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Further Reading:

Concerned about Build Quality

Franz Bauer from Zurich, wrote observing that "I see many houses in Phuket that while quite newly built are already deteriorating badly. I am interested to build a home in Phuket, but am concerned that it is not possible to achieve good construction standards and that maintenance will become a major burden"

Your point is well taken, there are indeed many buildings to be seen as you drive around the island, that I know to be recently built, but look as though they have not been maintained in a dozen years. Several factors contribute to this all too common condition, the major ones being owner/developer attitude, poor material selection and bad design and construction detailing. I will study each of these in turn and show how each can be overcome.

It is not unusual the world over for property developers or those of limited means to try to reduce the cost of building construction, particularly if strong consumer protection laws are not in force, but beyond these fundamental financial issues there is also a distinct attitude difference between traditional western and eastern thinking . In the west a building is conceived as a permanent and long lasting asset that will grow in value with age and have application to future generations (the English have an expression that their home is a castle), in the Buddhist traditions of the east there is no such concept of permanence. A house traditionally is a temporary structure, that satisfies a few basic functions of shelter - and to this day the concept of building a temporary (albeit increasingly showy) home that may be knocked down and replaced in a few years with another (hopefully much better - after some future windfall) still prevails.

Starting with this attitude of short term savings over permanence, it is important to stress when dealing with all involved when building a house for oneself in Phuket, is that long term durability and low maintenance (which is not to be confused with use of flashy expensive materials - though durable ones do tend to be more expensive) are your main criteria. Something obvious to you, but not so obvious to those who would be building your home.

Once over that hurdle, material selection becomes critical. In a market when the main focus is short-termism, there are no shortage of materials that have been designed to satisfy the requirement for cheap (or even not so cheap but showy) rather than durable. That said, quality materials are increasingly available from local sources (as attitudes locally start to change) as well as more expensive higher taxed imported ones.

Proper material selection and specification has to extend through all the materials used in a construction - a few high quality components can easily be let down by substandard ones in other parts of the structure. Weathering and waterproofing issues are paramount in this respect. But this is not just a question of material selection but also one of design detailing and construction implementation.

Local architects tend to rely on the building contractor to develop many of the details, and while this may work well enough in very standard local building, as soon as a new or foreign design idea is introduced, or a more complex system developed, new details will likely be required, details that a small local contractor is often ill equipped to solve.

The lessons here are either to keep your systems and structures very simple and traditional (and in this respect please note that the so called "traditional Thai structure" that is increasingly seeing a revival for foreign buyers in Phuket is - at least in it's revised form - no longer a simple or a traditional structure) or if you are going for a more adventurous design be sure that you have selected a conscientious architect and a contractor who are intelligent and attentive to details. If you are wanting to build a house to top western standards you should seriously consider taking on a foreign construction manager who is experienced in solving these issues and achieving work at the standard expected. With care and professional help a house as good or better that you are used to at home is definitely achievable.