Friday, December 31, 2010

Precast building parts-Query and reply



My reply

Gypsum board  ready made walls were in use for a long time.These are normally used as partition walls in commercial building construction especially for interior work

Precast building parts are being used in many parts of world to speed up construction and also to reduce cost.In our conditions,Ferro cement precast parts can be used for partition walls and for interior work.

Basically house construction is an Engineering work which require an expert from beginning to end.Only after studying site conditions,requirements of client and other factors,the Architect concerned decide on materials to be used for construction.

It will be better to leave the choice of materials to be used for your house construction to your Architect rather than you own your own decide on materials to be used using half baked ideas you may gather from different sources.Any work which require professional expertise not only for perfection of work but also for proper management of costs involved should be managed  by you in consultation with the expert concerned.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Vasthu compliance for house in USA-query and reply


I am planning to get my first house in US and it quite frustrating to find anything that complies with Vasthu. I am looking only at the entrance (to be east facing) and kitchen area (to be North east facing). My question is would this be enough. Also, if there is some aspect of the house that is not according to Vasthu is there anything that could be done without redesigning the entire house?

Attached is the map of the house with the picture of Vasthu purush (got from Wikipedia). I don't have the complete design of the house.

Thank you very much for your time and effort.

With warm regards,

My reply

Vasthu is applicable anywhere in the world as it is based on polarity which does not change from one part of earth to another.
For the house to face best options as per Vasthu are the following in that order
But house can be designed in a manner to suit direction of facing of the house.For more details read my following blog entry
If you can send me plan of the house along with directions indicated,I can tell you how far the house is in compliance with Vasthu

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Again on square feet cost-Query and reply


Let me be frank in saying that I am planning to construct only a single floored house with about 1000 to 1500 sq ft area.  It would be grateful if you could tell me the estimation also.  I know it cannot be fixed, but at least I will have an idea of the amount.  As I have no experience in these rates and especially the rates in Kerala, as I was born and brought up in Hyderabad.
Hope you would do the needful.


My reply

Without any data,without using Engineering Estimate methods,a professional like me is not supposed to give any guess estimate.It is against professional ethics to misguide a client using a non professional baseless term called square feet cost
Even the plinth area of house indicated by you is just a guess.Only after preparing a plan of the house by a professional,you will know even that figure
House construction is not that simple as going and buying rice from market.It involves hundreds of materials and lot of skilled labour.

With professional guidance you can get best value for your money with maximum utility for the house and a professional if engaged through out construction will guide you on how to  reduce cost ,if that is your concern.
I have directly built more than 200 houses in Kerala.When completed all these houses had different square feet cost and hence I do not know on what basis such a term is used.
If you tell me how many rooms and other facilities you need in the house,location of place where house has to come I can possibly give a guess
But the golden rule in house construction is simply this:
Do not wait for entire money expected for house construction to reach you.Cost of construction increases at least by 20% every three months.If you do not start construction immediately,you may not even be able to reach your dream house tomorrow.Tomorrow will be too late.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Commencement of construction of house-Query and reply


I am searching for an Engineering firm to help me with plan preparation for home in Vaikom. I need flexibility from the firm in incorporating our ideas. We have some pictures that we have picked up from design magazines that we want to use to guide the design. I am non resident (US) so I need the process of plan iterations and discussions done through email/phone. Also I have my parents living next to the plot to oversee construction so I may not need your help with supervision/ construction itself. Please let me know if that is OK. 

My reply

A house is designed by any qualified and experienced Architect after studying the following
1.Plot and surroundings
2.Vasthu aspects of the plot if the Architect is conversant with Vasthu
3.Modern architectural and structural engineering concepts.
4.Relevant building rules of the location
5.Your budget limitations if any
Elevation of any other house may not exactly suit your house as elevation depends to a great extent on the plan of the house.Only after finalising the plan,Elevation can be considered.It may be possible for the Architect to understand your elevational hopes if you show him some of the elevation you liked.But you have to understand that elevation is dependent on plan of the house which will have to be discussed and finalised at first.

Having your relatives at site may help you in  coordinating with the work.But your relative cannot substitute an experienced building professional as building construction require design details and instructions from a professional at every stage of construction.Plan and Elevation are only starting drawings for construction.More detailed drawings,engineering details are required for proper implementation of work at every stage and steps of construction.

You also need skilled workers who follow best construction practices and drawings of a professional correctly to get work done well.In interior locations,one worker and his co workers do entire works related to construction.But a professional agency use workers with expertise for each type of works and it will give you better quality of work.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Cost of construction-another query


How much did it cost to build that home in Irinjalakuda?


My Reply

There is no point in asking how much it cost for some one to build a house.
In house construction we use hundreds of materials and hundreds of skilled labour for various type of works
Cost of all these keep raising day by day
Once you decide to construct a house do it fast.Do not wait till it become impossible  for you to manage funds
Of course qualified and experienced professional guidance can ensure better value for money spent and lesser cost due to proper guidance

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cost of house-Query and reply


I just came across your site.
Could you  please give me the  approximate cost for a 2800 S.feet house with reasonably good finishing including all charges.
to build the same for my cousin in Trichur.
Sree Jayan

My reply

Look. It  looks like very easy to find out cost of constructing a house.On your own you assume square feet plinth area of the house without even preparing a plan and then like going and finding cost of a Kg of onion from the shop, an Architect is expected to tell you square feet plinth area of constructing a house which cannot be done in a day or week or month.

Construction of house require at least an year.During this period of construction cost of hundreds of different material used for construction normally goes up in Kerala conditions.Some times it is not even available

For example take the case of few materials.
Rubble used for foundation work cannot be taken that easily.There are so many restrictions,too many licenses,too many government officials to be bribed to take rubble and transport it to site.

River sand simply cannot be taken or transported.But still transporters try to supply it with the hope of extracting money as they demand from the builder.So they bribe as required to ever willing bribe takers who consider government job as a license to take bribes

Almost all materials are to be transported to site.Even after taxing more than 100%,government  has no hesitation in increasing price of petroleum products and never bothering to reduce cost even if international price of crude oil reduces.Cost of diesel is now more than when international prices were double.Both state and central government consider petroleum products as cash cows.

With each increase in petroleum products, price of every material goes up.During one year period of construction of house,nobody knows how many times price of diesel will go up.

Transporting  river sand is like smuggling activity.So many have to be bribed.Transporter naturally would like higher profit for transporting such a risky material.

Getting good workers regularly for construction work is a big challenge.So if you need workers you have to pay them what they demand even if they are not very good quality workers.Here demand is more and supply is less.

Even with all these you want the contractor (trying to make money by building your house) to commit a firm square feet cost of construction ,that too lesser than what others may quote if he want  your work.

He is not educated or articulate  enough like me to explain the meaningless nature of your so called “square feet rate”.So to get work from you he  will quote lower square feet rate and you  will be only happy to learn or even dream about his possible loss by taking up your construction work!

I have seen several times happiness on the face of my clients whenever material and other input cost goes up just by imagining  his saving of money by obtaining a “square feet rate” from contractor.Like most of Malayalees you will also be happy to think about losses your contractor will make by doing your work.

But if you think that you are smart and your contractor is a fool,you are mistaken.

With varying cost of all inputs of construction like material and labour,he will have to compromise on quality of construction to make profit.He will make you believe that all improper construction practices followed by him are the right way of doing the construction and you do not know what is right and wrong in construction .So you believe him.
Even after doing all quality compromises if he is still not able to make profit,he will ask for rate revision or extra charges when he is sure that no other contractor will come and take up half work done by him
So he will get profit  some how or other by doing your work as he has seen many like you trying to be smarter than him.
Finally when the work near completion with all quality problems which may not be noticeable immediately,contractor will find ways of extracting extras from you and you desperately trying to complete house construction some how.At that point of time “square feet cost” is forgotten by you and by the contractor also.

Square feet cost of construction is simply a lie house builder will have to tell you to get work from you

You should not expect a qualified and experienced house building professional to go to such lower levels of an illiterate contractor (with only one interest-make profit  by hook or crook) to give you such baseless “square feet cost”

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New Construction–Reply to query


I am a NRI working in Abu Dhabi.  I am planning to construct a new house in my 11 cent plot and the place is in between pattambi and shoranur and it is a remote area.  My plan is 3 BHK with the minimum required facilities.  My family consists of myself, wife and son and my parents.  I need to construct a house which is cost effective but at the same time it should have the minimum required facilities.
Please let us know some ideas and details such as the average cost, etc. because I am planning to apply for a NRI housing loan.
Suresh K.P.

My reply

Cost can be worked out or a guess Estimate can be made only after we have at least the following data

1.Site visit study

2.Study by Architect about your dreams and needs for your house

3.Plan of the house

Even if these data is available every Estimate is only a more nearer guess by a professional with the assistance of data available to him at the time of preparation of Estimate.

House Construction require several materials.Some of these materials may not necessarily be available in time without much difficulty.Cost of almost all materials used  in construction of house changes mostly upward during construction

Trends and technology changes during course of your house construction

Even the most well managed construction organisation find it difficult to get the right skilled workers at the right time and wages payable to them also keep changing mostly depending upon demand supply theory

So how can any one clearly predict cost of your house construction just  by hearing your intention of constructing a house?

Modification of existing home


I am from near to Tripunithura, Ernakulum. I want to reconstruct my present home which is 40 Yrs. old [ Present Roof is  Tiles ] .
I request your kind advise in this regard, which is at low cost.

My reply

Existing house to be modified will have to be studied in detail by me before I can comment on what can be done to modify the existing building.

Every professional with qualifications and experience in the field will try to reduce your construction cost by design and by technical guidance during construction.A professional Architect is supposed to give you better design with better facilities and at lower cost.

If you tell him clearly about your true budget limitations,he will advise you how to go about the work to limit your cost.On many occasions I have found that client  do not tell about actual financial conditions or fund available and fund that can be obtained from external sources.

Most clients think that if they tell Architect about lesser fund availability,he will have some magic wand to reduce cost.With lesser fund availability if true,you should be willing to restrict facilities you seek in the house  and also willing to accept suggestions of the Architect to reduce cost

Monday, December 20, 2010

Is a plan enough for building house?

From the mails I receive I get a feeling that lot of people have too many wrong ideas about plan of house.Most important wrong ideas are the following

1.Any plan prepared by any one or taken from any website is good enough for plan of your house

2.There is no meaning in paying a higher fees or charges for getting plan of the house prepared by a well known Architect

3.If the plan of the house is ready, builder of the house can manage everything else.No more need for a professional Architect/Engineer.

4.An Architect can make good elevation of the house for any plan

5.If a picture of the house taken from anywhere is given to an Architect,he can make a similar or same Elevation whatever may be plan of your house.

All these are wrong.

A qualified and experienced Architect will have to discuss in detail with you to understand what exactly you need in the house to be designed and built.

He has to see the land where the building has to come up.By seeing the land,he will visualise your house in the plot,check nature of land,surroundings,level of land,Vasthu aspects if he is good at Vasthu also.He will also check up whether there is any restraining factors for building a house as per Kerala Building rules.

While preparing plan for your house knowledge of Architect and his rich experience is used to design the house to get following:

1.Better facilities for you as per your wishes but with lesser cost

2.Better utilisation of every built up space.No unnecessary or unwanted space in the house.

3.Better features of modern architecture and Kerala Architecture if he is well versed with Kerala Architecture.

4.Vasthu compliance for each portion of the house(If he is good at Vasthu)

5.Better structural design to reduce cost

6.Better appearance for the house

For getting all these benefits is it not worth paying few thousands to an Architect?

Even after preparation of plan and Elevation,there are several architectural and structural engineering drawings required for proper and correct implementation of construction of house.Even the drawings prepared by an Architect as plan and Elevation has to be explained with details for the builder to know how to proceed with construction.

So your need for professional assistance and guidance does not end with preparation of plan.Plan will have to be designed in a manner to obtain a good Elevation.You cannot have any Elevation for any plan.Plan and Elevation are inter related.

When I was finalising plan of the house,one of my client told me that a particular builder can do the construction just by getting plan of the house.Then I told my client that he should not engage that builder if he says like that.He does not even know about need for detailed architecture and structural Engineering drawings and periodic on site supervision by the designer.

Only when the construction started and drawings after drawings on details started coming,my client understood importance of having professional guidance during construction.

And now the money part.For the payment an Architect takes , you save much more in lakhs during construction using his guidance and you finally get a better quality construction at lesser cost with proper utilisation of every built up space with definitely more value for money spent by you.

Do not think that Architects and Engineers are costly.They bring their rich experience,knowledge to make a better house for you and in the process in spite of paying them fees,they reduce cost of constructing your house substantially and guide you to have best and latest facilities and trends for your once in a life time dream house.

Do you want to save those fees given to professional and lose both money and better house by design and construction?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Flooring-new trends

Flooring options change often as new materials and trends coming in therby completely or partially removing from the scene flooring materials which were in use for a long time.

About ten years back,mosaic and mosaic tile flooring were in use.Now you do not see such flooring anywhere.Before that red oxide flooring was very common.Now it is difficult even to find good masons who knows how to lay red oxide flooring well.Plane cement plastering was also used for flooring.

Clay tile flooring

If you look at old palaces,clay tile flooring was quite common.But the quality of clay tile used were not good resulting in wear and tear of the clay tile surface.So,when  I talk of going back to clay tile flooring first question I get is that will it last.

Present day clay tiles are better in quality.It will not  get damaged due to constant movements of men and material on clay tile laid surface.On slope roof,you have to lay clay tiles to give it that old Kerala traditional house appearance.Unlike in the olden days clay tiles laid on slope roof will not get fungus on it as it will be painted with new anti fungal paint which will give natural clay colour for the tiles.There are special tile shield paints which protect the clay tile from effects of sun and rain at least for about 5 years and after this you will have to re paint it.

On flat roof surface old method of plastering exposed surface is not that good.With sun and rain lashing the flat roof surface,it will get a big coat of fungus and gradually plastered surface will whither away thus causing wetness damaging concrete surface gradually and if the concrete laying was not done properly(That is the usual case with workers trying to do an easy job and contractor trying to reduce costly material content to increase profit and “very clever”owner of the house who tried to save fees payable to professional engineers or a professional agency giving house construction work to that “square feet cost”contractor.In almost all cases owner of the house simply believes lies told by contractor to hide his improper methods of concrete laying, as he himself does not know much about proper laying of concrete)

Instead of plastering the exposed surface of flat roof concrete,if you lay clay tiles it will act as permanent protection against rain and sun for concreted surface.Clay tile laid will reduce a good portion of heat being passed on to concrete roof as it absorbs heat.This will result in better cooling inside house.Of course clay tile can also cause fungus formation on top of it.But if you polish the exposed  clay tile surface after laying and apply anti fungal polyurethane coating,it will not attract fungus growth and clay tile will remain in tact braving sun and rain.On exposed roof surface you can also apply anti fungal  tile shield paint.But it will not look that good .

