Visiting construction sites

Today we started visiting construction sites for houses designed by one of the architects we’re evaluating. We saw two buildings, let’s call them A and B. I will list their main characteristics and hour feelings after each visit below:

House A

  • Located in El Retiro
  • 400 sq m, cost of construction around COP $2.7M per sq m.
  • Steel structure, lighter weight but more expensive than concrete
  • 12 months construction time, mostly due to the general contractor being slow
  • Kitchen by Dell Ano was unimpressive, which may be more a reflection of the owners’ taste or budget than the brand’s (mid-range) quality
  • Non-structural walls made of concrete bricks covered with a layer of concrete, to look like cast in place concrete, without the cost (though this remains a more expensive some other options). Concrete color was beige-ish. Grey would have been more natural.
  • Plumbing and electrical wiring ran through the false ceiling and then down the walls, making maintenance easier than going underneath the floor and then up the walls.
  • Good use of a large skylight over the laundry room, custom-built with metal frames and a thick glass, resulting in an effective and cheap solution, albeit rather ugly looking.
  • 2.70 m ceilings and double-height 60 sq m living room which felt as if too much volume was devoted to it, besides being a fabulous place for playing with the echo.
  • Single glazing throughout the house, despite being located at nearly 2500 m altitude.
  • Large external, buried, tank for collecting rainwater as well as septic tank.
  • Garage embedded in the main house building with a surprisingly large skylight that we found hard to justify.
  • Use of “sapan” wood boards for the wall and ceilings, looking somewhat messy and sad compared to pinewood or plywood.
  • Volumes fairly predictable resembling a pile-up of larger-than-normal containers, impression accentuated by the frequent use of steel plates and beams.

House B

  • Located in Fizebad
  • 120 sq m, cost of construction around COP $2.0M per sq m. Despite the lower budget and the small form factor of the house, it still felt “liveable”.
  • Concrete structural walls with steel beams and columns supporting a simple roof made of a sandwich of oak planks, air/steel, superboard and some synthetic outside layer.
  • 24 sq m living room, which appears to be adequate for a 2-floor module, although on the small side.
  • Postcard window in the kitchen placed at 160 cm height, seemingly a signature of the architect since it was also found in House A. We remain unconvinced by that feature.
  • Where the low budget for that house is felt most acutely is in the utterly “simple” boxy volume topped by a slopping roof.

I can’t say we fell in love with either house but the architect remained charming and very competent in explaining his choices. In both cases, the customers gave him “carte blanche” in architectural terms, which wouldn’t be the case for us.

Interestingly, he mentioned that he’s not too keen on the use of Durapanel since houses built with that material tend to exhibit some cracks.

We still have more houses to see and more thinking to do before selecting an architect. The quest continues!

Originally published at on July 13, 2016

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