Background to the Build:
I have always been a fan of the TV Show Grand Designs. I remember Kevin McCloud’s advice to would be self builders “Have a contingency fund and don’t set impossible deadlines” Tick, tick. “Plan and research” Tick, tick. “Employ professionals, a good architect; builder and project manager” I am afraid no ticks there.
I suppose it is inevitable, that you fall out with your builder at some point, but in Thailand it seems to be a factor of how busy they are. If they need the work, they are eager to please, but once they have to start turning down work, they will look for any excuse to walk off site, so make sure you have clear written agreements about stage payments and check work as it progresses, even if that means you have to be on site every day.
I met with several architects in Thailand, but they could not share my vision. Thai houses are built to a very tight budget, money is spent on appearance rather than the bones of the building. House design has been copied from Europe: Roofs with complex pitches, designed to shed snow, clad in heavy dark colored concrete tiles. Large windows and sliding glass doors designed to let light in if you live in a northern climate. Windows here are mostly single glazed, insulation is practically not existent. Walls are thin and buildings leak air like a sieve. The trick is to up spec on air-conditioning. Domestic solar cell use is very rare.
House Design Criteria:
Function Over Form: functionality is more important than ornamentation.
Style: Industrial Modern
Minimalism: the smallest inside space needed.
Off-Grid: Water: Water Heating; Grey and Black Water Treatment; Electricity; Food.
Safety and Security: Burglary proofing. W.R.O.L. (Without Rule of Law)/ S.H.T.F. Situations.
Sealed Passive Inner Zone: Living-room, Bedroom, Office all with small air sealable windows and air-con. Sealable interior and exterior doors, geothermal and Energy Recovery Ventilation. Surrounded by buffer zone of naturally ventilated “wet rooms” Kitchen, Bathrooms, Entrance Porch. Then Outdoor sitting area and carport under a wrap around porch. Outbuildings: workshop; storage; pump/filter room.
The roof and walls are white for maximum heat reflection. Big roof overhangs will keep the sun off the walls of the inner zone
A second floor above the inner zone is a fortified safe room with food storage. It has direct access to the flat roof which has vertical parapets and a 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside.
Some early design ideas:
Ground Floor detailed plan:
Site with plan for buildings on Southern 20% closest to the road:
Simplified view of the main block (8m x 8m) without Kitchen, Bathrooms and outbuildings:
A later view of the front of the houseView of the rear of the house
The ground floor and second floor are separated by an air seal to prevent wasted air-con cooling the second floor when not in use. The floors are also separated by a steel security door, making the second floor into a 80m2 safe-room. There is a further steel security door giving access to the roof and an emergency escape ladder to access to the ground. Additional security: – Motion Activated Security Lights; Security Cameras; Alarm.
Foam insulated light weight steel roof. Bright shiny-white roof to reflect solar radiation. Radiant barrier foil reflects 97% of solar radiation and also has very low emissivity. Foam insulation for low conductivity. Big overhangs to shading the windows.
A roof designed to a vent and cool via natural airflow with no heat build up
Wrap around porch idea
To provide shaded areas close to the house and keep sun off the walls and windows.
Walls- bright white to reflect solar radiation Radiant barrier foil reflects 97% of solar radiation and also has very low emissivity. Aeriated concrete block cavity walls and foam insulation insulation between for low conductivity.
Foam insulation for floors, walls and ceiling
Small narrow windows to let in light but not people. Casement style (not sliding) with good rubber seals to prevent leaks. Positioned high up under the wrap around porch roof to prevent sunlight falling directly on the glass. This also adds privacy as occupants can see out, but those outside cannot see inside.
External Steel Security Doors
Energy Recovery Ventilation
Cooled air from Geothermal further cooled by outgoing air-conditioned air, then filtered. Incoming humid air passes humidity to dry expelled air.
As the house is sealed airtight it is important to introduce fresh air. The ERV will cool incoming air and transfer moisture to dry cool air exiting the building.