Inside bed rooms you can go for clay tiles as it will be more environment  eco friendly and definitely more healthier for you to move around or even sleep over bare floor .All other flooring materials except of course wooden flooring will not be eco friendly.

Wooden flooring

With cost of granite slabs going around Rs.200/-,using teak wood flooring will not be comparatively costly.There are agencies who will take up complete teak wood or other wood flooring on turn key basis including polishing using imported polishing material which will make the floor last for years without any damage.Of course you should not pour water over wooden floor surface or wash the floor with wet cloth.It will damage polishing.You can definitely use wooden flooring in areas where traffic is less like office room,bed rooms etc.

Other tiles

Granite and marble is on the way out of flooring.At least that is the present day trends .Marble is practically gone out and granite will move out shortly.Developments in technology has brought in materials like Naturoc tiles of NITCO and similar tiles from other manufacturers.These are available in thicker thickness thereby making it easy for bending edges like in granite.There are varieties of tiles which has got both anti stain mirror finish and rough surface.With rough surface tiles that can be bend at edges,these tiles make ideal choice for stair steps in place of granite slabs used earlier.

Tiles of various design and colour combinations now available and your Architect can custom design your toilet walls and floors using design specifically developed for you.

Outside wall tiles

Your compound walls and outside exposed walls can be given special exterior wall tiles with new design combinations.Similarly good design interlock tiles are available for laying  in the compound and car porch

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Our services and free consultation

You can  have free consultation from me on Kerala Architecture, Vasthu aspects and anything related to house construction.
Having built more than 200 houses directly and designed many more houses, my knowledge and experience can be used by you to get a better house by design and professional work during construction

Write to me to
you will get reply within 48 hours


1. Architectural Services
For building your dream house in Kerala or for building any other type of building, we can design your building by providing you effective guidance and design for
a)Preparation of Plan of the building
b) Elevations both two dimensional and three dimensional
c) Submission drawings to local authority
d) Engineering Estimate specifying cost for each item of work
e)Structural Engineering drawings for execution of the work
f) Detailed architectural drawings for the work
g) Interior design
h)Landscape and exterior work details
i) Site visits as and when required for guidance and supervision
2. Real estate assistance
For purchase of land or building in Kerala, we can provide you the following services:

a) Locating land or building for purchase with the assistance of our Real estate division ( in and around Cochin only).
b)Architectural, structural and legal evaluation of the property to be purchased
c) Verification of title documents of the property by legal experts
d) Documentation of the property purchase
e)Assistance for registration of the property and after registration formalities
f) Periodic maintenance of the property if the property is in and around Cochin
3. Construction of the building
We can take up construction of the building with complete professional care and guidance anywhere in Kerala and outside state(on case to case basis) subject to acceptance of terms and conditions of our construction division directly by using our trained work force, with complete supervision and guidance by our architects and engineers.
4. Vasthu consultancy
We can guide you on Vasthu before developing plan of the house and during construction also.
We can also inspect your existing building for Vasthu compliance and suggest suitable modifications to obtain better Vasthu compliance.
5. Interior design
We have a team of experienced and qualified Interior designers with complete man power and infrastructure to implement interior work with all the goodness of traditional Kerala Architecture and with modern technology and innovations.
6. Remodeling, Interior and furnishing of your existing building
Your existing old building can be made new(renovated) with remodeling, interior modifications and furnishings by our experts
7. Land scaping and other services
Our experts can convert your vacant space into more useful space and enhance its appearance and utility. Land around your house can be converted into more useful space with better appearance and aesthetic look.
Any other services related to your building also can be referred to us.
We have qualified experts with experience in building more than 200 houses in different parts of Kerala and outside state and we have designed and remodeled much more houses.  
Mail your enquiries for our services to

Or call us 

00 91 9388701702
00 91 9497736072
00 91 9388701707
00 91 4842536895
00 91 4846571155

Fax-00 91 484 2531671

Every effort is taken to provide you authentic information on Kerala Architecture and it is features and  relevant information on building a house in Kerala. VIRUVELIL group of Companies , V.H.Thomas or any person interacting through this website on behalf of VIRUVELIL group of companies will not be responsible for the authenticity or correctness of the information provided through this website or conveyed by email to any person contacting us for information, assistance, guidance or for any commercial activity related or followed after any enquiry or request for services /assistance/guidance

We do not accept responsibility for loss or damage arising from the use of the information provided through this website which may be creative work/technical data without our consent/involvement and guidance. We have complete, unchallenged copy right for all information, data, pictures, design details provided through this website. Any dissemination, use, review, distribution, printing or copying in part or full of information, data, pictures design details provided through this website is strictly prohibited

Any activity followed by information provided by our websites,blogs , by email or in responses to queries to V.H.Thomas should be carried out  with our assistance,involvement and guidance.We will not be responsible for any effects/damages to your property or any other adverse results by following our instructions without our involvement/guidance/assistance

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Pile foundation

A lot depends upon soil and nature of land where you intend to construct house especially for foundation work of your house.

In places like Cochin where majority of land is marshy in nature which is filled with laterite soil  to get a feel of land,there is no other alternative other than going for concrete pile foundation even when you construct an ordinary house.

Scientific procedure to ascertain the nature of foundation required will be like this

1.Conduct soil test at the plot

If the plot is small a soil test at center of the plot will be sufficient using rig which goes down to something like 40-45 feet taking samples of soil or whatever you have down the line as the rig goes down.Samples thus taken will be tested in soil test laboratory and the results obtained will be given along with plan of the house to be built to a structural consultant.

2.Structural Engineering design of foundation

A structural consultant is an Engineer specialised in Structural Engineering at post graduate study level after his basic Engineering graduation.He will study soil test results and  architectural plan of the building and suggest foundation details for the house.This structural design for foundation of the building will tell you about what exactly you have to do to obtain a safe foundation in your plot which has weak soil conditions

3.Options possible

Exact nature of foundation will be decided by the structural consultant.But I can tell you about various possibilities that may be suggested by the structural consultant

1.Sand piling

If sand is available in your plot at depth not more than 20 feet,you can go for sand piling in the excavated area for foundation which is basically ramming the  foundation area with pile filled with sand and 1/4 inch metal up to a depth of 20 feet or where you can find sand.This is the cheapest option of pile foundation only if you are lucky to have sand at a depth of 20 feet

2.Manual concrete piling

You may not be lucky to get sand at 20 feet at most places in Cochin.Even if you dig down to 45 feet or more,in most places you will find only mud(clay) with absolute no trace of sand.So you will have to bore holes at places in foundation as per suggestions of structural consultant  and fill concrete of a richer variety after putting in place reinforcement as designed by consultant preferably with welded tying of round stirrups.

3.Compaction concrete piling

This is better option technically and cost wise.Here you bore holes to desired depths,fill concrete and then by force ram down reinforcement as per design.But this compaction may cause slight vibrations nearby and your neighbor may object to it.So you will have no other option other than going for costlier manual method.In places where your neighbour do not object you can go for compaction method

Sometimes your structural consultant may suggest doing sand piling in the entire area where the house comes in addition to concrete piling at corner points and other places where he finds it essential .This will be much more safer as it will strengthen entire area and chances of floor going down after flooring  work can be avoided.

