Building a Traditional Vastu-correct Thai House

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Building a Traditional Vastu-correct Thai House

Postby RayWickNYC » Sun Aug 31, 2014 5:44 am

Building a Traditional Vastu-correct Thai House
Using all natural building materials, abiding traditional ceremony and ritual, designing according to vastu-correct building principles, inspired by Maharishi Sthapatya Veda, including right direction, right placement of rooms, right proportion, natural & non-toxic building materials and auspicious timing, this traditional Thai house was built in Isaan Thailand over a period of 3 months.
You can see the building going up at YouTube:
http://youtu.be/JIyFvzF6NJU
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Re: Building a Traditional Vastu-correct Thai House

Postby brianks » Sun Aug 31, 2014 9:50 am

Very interesting and Beautiful House. Would be interesting if we could see some of the building details on the house. What did this cost? Where did you find the builder? And more?
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Re: Building a Traditional Vastu-correct Thai House

Postby gliffaes » Sun Aug 31, 2014 1:31 pm

They always look great but I fear they are totally impractical, Ive been in a few and they were like furnaces inside during the day, probably cool down quickly in the evening though any insulation in yours?
I wonder how long they last? with termites and the like.
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Re: Building a Traditional Vastu-correct Thai House

Postby Ians » Sun Aug 31, 2014 2:13 pm

Agreed, looks interesting and a beautiful example of this house style - but high maintenance to keep it looking this way.
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Re: Building a Traditional Vastu-correct Thai House

Postby kiwimartin » Sun Aug 31, 2014 2:33 pm

Congratulations Ray - it feels 'just right' in this landscape. The evening shots towards the end of the video are superb. I can imagine it being lived in 200 years ago, just as it will be now. I also imagine your craftsmen loved building it.
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Re: Building a Traditional Vastu-correct Thai House

Postby RayWickNYC » Sun Aug 31, 2014 10:57 pm

Thank you for the positive and appreciative comments.

The building of the house was actually a 4-5 year process: finding land (ultimately decided on wife’s family farm as I did not want to live in a village. We wanted to be alone in nature yet safe near family on the large cassava and rice farm they own), designing the house according to ancient Vedic building principles of right direction, right proportions, right placement of rooms, natural building material, etc., finding a builder, lumber sourcing…

In the year previous to actually erecting the house, we created a ½ km. access road to the house plot, built up the plot 2 m. by excavating a nearby rice field (it settled to 1 m. after 1 year), didn’t have municipal water or electric (too far off the local grid) so we pulled our own 1 km of electric wire through dozens of concrete poles from the edge of the nearest village where we installed an electric meter. All this prep work was done by wife’s farm family who also benefited from the new availability of a road, water and electric. This was enough work for one season and we wanted the built-up plot to settle before digging foundations. We returned to NYC to the other extreme of civilization.

Returning to Thailand to build, 3 trucks of lumber and 6 workers and a foreman arrived at the appointed time and building began immediately. Only 7 workers but each can do every job. The only specialization is that they only build traditional Thai wooden houses. But it's hard work. The house is 100% wood & clay tile. The wood is incredibly dense and heavy and it is finished on-sight (the wood is delivered rough) then heave these long 16 foot pieces up to each level by hand and then notch all the joints for a solid fit. And tools are just basic--some string, a plumb, hammer, angle... I was on the site all day, every day and just watched them marveling at their precision yet speed of working. The workers built from sun-up till –down every day. They never went into the village, living off the land for months. We only brought them water, some whiskey, snacks and blankets. Being traditional house builders, they observed traditional building ceremony and ritual that I appreciated. These guys were highly skilled and open to my questions and concerns while building. We worked closely with the foreman and made some design changes on the fly and never had a problem. A great pleasure to work with these skilled builders. The foreman appreciated that a falang was building a traditional house and we had long conversations around the night campfire about the spiritual aspects of traditional house and building. The foreman stated that this house would be still standing in 100 years. The house took 3 months to erect. It has no insulation. Its components are wood, clay tile roof, nails and bolts, and tin at the roof joints for drainage. When finished structurally, it was totally sanded and stained 4 times. Before the first and final coat of stain the entire house, including interior roof structure was painted with Chandrite termite protection. Floridan termite protection was poured into the 20 concrete foundation conduits before filling with cement. Floridan was spread over the ground under the house before the concrete pad was laid and the base of 20 posts were painted with Chandrite.

During the month after the structure was erected we installed water storage, filtration and plumbing into the house, brought electric into the house and installed light fixtures inside and out, and laid a concrete pad under the house. Then we planted 11 rai of cassava!

We did not spend a night in the house until it was structurally finished, stained and blessed by the local monks. The first night was an incredible experience. As a vastu-correct house (Google “Maharishi vastu architecture” to understand the value of living in a vastu structure.) Sleeping far out on the farm as creatures and wildlife settle down under the stars is incredible. Living spaces are 4 m. above the ground and across the open fields are refreshing cool night breezes. Although it does get hot during the day, fresh breezes though the open design and upward drafts keep the house cooler. We might install an A/C in one room next year.
Like a wooden boat this house will require maintenance. I just keep a bucket of stain handy and touch up sun-blistered spots when they appear. I’ll do a large sand & stain job on the 2 sun-sides in a few years. Hire someone to do it while we’re away, so no problem.

We purchased 4 rai from the family at a negligible price as we promised to bring utilities to the farm. The cost of building a road, bringing and installing utilities, building up the plot, building material & labor, fence, finished bathroom with shower, toilet, vanity sink, and a concrete pad under the house comes in at just over 2 million bhat. A good value, I think.

During several visits to Thailand I looked for traditional house builders, travelling to Ayuttaya, northeastern Isaan, all over. I finally found my builder in Bangkok about 3 km. from my hotel! I’d like to say who my builder was but he is a private person who only builds traditional houses for a few and does not seek publicity. Not that I’m anyone special but at our initial contact I think he appreciated my knowledge of traditional building techniques and my understanding of the spiritual and cosmic elements of building in tune with nature. He referred to the houses he built as generators of spiritual energy their specific mathematical dimensions and proportions and the house’s connection to the cosmos being vital to the success, happiness, prosperity and health of the occupants.
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Re: Building a Traditional Vastu-correct Thai House

Postby kiwimartin » Mon Sep 01, 2014 8:16 am

Thank you for sharing that Ray. I showed your video to my wife last night and she too was entranced - its a great way to record a great build.
I do think "the houses he (your builder) built as generators of spiritual energy their specific mathematical dimensions and proportions and the house’s connection to the cosmos being vital to the success, happiness, prosperity and health of the occupants" is actually true of any well designed house, further enhanced when it is self built ( and I count yours as a self build - naturally).
Cheers, and many thanks. Enjoy the kassava!
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Re: Building a Traditional Vastu-correct Thai House

Postby merry-terry » Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:13 am

Excellent, thanks for sharing.
Just like the MIL's and yes it does get hot during the day but cools quickly.
I love it, has a great feel to it.
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Re: Building a Traditional Vastu-correct Thai House

Postby canopy » Tue Sep 02, 2014 7:42 am

Interesting build, glad it met your expectations and thanks for sharing. I enjoyed the video. A few observations:

Why use chaindrite? It has a negative effect on humans and the environment. Do you know why something traditional like borax treatment wasn't used which is harmless to humans and environmentally sensitive? It is commonly used in Thailand to treat bamboo for instance.

Joining wood using bolts is not traditional like wood joints are, the latter craft seems to have vanished in our era in Thailand. Once upon a time you built an entire house frame with no steel whatsoever--no wire, bolts, nails, screws, brackets, nothing. And it's stronger, longer lasting, and more beautiful without them. I do a lot of timber framing with wood joints and am always on the lookout for it in Thailand which is an art that lives on in the US and Japan for instance.

Was there any concern that pouring a large, thin slab without rebar over fill dirt is going to crack up?

I would have had them use copper flashing rather than tin for traditional value. Easy to find in chinatown bkk. I love the clay tiles. Now the biggest question...does the roof leak? Now THAT'S traditional in my observations :)
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Re: Building a Traditional Vastu-correct Thai House

Postby RayWickNYC » Tue Sep 02, 2014 9:45 pm

Canopy: Since being built we've had only one leak during a really heavy windy horizontal rain. Otherwise, very dry. I'm actually surprised. In a light rain the tile actually absorbs a lot of water.

In building there are always compromises due to time, money, convenience, security… I was offered true wood joints but the builder thought bolts would be equally secure, if not entirely traditional. My concern were the 38,000 clay tiles at 1.2 lbs each or more than 20 tons of weight on the roof. Although I think the weight helps stabilize the structure, if wood joints or joints with bolts are equal, my Western sense of building made me opt for bolts. I may be wrong about structural integrity and I may have deviated from true traditional, but I feel better.

A similar compromise with termite protection. Borax just didn't seem like a long-term solution, for the the roof structure especially. The roof is not easily accessible. I decided to paint the entire roof structure with the Chandrite before the the roof was sealed with a house ceiling. Again, I just felt more confident that a long-lasting solution to termites, especially when I'm not living in the house all the time, was a more nuclear choice. Termite protection is on-going, though, so applying more natural borax while I'm at the house will happen.

I never even thought about copper instead of tin. Great idea. Fortunately, the clay tiles are only notched and laid one on top of the other with about a 30% overlap and no adhesive. If one breaks or I want to replace the tin with copper, it's easily done by simply lifting off each tile.

The concrete slab is 12 x 12 m. We laid a concrete wire mesh over the dirt fill and raised it about 1/2 inch before pouring concrete. I hope it doesn't crack up too much. I will be laying outdoor patio tile over the poured concrete when I return.
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Re: Building a Traditional Vastu-correct Thai House

Postby canopy » Wed Sep 03, 2014 8:16 am

Overall it seems you took a cautious approach on decisions and that's fine. Just depends on one's ambitions, time, and money. Looks great though. Well just one thing. Regardless if the frame is bolted or joined with wood joints as long as it was properly engineered it will be fine. Just a note for others in the Northern US and other countries timber frames are designed to take massive snow loads on the roof and they are more than capable and even stronger than bolts. If you ever see one up close they are incredible and you can get an appreciation.
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