Solar Water Heating
Water is heated by the sun and stored in an insulated tank.
solar well pump
Electricity cost Thailand is $0.12/kW which is a similar price to most of the US and Canada but about half the cost of the UK. Electricity cost in Thailand is subsidized through the provision of free or half-price electricity to low-consuming households. Electricity tariffs to other consumers are below the costs incurred by the state-owned electricity Generating authority of Thailand (eGat), the sole distributor of electricity in Thailand.
There is no proper Peak and Off-Peak electricity pricing in Thailand and until recently no feed-in tariff. The current plan is a Buy-Back at 1.68 Baht/KWh, compared to PEA standard charge rate of 4 baht per kilowatt. In 2016, 60% of Thailand’s energy came from imports. Therefore energy security is potentially a very big problem. The cost of electricity in Thailand is expected to climb 50% over the next 10 years as demand for energy in Thailand rises by 1,000MW every year.
Thailand is blessed with year round sunshine and a location near the equator, conditions perfect for solar energy production. Yet domestic solar in Thailand is almost non existent. The reason for this is quite simple. Whereas most countries encourage domestic solar energy through subsidies, in Thailand the reverse is true. As most solar components are imported, they are subject to high import duties based on their selling price. Even items manufactured in Thailand tend to be made in factories located in free trade zones which are designed to encourage exports. Anything brought into Thailand from a Thai free trade zone is treated as an import and taxed as such. I was quite interested in Redflow’s ZBM2 zinc-bromine flow battery which is made in Thailand. The price to purchase after it has been shipped to Australia is ฿260,439 but in Thailand where it is manufactured, the price ฿550,000
A fully electric car like the Nissan Leaf 2018 model costs ฿732,161 in the USA and ฿1,990,000 in Thailand. A study of 49 countries where the Nissan Leaf is sold ranked Thailand as 48th out of 49 most expensive, behind Singapore where all cars are prohibitively expensive https://electrek.co/2020/04/15/study-of-nissan-leaf-ev-price-in-49-countries-shows-shocking-range-in-cost/
All EVs are subject to an import duty of 80 per cent based on cost, insurance and freight, while another 8-10 per cent excise tax is levied on the retail price, compared to an excise duty of 30-35 per cent levied on combustible engine vehicles.
First minimize energy use by selecting non electric where possible: Gas for cooking; Solar Thermal water heating.
Second select electrical appliances on the basis of efficiency and test all appliances with a meter to confirm electric usage.
Third avoid Phantom loads like TVs on standby. Sensors zone switches to switch off any empty room completely.
Building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), where Panels are part of the original house design are a much more elegant solution than adding them to an existing building.
Some options that can be purchased in Thailand:
Batteries are required to store excess production and cover energy requirements when the sun is not shinning. Unfortunately Lithium Ion Batteries are all imported into Thailand and are heavily taxed.
During the day the shape of the collection area changes. At dawn the suns rays are parallel with the panel, so the output is zero. As the sun rises, the area of the solar panels increases, until the suns rays are perpendicular to the solar panels. This represents the largest collection area and therefore the maximum power generation.
Dual Axis Tracker systems can increase production by 40%, but such systems are complex and expensive and with falling solar panel prices it is cheaper to just get more panels.
Stationary Panels angled for sunrise and sunset. This system increase the time that solar panels are producing and so reduces the time that you are running the house on batteries. So this is my plan: Have the main array at 15 degrees pointing due south, with 2 further smaller arrays set at a much steeper angle facing East and West.
Solar roll out plan
The building will never be completely off-grid. Mains electric is less than 10m from the property so will always be connected in a Hybrid system.
Stage 1 – DC appliances such as pumps will be connected to solar and batteries.
Stage 2 – Running the house off mains electric to determine loads to spec the system
Stage 3 – Solar with Hybrid inverter, so you can use solar or grid
Stage 4 – Batteries added
Stage 5 – Electric car like the Nissan Leaf and a vehicle to home system, so that the car batteries can supplement home batteries.
Aircon – to manage humidity
Most efficient Air Con in Australia and Thailand:
LPG / Propane Power Generator
Outdoor Kitchen ideas – Thai Style
Commercial Grade Stainless Steel Kitchen
Stainless steel is hypoallergenic, micro-organisms safe
Outdoor Bathroom ideas
Food production Aquaponics:
Links to other pages on the Blog: