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Once in a Lifetime – Part 3

by Heiner Moessing

It is a hot country!

Seems to be a very trivial wisdom, nevertheless a significant proportion of houses for sale in Pattaya could be located close to the Polar Circle as well! Sunshine and heavy rain are the dominating weather conditions

here and most people moving to Thailand want to enjoy outside living every single day of the year. So we have to build the house according to these conditions....

Ceiling Height

At the Polar Circle or close by you have to keep the height of the ceiling as low as possible to save energy while heating your house. Hot air rises up and you don't need it at high above your head – but this is exactly what you want to achieve in Thailand. In a similar way to water in the sea or a lake hot air rises and the cool air coming out of the air con stays closer to the floor. The standard ceiling height for example in Germany is between 2.30 -2.40 m – this might not look nice in stylish modern houses but it keeps the energy costs at a low level.

In the Tropics it is vise versa: you want the hot air to rise above your head and if possible be diverted out of the house. Therefore when you build from new you can easily go to 2.80 m or even higher. In fact the very best option would be an internal ceiling that follows the shape of the roof -what is known as a “Cathedral Ceiling”.


By doing this you reduce the volume of air in the roof which is not good as this area usually works as insulation as well. However in Thailand if you ever went into your roof you would find that the temperatures there are unbearable, on levels similar to a sauna.

A solution for this is to fit self moving extractors. As the hot air rises the extractor starts rotating - with the hot weather in Thailand it would probably never stop.So ideally the air in the room should slowly rise as it gets warmer, going through the vents into the roof from where it would be extracted.

Furthermore you should fix slats (lamella) at the overhang so that more air can flow into the roof. But don't forget, roof tiles store heat as well and radiate over a long period after the sun goes down. Therefore you have to use spray foam under the roof tiles which will also serve to keep the roof leak proof..

Outside Walls

As we have already researched, in an ideal world the sun should never shine on (hit) the outside wall. In most cases it would just do this partially with the result that the block would store heat in a similar way to the roof tiles.

The solution is to build using double brick walls, at least on the outside walls. The gap would then usually be filled with styropor as it is the air contained in styropor that creates the insulation.

As a side effect you will also get much better sound insulation as the sound waves will get broken several times when they have to get through the various materials which will absorb differing frequencies.

Cross Ventilation

Any suggestions made in this article will be unable to cool down your house below the outside temperature, as this can only be done with the use of air conditioners. However the temperature inside the house should never be higher than the outside temperature.

So as the outside temperature is your target let the outside air flow through your house!

For that you need at least 2 windows/doors ideally on opposite walls. Windows are ok, you can have a cabinet beneath but sliding doors are even better as they let in more air and more light as well. Furthermore you can create a nice view of the garden, a water feature etc. Newer house designs take this into account but if you buy second hand, windows can easily be substituted by a sliding door. Nearly all constructions are frameworked so the walls are not supportive, you don't need a structural engineer to calculate beams.

The Terrace

One of the reasons foreigners move to Thailand is the weather.

Most of the time we have either sunshine or rain, for both we need a roof. Walls protect us from people looking in, burglars, mosquitoes etc but in the absence of blizzards and hurricanes the most important feature is the roof.

Make sure that your terrace is large, it will be your second living room.

In my house the terrace is double the size of the living room. We use our living room for viewing TV and Home Theatre but we hang out most of the time on the terrace. There we have a sofa and chairs, a dining table, a waterfall with a fish pond and a barbecue.

You enter our house via the terrace where again there is a cathedral ceiling with a fan plus air flow through the double leaf entrance door then another single leaf door plus an air gap between roof and wall. On the open side of the terrace we can jump directly into the pool !

Next month the last volume of “Once in a Lifetime – Before and after”: the transformation of an old house in a good location