living in the rainforest


  #1  
Old 10-11-05, 04:55 AM
Rom Whitaker
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living in the rainforest

we are building several cottages and a lab/library for a rainforest research station here in South India at a forested location that receives up to 500 inches of rain each year. the wetness/humidity in the air and everywhere is impossible for the 6 wet months of the year. airconditioners and dehumidifiers are not feasible because there is no electricity and we are dependent on solar panels and storage batteries. what we'd love to know is if there is a source(s) of information for constructing a truly waterproof house, from foundation to roof and even methods for treating the moisture-laden air that comes in. many thanks, Rom
 
  #2  
Old 10-11-05, 10:02 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: USA
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living in the rainforest

Rom -

I can appreciate the conditions - been there (close) and have been through the monsoons.

My experience is in the area from Chennai to Bangalore to Mumbai with a little bit of Bangladesh thrown in. You cannot avoid the humidity, but you can make everything more tolerable so things work.

Without real power, it will be impossible to control the moisture inside - you will have to rely on ventilation. This approach means very large overhangs (2 to 4 feet) depending on the height difference between the edge of the roof and the top of windows and also depending on the wind situation. Indians recognize the value of overhangs by requiring sunshades (and rain) on all windows facing the sun.

I would imagine you will have the iron bars on the windows and possibly inward swinging windows. Make sure the gaps between the bars are close enough to keep out the monkeys, etc. - they make a big mess and will take every thing.

Have a tightly screened gaps (12"?) between the top of the wall and the actual roof. Go with gable vents protected by the large end overhangs. Try to avoid rooftop vents (bees nest in them).

A sloped metal roof is best - the Indians have some good systems. Wood will be difficult to use because of the availability, quality and predictability. I would opt for a steel framing system. A flat concrete roof is OK, but hard to get positive ventilation.

It is common to build secure rooms (for offices, labs, computers, etc.) with a plywood ceiling inside the structure - make sure you can open some sort of vent.

For walls, you I assume you will use masonry - nothing else seems to last. You will have to coat the walls. Try to avoid the tradtional Indian clay brick if possible. They are not really fired and the quality can very tremendously. The price varies with the weather because they do not want to have inventories in the rain. They are really just baked mud and sand and not like American bricks. Try to find a source for concrete block (6" ot 8" walls) - there are thousand of small plants scattered through the country. Plaster with several coats inside and out if you use the traditional Indian methods and materials. If you can get a pre-packaged cementitious wall coating (finely ground sand, cement and a bonding/plasticizing material) use it. An American brand is Thoroseal, but some of the European or Indian companies may have similar products available there.

Build the buidings several feet above the ground level to keep things dry and eliminate some snakes. If available, use a precast concrete floor so you can circulate air and a have break from the ground moisture. Do not use a wood floor ( rot, bugs, etc,).

Put in tile for the floors. The cost is not high because of the labor and you will appreciate it when you try to keep things clean after the mud and dust.

Contact an Indian architect. They are well versed in the problems and have an excellent knowledge of the materials available. They have some products that would embarass other countries.

Sounds like fun - I wish I was doing it.

Also - give yourself at least two hours to get from the domestic side of the Mumbai airport to the international side during the wet season.

Dick
 

Last edited by Concretemasonry; 10-11-05 at 10:38 AM. Reason: Typo
 

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