After the concrete piling you will have to do so many other works to complete your foundation work. See pictures of compaction piling.

Even in hilly terrain like Nedumkandom in Iduki district even though land may be quite strong with laterite,there will be big slope in land terrain.Some times it may not be possible to level the land.So there also foundation cost can go up trying to level foundation.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Building a house-is that so simple?

I get at least two or three emails everyday each saying like this


I plan to construct a house with following rooms.Please reply  and inform me cost of building the house


Some persons write like this


I am planning to build four bed room house with 1500 sft .Please tell me the cost

Tell me what is the current cost of constructing a house


After building more than 200 houses in Kerala directly and acting as designer/consultant for many more houses,I cannot give an answer to these questions.

Some how people seem to think that house construction is very simple.They think that If you ask some one in the field of construction ,he will tell you cost of building the house immediately.

How can anyone predict the cost of building a house without any data? Without site visit and study of soil and nature,without designing at least a plan of the house,how can any one predict cost of building a house?

House construction involves purchase of lot of materials which cannot be purchased and stored at site at a time.When you buy these materials,you will have to pay ruling market price if you want the material.Even if you take the case of labour involved,there are so many different types of labour is involved in building a house.You will have to pay them ruling rates on the dates of hiring labour.

In such a fast changing situation when there can be situations of material and labour not even available when you need them,how will you simply predict cost of building a house?

Even the process of building a house will  take not less than an year.During this period so many changes can happen in  in price, availability of material , labour,technology,trends are possible.Even Ambani took seven years to build his 100 crore house in Mumbai.Naturally time taken is not due to his inability to raise 100 crores.But work require time to get completed in spite of money you may have.

To complete building a house you need more than money.You should have the capability to manage these factors or people to reach your dream home in the best possible manner

1.Your designer/Architect

He may be having many works at a time.Unless he puts his mind sincerely in your work you will not get best out of him.Just money alone will not get you the best out of him

2.Your builder and his team of workers

They will also be having other works going on simultaneously.After your work is over,you are least bothered whether these people continue to get work for sustaining their lives.But they will naturally have to adjust to keep other works going on and other works coming in to remain in the business or field of work.

3.Your material suppliers

4.Your financiers , friends and relatives

5.People who give you free advice

Actually they create more problems during execution of work.If you start listening and following those free advices,you will land up in a mess.

Square feet cost of construction

Let me ask you one simple question.Who is talking about this so called square feet cost of construction?No professional will commit that at so much square feet cost a house construction can be completed.

For all the houses I built when completed each of them has got different square feet cost,if I bothered to write down all expenses from beginning to end and divide total cost by square feet plinth area. in the end.

For each house soil conditions will be different,nature of land will be different,access to  building materials production centers will be different,design will be different,needs of house owner will be different.In short every parameters will be different.Then how can you say that there will be a uniform constant square feet cost of construction?

Only non professional contractors without any technical knowledge will give you a quotation with square feet cost.He will try to minimise his costs during construction by compromising on quality aspects knowingly and sometimes without knowing also..He want profit by hook or crook..He knows very well that you do not know much about construction.That is precisely why you did not bother to get assistance and guidance from a professional.It is easy to cheat some one who has only very little and mostly wrong ideas on building a house.You are actually such a person.I have seen contractors cheating clients by knowingly talking about bad and wrong practices in construction as the right thing to do.You will simply believe him. .

Even though he might have given some square feet cost indication initially he will find ways and means to collect extras from you.In the end you will worry only about completing the house some how.If a contractor is doing the work,even if you want to change him in between it will not be possible.So you end up paying whatever he demands and that sweet low square feet cost he told initially to you to get the work from you is silently forgotten by you and the contractor.

So all those writing to me asking for square feet cost want me to tell a lie.I simply refuse to tell that lie.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Developments in concrete technology

I have recently attended few lecture series of Mr.C.M.Dordi,Chief of QA of Ambuja Cements on developments in concrete technology It may not be of much interest to lay men on most of the details,I will just give a hint of changes that is taking place in concrete technology for the benefit of my readers who are basically laymen finding ways and means of building their dream house in Kerala.

Mr.Dordi is a highly qualified and experienced Engineer who previously worked with Tata Electric at Mumbai for.their 500 MW power projects.

Original 1:2:4 concrete is now giving way to much more capable stronger concrete.This 1:2:4 concrete is referred to as M20 concrete by engineers.As the strength and quality of concrete improves this M no.goes up.For Burj Building which is supposed to be the tallest building in the world M80 concrete was used.When the concrete become better it is called HPC(High performance concrete).Instead of having just fine aggregates(sand),coarse aggregates(metal in our usual language) ,cement and water,this HPC has the following components

1.Cement of better strength (above 60 grade)

2.Water in calculated quantity(not as you please)

3.Fine aggregates

4.Coarse aggregates

5.Cement adhesives

6.Fly ash

7.Micro silica


If you use optical fibers in concrete you can even get transparent or translucent concrete.As technology advances there will be two type of cement.One high setting cement of the order of grade 60 or above.Two,cement for plastering of low grade as plastering does not require high grade cement.

Very soon,you will have plaster mix coming in bags just like you buy cement.So ,you will not have to arrange for river sand .There will be ready mix concrete which can be made to remain not setting even as long as 56 hours so that concrete workers can go on week end holidays and come back to resume concrete work.

As the use of high performance concrete increases steel reinforcement can be reduced as concrete itself will be more stronger.Even with high performance concrete water curing after concrete laying  will be very important.

Immediately after laying of concrete the reactions taking place will generate temperature as high as 25 degree centigrade.So when you do concreting at high atmospheric temperature,it is better to cover concreted surface immediately after concreting with a plastic sheet when it is real hot atmospheric conditions to prevent hair line cracks forming on concreted surface.You can remove the plastic sheet next day morning when you are ready for water curing.

Water curing with plenty of water is essential  for three days immediately after laying of concrete.Any carelessness in this case for those critical three days cannot and will not be compensated by curing after three days though concrete gradually attains higher and higher strength with curing going on for about 56 days

Friday, October 15, 2010

Nalukettu house-features

I get enquiries for design and construction of Nalukettu house quite often.Many of those who desire to build a Nalukettu house do not really know merits and problems associated with a Nalukettu house.But still prefer to have a Nalukettu house possibly due to desire to have a traditional design house or simply to show off as one of the major requirement when building a house in Kerala these days is to announce to neighbours and relatives about the newly acquired  financial status of the owner of the house.

One of the major differences between present day houses and houses of yester years is that for present day houses security and privacy are  major concerns.Again lighting and ventilation is not required to be generated through natural means these days as Electricity is available.In olden days there was no Electric supply and hence house has to be designed to provide lighting and ventilation through natural ways.

Nalukettu type houses provide natural lighting and ventilation .Security was not a major concern in those days partly due to large number of inmates in the house due to joint family living and also due to lesser wealth stored in the building..


Typically A nalukettu house has got a Poomukham in the centre of the portion of front side of building.This is where the master of house used to relax by sitting in a  chair which provides facility to recline in the chair.So the master of the house will be partly lying and partly sitting.All his visitors are not supposed to sit in his presence.So they come and stand in front of Poomukham  at Ground level and talk to master of house with fear and reverence.As all sides of Poomukham except entry to house portion is open,master of house will get sufficient wind and breeze while relaxing in his “Charu Kasera”.

Such a master of house cannot be seen these days and hence Poomukham in the same manner is not required now.

