Tropical house design – a different world

Small tropical house design is distinctly different from small house design for temperate or cold climates.
The key design issue for tropical homes is how to deal with two major factors: hot weather and, in most tropical zones, hurricanes or other extreme rain and wind events. Other things to take into consideration are the use of indigenous materials, either for aesthetic reasons or because of the simple non availability of first world materials in many tropical countries.
The circulation of air and the provision of shade are critical. It makes sense if possible to have the minimum of windows facing south, because south facing windows will let in the hottest air during the day. That means the south of the house is the best location for utility rooms. The north, east and west sides of the home should feature ample windows, preferably louvered, so that they are open to every breeze. Locating window and doors in order that through drafts are created is key for a naturally cooled home. Roof vents should be installed to draw air through the house, creating yet more cooling drafts.
Even if a home is to have air conditioning, making windows less significant for cooling, the outside of the house should feature deep shady verandas so that the air around the house is cooled, as well as, of course, providing pleasant seating areas.
In hurricane zones, construction should feature hurricane clips and other safety features such as heavy shutters that can be closed over windows and doors. In many Caribbean countries, the roof is actually tied down with chains, anchored into concrete pillars. If the roof stays on, the house stays safe!
Cement houses can be very hot, and many architects choose to use more traditional construction materials such as wood or siding, even pal style thatched roofs. The availability of exotic woods at relatively low prices make them a natural choice for floors, ceilings and fittings.
Finally, small tropical home design should treat the patios, verandas and surrounding gardens as important features contributing to the beauty and comfort of the home.