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Opinions of Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Columnist: Arthur, Patrick Kobina

Ecotropic Building Design" - My Ideal Home in Tropical Ghana

Although I am not an Architect by training, I have spent a lot of time looking at the poor designs of buildings in Ghana, which leaves them hot and uncomfortable. The new trend of using glass slide doors and windows is making the situation worse. Using such materials on home buildings make them hot and difficult to live in. Many houses are so hot, with occupants sweating all night whenever there is a power outage.

I have a concept for a building design that will provide an indoor temperature 5oC lower than the temperature outdoors anytime of the day.

> A building in the tropics must not have its windows and doors opened directly to the elements of the weather. All houses must have an intervening space; a corridor that separates the rooms from the direct incidence of the sun and rain.

> There must not be dead spaces anywhere in the house that block ventilation. All rooms must have windows on at least three sides of the room, making use of a lot of inside corridors, which must open into the outside corridor to complete the air circulation circuit.

>The use of slide windows is a bad idea in the tropics. Together with the dead spaces, the rooms will end up being extremely hot. The simple louver blades are very flexible to use in regulating the airflow through the rooms. Windows should be taller than the usual we have in Ghana; the best should be 2 meters high and slender to take one louver blade in width. They must be paired but separated on the same wall and on at least three sides of the room.

> The rooms must not be short and small; this increases stuffiness and heat in the rooms. At least 50% of the height of the door must always be added above it before the roofing. Ideally, the room height should be 4 meters, with long under-roof windows that allow hot air collecting under the roof to escape. This way the cool air comes in through the regular windows and the hot air leaves through the windows under the roof.

> Aluminum roofing sheets and plastic ceiling are another heat generating idea as well as a bare concrete roof. Clay tile roofing will be best to reduce heat but I personally prefer a concrete roof that has an aluminum roof above it with a pack of storage materials in between.

> The building must be surrounded by a garden and trees (like weeping willows) which do not attract too many insects. In addition, royal palms, plants in the family of plantain and banana; which have very broad foliage to provide the ideal shade a tropic house needs to stay cool.

> The use of wood is not good for a tropical home; the high scale of insect infestation makes me dislike wood in my home. The kitchen cabinets especially, these have long-term health implications. The use of aluminum and glass for most of the room cabinets is my first choice; this will cut out all the humidity induced wood decay as well as fungi and insect infestations. Kitchen and bathroom sinks must be made of concrete and secured with water-resistant plastering materials. Floors are preferable if made with high quality tiles and the ceiling made with plaster moldings on the concrete roof, which should be fire and insect resistant.

This is my concept of an ideal tropical villa. Do not be surprised to see me residing in one of them. I want to reduce the energy consumed by fans and air conditioners, which have to be on all night to prevent us from sweating our lives away.

If you have more features to make the design the plan even more powerful, please feel free to contact me.

---------------------------- Patrick Kobina Arthur (PhD),