to enhance their properties.  The north coast of Roatan is heavy with mature hardwood trees, figs, almonds, cashews and cohune palms.  Fruit trees including guava, avocado, limon, naranja, guanabana, sweet sop, papaya, bananas, mangos all grow rapidly in Central America and the many varieties of flowering gingers, night jasmine, a rainbow of crotons, hibiscus and bouganvilas add colorful accents.  We “discovered” the University of Curla on the mainland as a wonderful source for grafted fruit trees and there are many resources on the island for selecting from the wide variety of  plantings.  Salt tolerant sea grasses, clumps of paparus and fragrant lemon grass are used for stabilizing the soil.  In the McDonald residence we included a roof top screen house for an organic vegetable container garden and the cultivation of orchards.  The climate is perfect for growing – many plants can be easily grown by simply sticking cuttings into the soil during the rainy season! The only limit is your imagination.

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continuation to………building a house in Roatan, Honduras

……..Locally available materials, manufactured materials and fixtures were used throughout the house. Electrical, plumbing, steel re-bar, concrete, pre-formed concrete, windows, doors were all sourced locally which meant short lead times and ease of delivery. Many a construction project has turned into a nightmare of delays and cost overruns waiting foreign imported materials, either backordered from suppliers or delayed in transit.  This can be avoided as well known US and European manufacturers have facilities in Central America and they produce high quality finishes at low cost.   I encourage this approach for my projects both to shorten lead times and reduce excess importation costs.

My client selected Honduran hardwoods for use throughout the house – mahogany, cedrillo, rosita, aceituno,  – producing beautiful, glowing finishes for doors, baseboards and shelving.  The interior doors were made on the mainland in La Ceiba.  A simple, two-panel design in mahogany was selected and they turned out beautiful – excellent quality and very reasonable cost.  American Standard plumbing fixtures from Nicaragua, fired tile products from Mexico and excellent quality custom exterior windows from Guatemala were used.  The folding 24-foot exterior doors to the pool deck were an important architectural feature of the house – they open up fully to provide free flow of air and space but need to close tight and secure for protection against the elements.  Ventanas Alemanas in Guatemala made these doors as well as the exterior windows of exceptional quality with a custom finish to match the prefabricated galvanized metal roof…….

to be continued

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More on building a house in Roatan, Honduras.

As with every project, there are always some things that require modification and alteration during the construction.  This is where the scheduling and coordination of all the various contractors becomes so important.  In the case of the Mc Donald project, there was a one foot discrepancy between the site survey and the elevations at the southeast corner of the footprint.  Only one foot but very important for the location of footings, stair rises, and window locations.  This detail was caught early in the construction process and my on site Project Manager worked with the general contractor to make the necessary adjustments without incurring excessive rebuild or change orders and subsequent costs.

Another challenge was encountered when the client’s desire for an extra bathroom next to the pool deck changed during the construction process. This mandated architectural changes in the footprint and, I admit, an improvement in the roof line. But a seemingly small change in footprint required extensive modification of the hip roof structure and roof overhang supports. That’s when I appreciated the flexibility of my Project Manager and the contractors.  They responded to make the needed changes, assured that the structural requirements were met and incurred no additional costs for the change order.

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The realities of building a house in Roatan

A completed architectural design is only part of the process to realize a home in the islands. The gap between a vision of cool tropical breezes, lazy afternoons and a completed dream house is huge.  So many people get carried away with the dream and ignore the details of engineering drawings, soil sampling for foundation structure and selecting a competent contractor for the construction.  Building a quality home in Roatan demands attention to detail and quality workmanship and same as anywhere else there are good contractors and some less good.  Building codes and requirements in Honduras are strict but unfortunately many builders do not fully adhere to them.  While this may be expedient for the builder, it can detract from the design or at worst, result in a substandard structure, which raises costs and leads to frustration.

I work with professional engineers and general contractors in Roatan who have the experience and skills to translate my clients designs into lasting homes, on budget and on time.  Construction of the McDonald residence in Palmetto Bay Plantation was an example of a well run construction project.  Complete engineering drawings were produced, including foundation load calculations and on site soil testing to assure that the structure is built to last.  Because of the demands of the site, we used a reinforced high strength concrete slab on pier foundation with the piers supported both on bedrock and floating footings.  This allowed for a cost effective structure, which minimized excavation and met the demands of tropical saltwater exposure in for a region prone to earthquakes.

The 5000 sq ft primary slabs of the structure were completed as a single continuous pour and were only possible by coordinating all the groups involved.  The site was carefully prepared for the process and timed to be completed during the dry season.  We erected environmental silt barriers and constructed temporary access roads capable of supporting the 30 ton concrete mixers.  The deliveries and the on site crews were coordinated by the Project Manager and the entire operation was completed error free within 10 hours. Within 24 hours, erection of the concrete block walls commenced.  I’ve learned that detailed scheduling, budgeting and above all else on site coordination of the different trades and suppliers is what is needed to get the job done properly.  And at every step of the process, the specifications were checked and re-checked to assure that the design and structural integrity was adhered to.

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What Makes Someone an International Architect??

According to Wikipidea:
“An Architect is a person trained in the planning, design and oversight of the construction of buildings, and is licensed to practice architecture. To practice architecture means to offer or render services in connection with the design and construction of a building, or group of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the buildings, that have as their principal purpose human occupancy or use.
Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and constructing space that reflects functional, social, and aesthetic considerations. It requires the manipulation and coordination of material, technology, light, and shadow. Architecture also encompasses the pragmatic aspects of realizing designed spaces, such as project planning, cost estimating and construction administration. A wider definition may comprise all design activity from the macro-level (urban design, landscape architecture) to the micro-level (construction details and furniture).
Architectural works are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art. Historical civilizations are often identified with their surviving architectural achievements.”

So I believe that I fit the tittle of registered and licensed Architect.
What then makes me an International Architect?
Is it as simple as the fact that I have practiced architecture outside of the United States?
Or is it that I have practiced Architecture in more than one country?
Or is it that I grew up in a different country and have travelled the world and therefore when I am called to create space, realize a particular idea or project, that I carry with me cultural, social and political symbols so inbreed that I cannot help but express those ideas in my work?
For now, I believe that it is not only my awareness of different cultures and civilizations or the acceptance that each place in the world holds their own language of expression what makes me an International Architect.
Being an International Architect is realizing projects in different parts of the world. It is of great significance to speak their language, understand their culture, their climates, their soil, their social and political struggles and conditions. It is valuable to relate well to all the other team members involved in creating the project and to understand their ways, their processes, and their constraints. And even though I truly believe that bringing different ideas or innovative ways of doing things helps us all grow, it is of immeasurable value to fit.
Maybe an International Architect is one who knows how to plan and design space, and one who realizes projects in different parts of the world.In my opinion, a successful International Architect is one who is able to bring new ideas and methods to a foreign land and leave behind a product that fits and blends with its environment.

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