Chuttu verandah

Connected to  poomukham as a continuation of the open space,there will be verandah going around the house.If not exactly going round the house at least it will go around front and one side of the house.This Chuttu verandah with typically about four to five feet width can have Charupady which is wooden seating arrangement .Usually this Charupady is built in Teak wood with seating and reclining portion both in Teak wood with reclining portion possibly with wooden hand carvings.

This Charupady must have been a later addition as originally no body was allowed to sit at same level of master of house.Now a days, to save money and reduce cost people have started using granite slab instead of wooden seating of Charupady.Wooden reclining portion of charupady is also  being  substituted  with concrete reclining portion.But these substitutes lack elegance and in my opinion you should go for  teak wood that too Kerala Plantation teak preferably the Nilambur variety for the best finish.

Charupady will be useful to have informal discussions with relatives and friends  as the position of charupady allows both natural ventilation and light.


Lot of people have a mistaken notion that  a house with Nadumuttom is called Nalukettu.Even though Nadumuttom is central and essential for Nalukettu house,Poomukham and Chuttu verandah also are essential features of Nalukettu house.Nadumuttom is normally a square gap not less than ten feet by ten feet size  preferably at exact centre of the house.Even if that is not possible due to other construction requirements,the centre of Nadumuttom should be in line with centre line of Poomukham and front door opening.In the traditional arrangement where slope roofs of rooms around Nadumuttom slope down on all four sides to Nadumuttom,there has to be at least four feet wide passage like a verandah around Nadumuttom.

In the present day adaptation of this arrangement Dining room ,Family living space and Formal living space are provided at three different sides of Nadumuttom thereby allowing visibility and access to Nadumuttom from these three  living spaces.At least on one side of the house close to these common spaces,Chuttu verandah comes up.So naturally you will have to place bed rooms in the other side leaving rear space for Kitchen and front space for formal living connected to Poomukham and front door.

Naturally the plinth area of house with Nalukettu arrangement goes up.Even with 3000 sft plinth area you cannot have more than three bed rooms at Ground level in this arrangement.Nalukettu houses are mostly single storey.

Closing top of Nadumuttom

This was not a problem for yester year people  as they kept Nadumuttom top open .That opening was required for light and ventilation.As I told you earlier security was not their problem in those day houses.From about sitting height there was not even any brick work as they used to have wood work with ample gaps for light and air around all rooms.Now we cannot even think of such open type bed rooms and other living spaces.Check my blog entry on Krishnapuram palace at Kayamkulam.The entire palace is an open building with free flow of light and air  and the major component of house construction was thick size wood.We cannot even think of using such quantity and quality wood these days for house construction.Krishnapuram palace is a Pathinaru kettu house(House with four Nadumuttom) used by the King for his leisure days.Protected by armed soldiers ,King was not worried about any intruder entering his house without his knowledge and permission.

But now  a days you have to close top of Nadumuttom with concrete slope roof at a higher level to allow air inside through side openings at higher level possibly with grills or brick work with small gaps.

In conclusion I can say that it is not advisable to go for a nalukettu house unless of course budget is not your problem.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Again on cost of construction

If you go to a shop selling rice and ask for price of rice for a Kg,you will get an answer from the seller who might have been selling rice for many years.If you ask him what will be the price of rice after a month,possibly the rice seller will look at you with a smile or contempt in his face(depending upon his mood) and will ask you whether you are mad to ask such a foolish question.If you continue to press for an answer saying that you have been selling rice for many years,why cant you tell approximate cost after a month,the shop fellow will tell you to get lost.

People keep on sending mails to me and say that he is planning to construct house and what will be the square feet plinth area cost of construction.They add these words of praise to me some times:”You have been designing and building houses for so many years.So you must be able to tell”

Rice seller is not able to predict cost of rice after a month.Then how can any one predict cost of constructing a house which may  get completed  after a year or more? House construction involves not one material but hundreds of material and different types of labour.How can any one predict cost of a house to be constructed?

.Everyday price of materials and labour keep going up continuously.If any contractor quote a firm price,to keep his margin he will have to compromise somewhere and if that is not possible,he will be forced to leave contract mid way  as no body will be willing to build your house by spending money from his pocket.All estimates are sort of guesses.

Trouble with those who go for house construction in Kerala is that they have lot of wrong and foolish ideas and concepts about house construction.First and fore most is the thinking that if some one has money to build house every body related to house construction will come running for the cake.Those who come running will be crooks in the field.They know how to cheat  the client and run away with profit.
Another important wrong concept is that if you simply know square feet plinth area of a house cost can be known by multiplying square feet plinth area in to that "rate"
I have directly built more than 200 houses ,designed and acted as consultant for many more.All through this work,I have never come to know about that magical"rate"
There is no such thing as square feet plinth area rate which will be known before construction starts.Only way of finding it out if you are so much fond of finding that "rate"will be to add up all your expenses after completion of your house construction and divide by your square feet plinth area.Even then it will be the "rate " for your house construction and any body else building house will have a different" rate"
If you have decided to build your house,first important cost reduction exercise is to get a professional design,assistance and guidance through out construction.That will save you lots of money , better utility,lesser wastage and maximum facilities for money spent.
There is an Engineering Estimate method by which we calculate quantities of each item of construction and multiplying such quantities thus obtained with unit rates currently used ,you will get almost near cost of structure of building.

For finishing work there are umpteen options now and the options will change and innovations will come even during the progress  of construction. of your house.
Time of construction also depend upon many ifs.Funniest part is that nobody knows answers for all those ifs.If everything goes well smoothly you may be able to finish structural work within 6 to 8 months depending upon favorable answers to hundreds of ifs

For any good builder of house in Kerala ,there are more work than  they can handle and hence there is no need to quote low price and get work some how.If some one is willing to quote lower price and get work by talking nicely and sweetly to you,that is a clear indication that you are being led to danger taking advantage of your greed to pay less and get more for less money.

Earlier there were only Thiruvalla and Kottayam people who were happy to cheat others by not paying or paying less.They get sort of thrill in cheating others and they consider it as their capability,being able to avoid payments   legitimately due to some one.For such crooked minded people Indian rupee has different values, if it is their money and if it is some body else’s money.Their money is more valuable and other man’s money and his efforts have no value.Now this sort of thinking is spreading to even other parts of Kerala.In my native village we used to call this as policy of Thoompa(spade).A spade can only take things.It never gives away anything.

Once we start respecting value of other man’s efforts and pay others what is legitimately due to them you get  quality work,loyalty,sincerity and dedication from  the man at the receiving end.That will definitely help you a lot in life as well as in building construction.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Room sizes

I have come across several cases where the client ask for larger room sizes without realising what can be or should be the ideal room sizes

A Bed room with size,300 cm(10 feet) and 270 cm(9 feet) is more than sufficient to keep the largest normally used cot of size,180 cm(6 feet) x 155cm(5.5 feet).This room size will leave sufficient space on either side of the cot.There should not be any toilet door opening to this bed space as it will take passage space from this.So you have to have a space where toilet door can be opened.This space is normally indicated as dress space in plans even though the space may not be used for dressing.

If you want to keep a table on one side of cot,you will have to increase that side length by another 90 cm.So your bed space now goes up to 300cm x 360 cm.This size is normally considered as comfortable space for a bed room with dress and toilet nearby.Most of the apartments have bed room size as 300cm x 360cm..If you  want to increase the bed space ,maximum you need to go in case of a villa can be 420cm x 390 cm(14 feet x 13 feet).Bed space above this is simply a wastage.

