‘Minimal’ is beautiful | Daily News

‘Minimal’ is beautiful

These days there is demand for ‘hassle free’ and/or low budget houses. If you are building a hassle free and low budget house, there are a separate set of requirements. If you are building a house that is hassle free but may not be low budget, there are a different set of requirements or vice versa. They all involve different approaches when it comes to convenience and comfort. Arch World speaks to Chartered Architect, Archt. Chinthaka Dayaratne on building a ‘hassle free’ and/or ‘low budget house’.

Comfort is everything when we build our house. A home with creature comforts gives you that feeling that all is well. There are many designs done by an architect that can provide the user with this very lifestyle. However, in this article we discuss with Dayaratne how a ‘hassle free’ or ‘low budget house’ or a ‘hassle free low budget house’ can make you content. This is a grey area. A hassle free house may not necessarily be a low budget one.

He goes on to point out that the opposite meaning of the word ‘hassle’ is convenience. However, when talking about hassle free there are two more words that Dayaratne uses to get his idea across. They are peace and ease. The term ‘Hassle Free Low Budget House’ itself presents a unique set of challenges.

Economical individuality

“A house that extracts maximum utility from the available space, is stylish with an eye for individuality and economical to build and maintain can be termed a hassle free low budget house. Conventional houses have a relatively standard configuration such as number of rooms, toilets, floors, storage spaces and number of parking spaces. A hassle free and/or low budget house deals a lot with the owners’ expectations, their lifestyle, their appreciation for aesthetics, acoustics and their willingness to explore the possibility of using alternate cheaper materials that can be used for the construction. As an architect it is a challenge to incorporate hassle free with low budget. A hassle free house may not necessarily be a low budget one. It is easier to design a low budget house that is minimalistic in design,” explained Dayaratne.

So when building a hassle free and/or low budget house, what do you do differently from when you are building for a client who wants a house that involves spaces that involve a higher cost?

“When a client approaches us for a housing design, we first try and get an idea as to what kind of a budget he /she is working with. Based on the above configuration requirement we proceed to advise the client on the options that can be used to construct their home to suit the budget. Taking in the clients’ requirements initially and then presenting them with the cost for the construction will lengthen and complicate the process of arriving at a suitable design. Therefore, by understanding the budget, we avoid the initial pitfall of giving the client a design that they cannot afford,” said Dayaratne.

Conventional building materials

He points out that there are plenty of options available that can be substituted for conventional building materials. The raw materials that cost the most when constructing a house are timber, steel, tiles, cement and the wall finishing products such as filler and paint. For example, using reinforced concrete beams and door / window frames, aluminum windows and doors will significantly reduce cost on concrete slabs, timber and steel. Polished cement floors are a cheaper alternative to tiles, terrazzo and titanium. However, the client needs to be open minded about these alternatives since the general perception is that a house built using alternative materials was done so because the owners could not afford to use the conventional raw materials. This is a dilemma faced by many clients and as architects.

“I wish to separate ‘hassle free’ from ‘low budget’ in order to clear things up here. The personality that opts for a hassle free house will differ from the one that requires a low budget house. Hassle free means convenience. Modern technology plays an integral part in designing hassle free homes. New technological breakthroughs such as using communication technology to run the day-to-day activities of the home such as remotely controlling the surveillance, lighting, household appliances, air conditioning (Smart Home Solutions) fall into the hassle free category and are by no means low budget.

The low budget client on the other hand is mainly concerned about the cost and would like to opt out of using such solutions that provide convenience and instead focus on the aesthetics of the house. As you can imagine designing a hassle free low cost house has to be a marriage between the two. Thereafter, based on the clients’ taste and affordability, we can fine-tune the solution until the client is satisfied,” pointed out Dayaratne.

Another question that comes up is, what the net worth of people who go for hassle free low budget houses is.

Low budget

Dayaratne says that this of course is a very difficult question to answer. The house that is designed to be hassle free may not be low budget. While a low budget house may be hassle free in a minimalistic sense with low maintenance. The concept of the whole hassle free low budget house may take some time to become popular and accepted.

“For Sri Lankans, building their own house is a dream come true. While it is meant to last for generations, the extent of the space, the raw materials used, the furniture, the bathroom fittings, the landscaping around the house are indicators that their peers look for when it is finally done. As such, people still prefer to use the traditional timber, steel, brick-and-mortar solution for their house. However, there is a small but increasing number especially amongst the affluent, free-thinking and artistically-inclined segment of society who are concerned about their carbon footprint and prefer to use materials that do not hurt the environment as much. Still, it will take more effort to convince them to overlook the pressure from society to stick to the traditional methods of building.”

He further adds that a hassle free and low budget house will have spaces that are not dedicated for a single purpose. A kitchen will double as a dining area while a living room can also be used as an extended sleeping area with the use of multi-purpose furniture. Bedroom furniture can be neatly put away to provide study space when required. A low budget house will incorporate natural light and ventilation, solar and rain water harvesting as their key design elements. For him, a hassle free and low budget house is a marriage between convenience and minimalism.

As the number of occupants in a house increase, so will the dynamics of the design. Incorporating all those requirements into one design may be challenging but not impossible. The main challenge is to reach a common ground when it comes to all the occupants of the house on what the final design should be. As to the practicality, designers explore as many factors such as soil condition, climate, geographical location and any other factors that may arise when living in such houses. When given the proposal with the costing, it’s the owner’s call that ultimately decides the design.

“When it comes to hassle free low budget houses, the West is far ahead of us in this regard. The most economical materials such as gypsum board walls, fiber glass insulation, metal or aluminum fittings are widely used when building houses. However, the authorities concerned with housing have laid down very strict guidelines when building a house with these materials. Functionality and convenience are more important than appearance to home owners in the West.”

Low maintenance cost is one of the key factors in designing hassle free low cost houses. Therefore, the maintenance cost factor is incorporated to the design itself.

Longevity and strength

“There is a definite trade-off when opting for a hassle free low budget house in terms of longevity and strength. A traditional house is built with the intention of making it to last many generations. However, it is up to the architect to understand the need of the owner on how long they want it to last and based on this, advise them on the type of design,” stated Dayaratne.

Arch World asked Dayaratne if hassle free low budget houses are largely dependent on the climate? Can they survive a storm?

“It all boils down to the type of materials used for building these houses. Based on the geographical location and the prevailing climate in those areas the architect recommends the best materials for the building. If built according to the recommended specifications, these type of houses can last just as long as the conventional buildings and weather storms just as well.” 

 TIPS TO CUSTOMER WHEN BUILDING A HASSLE FREE LOW BUDGET HOUSE

In a hassle free house design, we advise the customer on the advantages of taking maximum usage of the available space, the added convenience of incorporating modern technology and the relatively lower maintenance cost. Low budget houses may not provide the said ‘creature comforts’ that are offered in a hassle free design. However, low budget housing can be designed to use natural benefits such as allowing natural light and ventilation to give a different set of comforts altogether. Therefore, we provide all such inputs to a would-be house owner and let him / her decide on the type of house that suits their lifestyle and personality.


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