When you look at formal living room where you entertain your guests you have to see how many persons will visit you at a time.In a normal house not more than  five people will not be using formal living room at a time.So there is no point in having very large living room.

Members of the family require a living space where they can sit and relax,watch TV,work on your lap top,listen to music away from place where guests sit and thus a space called as family living space is required.You can have Dining room on one side of this family living ,Pooja,access to stair also close to this space.There can be another family living space where you reach by climbing up stair in the case of two storey house.This space can also be combined with Home theatre even though some people prefer Home theatre space closed to avoid disturbance to other family members who does not want to watch TV or listen to music.Home theatre can ideally have a size of 450cm to 600 cm in length to 390 cm in width

When the room size or (loading span in structural engineering language) increases structural cost will increase due to more steel reinforcement required.So unless you really need it,do not increase size of rooms.Apart from structural cost,over all cost of house will also increase unnecessarily if you increase size of rooms without any reason or justification.

For keeping all necessary gadgets of Kitchen in workable distance is very important in Kitchen.If you have an unnecessarily large Kitchen,the person working in the kitchen will find it difficult as she will have to walk around kitchen a lot adding to her strain.I have observed that Kitchen with dimensions 270 cm x 240 cm(9 feet x 8 feet) is more than sufficient to keep all Kitchen facilities at a comfortable distance allowing lesser running around for the Kitchen user.You need to add to these dimensions only if you want to add an eating place inside Kitchen or an Island in the Kitchen just like in western houses.Check on possible dimensions required for adding a small dining space or island and then suitably increase dimensions of Kitchen in consultation with your Architect.

There has to be a utility space in the house where you can keep washing machine,ironing table,grinder etc.Keep it nearer to Kitchen and Family living space.Unless you live in Village areas,you do not require a firewood Kitchen or  so called work area.

Guest bed room is rarely used these days as with increased availability of travel facilities and faster life nobody would prefer to stay overnight in the house of a relative.So go for guest bed only if you can afford it .

In the beginning of construction when you prepare plan of the house,you may feel like adding one more room though not essential and increasing sizes of rooms unnecessarily.But all cost indications given by your contractor and Architect can go wrong and construction cost can only go up in Kerala Conditions.So plan a house with dimensions of rooms just sufficient for your needs and definitely not bigger than required.Your Architect can guide you  after understanding your needs in selecting ideal room sizes for your house.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Foundation of the building

Having built houses in different parts of state of Kerala,I have come across different beliefs in different areas about foundation work for a building.

Kerala is yet to reach a situation were professionals are sought for design and construction of a building.Professional Architect and structural Engineer is considered to be ornamental requirements for those who build large costly houses.Most of the professionals of Kerala are also responsible to a great extent for this alienation from the majority of their possible clientele ,as they never tried to make themselves easily accessible to their possible clients.

People of Kerala have this peculiar behavior where they try to avoid making payments to professionals for their services.I have come across several people who ask “Why you want to take thousands of rupees for drawing some lines as plan of the house?”They will not bother about spending lakhs of rupees but spending few thousands will be extremely painful to them especially if it is design charges or consultation charges.For such services they expect the professional to be happy with whatever they may please to pay without specifying any specific fees or charges.

In different locations of Kerala  people are following certain practices for doing foundation of a building without bothering to check with a qualified professional to see whether that procedure is the right ,technically correct way of doing foundation of a building.

In most of the places especially in southern Kerala people believe that excavation for foundation of a building should be at least six feet deep.Soil in most of these places are quite strong and in some places it is even hard laterite.There is no point in breaking this solid soil strata to have “deep excavation”.Technically depth of excavation do not matter much if you have a stable soil.Of course having wider excavation helps to increase strength of foundation.

After excavation in most of the places people use dry pack rubble foundation.Instead of doing rubble dry pack foundation carefully with good tight packing,rubble is simply thrown into the deep excavation area leaving lots of gap in between rubble pieces.This actually weakens foundation.In stable soil conditions you do not need more than two feet depth for excavation.It is better to make it about 45 cm so that foundation when done with careful dry packing of rubble will have about 15 cm projecting up.This 15 cm or slightly lower projection of foundation due to ups and downs of ground level can be used to raise ground level slightly higher.

Once the foundation dry packing of rubble is done fill the gaps of rubble work with crusher sand  using water forced into the foundation as can be seen in the pictures below





Force fill crusher sand into rubble foundation till water will not go down any more thus making your foundation rubble work one monolithic  water tight rubble work. You can  then be sure of strength of your rubble foundation.

Above proposed ground level rubble foundation is called Basement.You can either do it again with dry pack rubble work(which I recommend)or Rubble work in cement mortar.In case you do daypack,point outside of basement with mortar to fill gaps between rubble pieces.Again fill inside of basement with red sand for filling and force fill this sand into basement rubble work using water forced inside as in the case of foundation this time from inside basement.Top of basement may be given a plastering with mortar.See pictures.



Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Is Architect just a drawing worker?

When I see the behavior and reactions of some of my clients I get a feeling that they consider an Architect as simply some one to draw plan and Elevation of building as per some cranky ideas they may have.

Quite often I have come across situations caused by highly inflated ego of the client who thinks and demands that Architect should simply follow his orders and as the person spending money , Architect should simply act as a paid employee  and nothing else.

In this modern age a paid employee is not supposed to be a simply yes man obeying by word even foolish directions given by the boss .Employee today is supposed to be more informed than the boss possibly due to his knowledge and expertise at least in a field of knowledge.As a person who knows better ,employee is supposed to advise his boss  and direct him to better course of action using his better knowledge and intelligence.

When I was building house at Ootty from the very beginning,my client was simply vetoing most of what I advised him based on my knowledge and experience simply citing the reason as he working as Vice president of his company managing much bigger budgets than What I am managing.That is no reason to allow him to go on doing blunder after blunder simply because money involved is his.In spite of my mild reminders he was insisting on making wrong decisions over ruling my suggestions,with the argument that when he spends money ,things should be done as he pleases.After few reminders I will leave matters to his choice and I will simply watch him doing mistakes after mistakes wasting his own money in the process.On quite a few occasions I reminded him that there is no point in hiring an expert if he is not willing to follow his advices.

Another client of mine who came to me for designing his house after not satisfied with work done by other Architects earlier gave me a list of his requirements and when I gave him the design he was quite pleased with it and expressed it.Suddenly he realised that square feet plinth area of the house is higher than his expectations as he happened to be one of those persons who think that cost of a house is simply dependant on square feet plinth area and nothing else.He then asked me to cut down plinth area drastically without reducing any of his requirements for the house.I said that it is not possible.Then he started literally abusing me and told me that Architect is supposed to  obey whatever client asked him to do.

In another rather funny case an NRI client of mine approached me for design and construction of house at Cochin attracted to me after reading my blogs.He has a six cents land with lot of restrictions.When I put down his requirements into a drawing,the land was not sufficient to meet all his needs.When Vasthu compliance is brought in it reduces flexibility of the Architect as certain positions for a particular type of rooms are essential to comply with Vasthu.After using all my creative and experience capabilities,I came up with a plan which was a compromise on his demands and requirements within the limitations of land ,vasthu and building rules.He was very much upset and started demanding me to do impossible tasks.I had no option other than saying bye to him.There are several such stories basically due to ignorance  and highly inflated ego of the client which I do not want to go on narrating.

Basically you hire an expert to get the best.Of course you are spending your money and you have every right and reason to put forward  your wishes and demands.But when an experienced expert advises you,you should have the wisdom to listen to him.No professional is going to insist you to accept his advices.It is for you to try to understand why he is advising you possibly against your demands.If you chose to ignore his advices and go on with satisfaction of your ego,finally when you realise the mistake,it will be too late and you can only suffer your losses due to wrong decisions.

In my work sites,I listen to practically illiterate workers and try to accept their suggestions wherever i feel that it is worth it.I never keep my ego between their suggestions and my acceptance of it.By experience they may have so many valid suggestions worth examining.Unless I am clear that it is wrong,I try to accept it for the benefit of better work.I have learned a lot through interactions with practically illiterate workers.So it is the idea which is more important not the man who put it forward.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Foundation-Soil Investigation

There are lot of wrong concepts,beliefs and wrong practices on construction of houses in Kerala depending upon location.As I have built houses in almost all parts of Kerala,I have come across these local practices and beliefs many a time and had tough time convincing local people especially in the interior parts of Kerala as almost the entire population around construction site will come to the site to supervise,question and offer free advices and suggestions sometimes cautioning the owner,sometimes threatening him with dire consequences and always opposing what we “coming from Cochin”  are doing.

First of all you have to assess the soil condition technically.In stable soil conditions,an experienced Construction Engineer will be able to assess the soil nature and suggest appropriate foundation design.In places like Cochin where most of the land is filled up or marshy area with practically not even a trace of sand even up to depths as high as 40 feet,a proper professional soil test will be essential to find out what type of foundation will be required.

While conducting such a soil test they will dig the place where the house has to come up up to about 45 feet and will collect samples of soil on the way to depths.These samples of soil will be tested in Engineering laboratory and a proper professional soil test report will be given to you.This report will be passed on to a Structural Consultant(An Engineer who has done post graduation in Structural Engineering) preferably with experience in designing structures for many years in that area.

Structural consultant will give a foundation design prepared using a software called STAAD in consultation with the Construction Engineer/Architect concerned.For smaller plots one bore for soil test will be sufficient normally done at centre of the plot.For bigger plots,more no of soil test bores will have to be used.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Engineering Estimate

After the Plan is finalised an Engineering organisation dealing with house construction will be able to give you a detailed item wise,step by step costing at least for the structure part.

From the drawings they will calculate quantity of each item of construction like brick work,concrete,plastering etc . Using data available with them about cost of inputs required for construction of each item in the Estimate like material,labour and other expenses involved,unit rates for each item can be calculated to a greater extent of correctness depending upon extent of their involvement with  regular construction activity.

If you simply get an Engineering Estimate from a design office or those with little day to day contact with actual construction activity,even though quantity of each item calculated may be correct,costing figures need not necessarily be correct as cost varies rapidly in Kerala conditions.

For work after structural work like foundation,brickwork,concreting it will be better to attempt to take cost figures after completion of structure work.One of the main reason for this is that for after structure work there are so many options each varying in cost figures at greater difference.Depending upon fund availability and your taste for finishing and interior works,cost figures will vary.You will need the guidance and assistance of your Architect in plenty at this stage even though many people think that Architect and Structural Engineer is required only at structure stage

Friday, July 2, 2010

What we can do for you

1. Architectural Services
For building your dream house in Kerala or for building any other type of building, we can design your building by providing you effective guidance and design for
a)Preparation of Plan of the building
b) Elevations both two dimensional and three dimensional
c) Submission drawings to local authority
d) Engineering Estimate specifying cost for each item of work
e)Structural Engineering drawings for execution of the work
f) Detailed architectural drawings for the work
g) Interior design
h)Landscape and exterior work details
i) Site visits as and when required for guidance and supervision
2. Real estate assistance
For purchase of land or building in Kerala, we can provide you the following services:

a) Locating land or building for purchase with the assistance of our Real estate division ( in and around Cochin only).
b)Architectural, structural and legal evaluation of the property to be purchased
c) Verification of title documents of the property by legal experts
d) Documentation of the property purchase
e)Assistance for registration of the property and after registration formalities
f) Periodic maintenance of the property if the property is in and around Cochin
3. Construction of the building
We can take up construction of the building with complete professional care and guidance anywhere in Kerala and outside state(on case to case basis) subject to acceptance of terms and conditions of our construction division directly by using our trained work force, with complete supervision and guidance by our architects and engineers.
4. Vasthu consultancy
We can guide you on Vasthu before developing plan of the house and during construction also.
We can also inspect your existing building for Vasthu compliance and suggest suitable modifications to obtain better Vasthu compliance.
5. Interior design
We have a team of experienced and qualified Interior designers with complete man power and infrastructure to implement interior work with all the goodness of traditional Kerala Architecture and with modern technology and innovations.
6. Remodeling, Interior and furnishing of your existing building
Your existing old building can be made new(renovated) with remodeling, interior modifications and furnishings by our experts
7. Land scaping and other services
Our experts can convert your vacant space into more useful space and enhance its appearance and utility. Land around your house can be converted into more useful space with better appearance and aesthetic look.
Any other services related to your building also can be referred to us.
We have qualified experts with experience in building more than 200 houses in different parts of Kerala and outside state and we have designed and remodeled much more houses.  
Mail your enquiries for our services to

Or call us

00 91 9388701702
00 91 9497736072
00 91 9388701707
00 91 4842536895
00 91 4846571155
Fax-00 91 484 2531671

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Site clearing,leveling and filling

Once the Architect mark four boundaries of the place where your house will come up,you will have to clear that space by removing or cutting down trees or any other items that may exist in the space.

While cutting down trees make sure that you remove tree routes also.Removing root of the tree later will be difficult after cutting down top above soil portion of the trees.

It is better not to do any leveling or filling of the space before  foundation work except in case of piling foundation where you will require a clear level filled space.In the case of rubble foundation,you can do the filling after foundation rubble work is done.

After the site is cleared your architect will have to do set out of the building at site.In some cases Architect may issue a Set out plan of the house and work in charge may do this set out work.But it will be better to do this very important step of construction in presence of the person who designed the house as he will be able to make any minor changes if required on the spot.

Set out of the plan is nothing but drawing plan of your house on the land where it comes with strings and posts.Traditionally it was called as “Kutti adi”.Central line of the brick wall is  drawn by using strings and wooden posts.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Loosing technology of our elders

There are so many specialties of construction of houses in Kerala adopted by our earlier experts of House construction.Most of these die with that expert as he never bothers to pass on the knowledge to next generation.With his death ,the technology dies.

We have heard a lot on Perumthachan.There are  exceptionally great work of Architecture used in temple construction at Uliyannoor  near Alwaye where Perumthachan used to live.Whatever extra ordinary capabilities Perumthachan had in designing and building is not available in any books and nobody has made an attempt to study specialties of those buildings.Similarly the technology of making tiled roof with wooden rafters which was so common in Kerala of yester years is practically lost as it is very difficult to find people who know about such roof structure work now as nobody practically do such roof work now.In one of the houses which I built about ten years back,owner of the house(An Advocate of high court of Kerala,who is no more now) insisted on having such a roof for portion of his house facing a lake at Kadavanthra in Cochin.Even though he called me to see the work in progress,even I did not bother to learn the technique from those carpenters.

There are so many special features of olden days Kerala Architecture which are simply forgotten.It will be good if some one can at least make a study of such features by visiting such old buildings and houses in Kerala.Thekkanattu Parayil house at Thycattussery near Cherthala which is about 120 years old is one of those remarkable houses using olden days Kerala architecture features.

Locating position to build house

This is again something used to be done by Asaris as a part of their secret knowledge never explained how to anyone.The so called”Sthanam Kanal” will be done by the Asari by performing so many intricate steps like telling the owner of the house to cut a tree branch from anywhere in the plot.

Owner of the house is supposed to walk towards east and cut a tree branch which has flowing fluid coming out when you cut the tree branch.Some of the owners must be knowing this and they will walk correctly and cut the correct tree branch.If they do not do like this knowingly or unknowingly then construction of house is not supposed to be auspicious.

Question of locating position of house arises only when you have more space in the land.If you have a three cents plot and after leaving free spaces as per Building rules,you do not have much options.

I have tried to enquire with these sthanam kanal experts about how they go about locating most appropriate place for house in a larger plot,nobody was willing to part with the secrets.So I searched Vasthu books about this issue.

In a larger plot,you divide the land into four equal parts.Then position your house in the North east part and in cases where north east part is not big enough to have a house,keep it as close as possible to North East.North East in any case is Easanya which is the most auspicious place of the land.So this is as simple as that and you can find out the most appropriate place for house now without having to call an Asari who will simply make lot of exhibition of words and acts before he finally put that first wood post to mark location of house without ever explaining why he chosen that place.

Again as Per Vasthu books this first “kutti adikkal”(placing wooden post to mark beginning of house construction) should be done at the most auspicious time by consulting an Astrologer.This being the first act of construction is more important than usual Stone laying ceremony which is just a function and nothing more.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Vasthu compliance

Almost everyone irrespective of religion and cast are now aware of importance of Vasthu in designing and building a house.Some people think of Vasthu as a superstitious belief.Vasthu is not superstition or blind belief.It is basically a science which deals with effect of polarity on human beings developed  by old sages of India.
Like many sciences developed by old Indian sages, several aspects of Vasthu are also lost especially those dealing with why certain effects happen.Such loss has happened mainly because of reluctance of our old sages to teach the knowledge they acquired till they find a student good enough for teaching.Sometimes they will never find that good student and the knowledge acquired by the sage will die with him.All science and other knowledge oceans we have are passed on to next generation through books and in normal case,next generation after studying and understanding knowledge already acquired try to improve upon that.
One area where there is no clear cut written information is  available is on House construction In Kerala.That is why I started writing these blogs using my experience in designing and building houses in Kerala.
During my years in designing and building houses,I have seen and heard the influence of Vasthu factors in the life of people living in houses.With these first hand knowledge I can tell that Vasthu as written in books are completely correct and it influences life of people.But Vasthu is one area where there are so many crooks with little or no knowledge in Vasthu but pretends to be experts in Vasthu .They emphatically tell people totally wrong ideas as vasthu factors.Most of them belong to old “Asaries”of Kerala.
As Per Vasthu there are four sections in a house.North East portion is called Eesanya.This is ideal for Pooja room and this area should be kept neat and tidy.This is the only area where there can be well for the plot.Our old asaris used to keep Kitchen in North East and some of those crooks who call themselves as experts of Vasthu insists on advising people to put Kitchen at North East which is not correct and it will give bad effects to people staying in the house.
Second zone is South east. It is called Agni kone and it is ideal for Kitchen.If you have a Bed room at South east it will give very bad effects.South West is called Nairudhi and North West is called Vayu corner.Ideal position for Bed room is at South west.In an office the Chief should sit at south west.North West can be second option for Kitchen.If you want to study Vasthu get book on Vasthu available at The Avenue  Press,25,D’Silva Road,Mylapore.Chennai-600004.Please do not simply believe all those self proclaimed experts on Vasthu who will definitely misguide you.
I had several experiences of these crooks misguiding my clients as I do not wear a Kaavi mundu and sport  a long beard to look like a Vasthu expert like these crooks.While designing house for a Marine Engineer at Edappally I have kept all rooms at Vasthu correct positions.But the owner of the house wanted to cross check with a Namboodiri who is the self proclaimed expert of Vasthu in Kerala and he get the maximum business for Vasthu consultation In Kerala.Almost everyone desirous of Vasthu compliance simply believes him and he due to his ignorance advice them wrong positions.Whatever plan of the house you take to him ,he will say that Vasthu is wrong.He has got a drawing section who will redraw the plan and will charge for redrawing the plan.Only if you redraw then only you can get money from the client.So he make money by misguiding people.
This Marine Engineer client of mine got the plan redrawn  by the Namboodiri resulting in wrong Vasthu positions.After few years he started getting wrong effects in the house and then he called another Vasthu expert who fortunately was knowledgeable on Vasthu.He told my client about wrong positions of rooms and then he called me.Fortunately I had copy of original plan with me untampered by the great Vasthu Namboodiri.So the new expert told my client that all changes made by the Namboodiri was wrong.I had several clients who go to him after getting plan from me and then he changes positions of rooms.Luckily in the recent past he made only dimension changes for a Plan I made and kept room positions as I kept.I do not know what happened to him.
Then there is this so called story of “Chuttalavu” and “Maranachuttu” talked about by our local Asaris which do not have any mention in Vasthu books.My attempts to learn this from old Asaris was not producing any effect as none of them was willing to part with the secret.Finally I got a fellow who after making me promise not to tell the secret to any one told me the great story of Marana Chuttu.I have not told anyone this secret even after years.This deals with chuttalavu or perimeter of plan of the house.Take this measurement in meters.Convert the measurement into old measurement system in Kerala.Instead of feet introduced by British people and meter introduced in India after independence,they used Kol as measurement unit.One kol is 0.72 meters.If you convert perimeter of a house into kol and divide it by a certain number, the result should not be a whole number.If it is so the owner of the house will die immediately after completing the house.This is called Maranachuttu.If it is exactly in between two numbers say something like 3.5,then the perimeter of the house is supposed to be highly auspicious.
I do not understand the logic of this.It is as good as assigning divinity to the measurement system called Kol and Angulam which cannot be true and hence this story of maranachuttu does not have any scientific basis and can only be a lie by these crooks.These local self proclaimed experts of Vasthu insists on having this safe perimeter for each room also and I do not follow these as in my opinion,this has no justifiable basis of correctness.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Building Permit

When you want to construct a building anywhere in Kerala,you will have to obtain Building Permit and Approved Plan and other drawings related to that building from concerned Local authority like Corporation/Municipality/Panchayath as the case may be as per provisions of Kerala building Rules ,1998 ,subsequent amendments and related decisions/restrictions imposed  by the local authority concerned.Drawings prepared and Building Permit application will have to be signed and sealed by an Architect/licensed Engineer/Supervisor.

I will give here a few important provisions of Kerala Building Rules

1.You will have to leave minimum 3M on road facing sides of plot.

2.You will have to leave 1M and 1.2M on either sides of plot.

3.You will have to leave 1.5 M on rear side.

Building Permit is issued for three years and can be renewed after that period against specific request to that effect.

There are restrictions imposed by Coastal Restricted Zones Act of Central government on building near rivers and lakes.There are restrictions for construction near main roads and National Highways.There are specific Zones assigned by concerned local authority restricting certain type of construction in that zone.

There will also be frozen areas where construction is prevented by local authority.Due to these reasons,it is always better to get the plot checked by a professional familiar with these restrictions in the area concerned before you purchase land for construction.You can also directly cross check with concerned local authority on restrictions if any before purchase of land.