It is 650 square feet plus the lean-to roof over the front porch. In Cebu Philippines.
Floor --- Slab on grade covered in tile.
Walls --- Four courses of hollow block topped with 4 x 8 woven bamboo panels for a total wall height of 10 ft 8 in. Framing and battens that hold the panels are all of coconut wood. The concrete blocks will eventually receive parging.
Roof --- Coconut framing with corrugated sheet metal.
There are no ceilings. It is open right to the peak, which can be a little loud during heavy rain. He may eventually install a suspended bamboo panel ceiling as a sound barrier and radiant heat barrier. Average occupant height is usually about 5 feet 4, for adults, so nobody is very close to the hot roofing.
There are interior partition walls.
Some houses like this are 2 story. When the sun is up, it can be quite hot upstairs, but the upstairs works as a good buffer to keep the downstairs cool. School usually starts an hour after sunrise. Many people are already headed to work before that. So there is no reason for anyone to be in those upper bedrooms during daylight hours.
Air flows freely through this house. The panels are very porous. The gable ends are also woven bamboo, so the roof easily ventilates. No attempt is made to heat or cool houses in Cebu, except in upscale homes that may air condition all or some portion of the house. Usually that means just a bedroom.
The tall walls combined with the height of the sloped roof, make it seem very spacious inside.
Temperatures are almost always between 75 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It gets dark around 6 p.m. and the temperature is usually in the low eighties by then, which people here find comfortable. So in a well-ventilated house like this, where both occupants have day jobs that keep them away during the hottest times, it's a very comfortable place to live.
The owner did most of the carpentry himself with the help of his daughter and a friend.
He contracted someone to do the floor and concrete block walls. This was his greatest expense, costing a little more than half of the total.
The wall panels cost $2.70 each which isn't bad for a 4 by 8 panel that requires no further finishing.
Interior finishing is a little rough. He admits that he is no carpenter. He has a much nicer house on a distant Island, but both he and his daughter got work in Cebu and they needed somewhere to live. So they built this sturdy but inexpensive house that they will sell if the economy on their home island improves.
I'm going to eventually build a home for my mother-in-law. I expect it to be very similar to this. She currently lives in an all bamboo and coconut house on stilts, that is about one-third this size.
My cost should be a little lower, since this man paid top dollar, being in the metropolis of Cebu. Everything costs a little less in the countryside.
I'm searching for land in areas that aren't quite as hot and steamy. We will plant bananas and other leafy things around the house. There are some trees that do a lot of side branching, so we may eventually give the whole house natural shade.
I wouldn't find this house to be comfortable In the heat of the afternoon, but ones like this tend to stay cooler than those built to mimic foreign housing styles. It's about the same temperature as if you sat under a shade tree on a hot day. My wife is perfectly comfortable in this situation if our electric fan is on low and pointed at her. Her mother will be quite comfortable. I will build a very small evaporative cooling device in the sleeping area. She typically takes a siesta from about 2 to 5 p.m.
When we build something like this, I expect that only my wife and I will occupy it in the beginning, and we will use it while we build a much more substantial house for ourselves. It will be concrete block and we'll rely on shading and an evaporative cooler, with a very small air conditioner within an enclosed sleeping area. It will be heavily ventilated at night, but sealed up whenever it gets hot.
He bought the land and put in his own septic tank. It is on public water.
He is very close to a fairly well run squatter camp. Even there, the city has supplied clean water and garbage pick up. There's a makeshift community hall/church.
I didn't see the shower. In 5 months spent there, I didn't see one instance of a water heater being used. We bathe and wash dishes and clothing, with water that arrives at anywhere between 80 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
There's a few ways to bring the price of this house down. Shiny tiles are very popular there, so those who can afford it, make this a standard practice. I like well finished concrete floors, because you can put quite a bit of water on the surface and it will soak in. This gives all day cooling as it evaporates, without the floor actually being wet.
The house has more windows than I like. They aren't needed for ventilation , because the house is totally breathable. So it's about light. LED lighting uses almost nothing and reduces the need for cooling. So we could get by with less windows and fans.
All of the doors in this house are factory made. I actually prefer doors made from woven bamboo with a wooden frame. About $5 each.
By making these changes, I could see easily saving $500 and coming up with a more energy efficient home. Then if it's built outside of the city where other things tend to be less expensive, you might knock off another $500. That would make this already inexpensive home, cost about $1,500 American. I hate to part with money, but that seems like a reasonable amount, to have a comfortable place to live.☺
The replacement cost on my mother-in-law's Little Shack is probably under $500, labour included. She would gladly move to a mansion like this.
I wouldn't really try to go this cheap. I would probably still spend the $2,500, but put in better cupboards and some noise cancelling material in the ceiling. bathrooms are usually quite rudimentary, but you can build a nice one for $200.
At first glance it seems kind of cheap, $2500 for an entire home, but when you start doing the math, it is actually a home that is pretty expensive to build. It is more expensive than the United States.
For the average Philopino making $1400 USD per year, it would take 2 years of every penny earned in order to pay for this $2500 home. Yet for an avareage American, making an average salary of $46,000 a year, spending every penny on their home, to pay for the average $300,000 American home, it would take 6 years of work to pay for the home, or 3 times longer than the Philipino.
The average American home is NOT 650 square feet, it is 2600 square feet, so it is 4 times bigger.
Based on square footage costs of $115, a 650 sq ft home would only cost $74,000 to build in the USA. So when we compare apples to apples, which is average income earned, to house building costs, the avareage Philopino would have to work 651 days to pay for his home. But the average working American would only have to work 587 days.
But here is where the Philopino house gets very expensive. In terms of quality, and longevity, the American home, which has high end finish costs added into the $115 per square foot cost, is missing on the Philopino home. Stated another way, it is a bare bones home. In the United States it would be incredibly easy to shell a 650 square foot building for far less than $74,000. My 30 x 48 foot barn cost me $4450 and is over twice as big, and very similarly shelled. So it was actually cheaper to build the barn in the USA then it would be to build the Philopino home. In this case, 16 working days to pay for the USA bulding compared to 651 days for the Philopino building.
So as I said, when you do the math in average working pay, it is a very expensive home.
Those averages include millions of unemployed or underemployed. And they may include children and retired people.
The very bottom wage I have seen anyone being paid in Cebu, a city of two million, where it was not a live in and eat situation, is about $8 per day. This is the typical rate for unskilled work, like serving ice cream at the mall or janitorial work at a restaurant. I know a few people in their late teens and twenties who earned this wage. Basic survival. Most of them pay rent. I know two of them who live in places much more basic than this. Their rent comes to $20 per month for about 100 square feet of bamboo shed, in the backyard of a nicer house. So we can look at that as the minimum wage for someone who is actually working. I did a lot of research into that because I've been checking out many businesses. About 60% of the population live outside of the Cities and many of them are not required to file income tax or communicate with the government at all. Putting these people into the average is the only way I can see that that number could have been generated. It does not reflect the wages of anyone I met, except for nannies and other live in help.
The man who built this house has a decent job that probably makes double that. So something that he could pay for, on his own, in a year. He is living here with his daughter. Typically a house this size, holds at least two employed people. His daughter also has a decent job, and that's why they left their much nicer home, to live in the city, temporarily.
It's almost impossible for the average person to get a loan and a mortgage, so people pay for their house once, instead of three times, over the course of 25 years or so.
But you are correct, the average person has to work much harder to get anywhere in life, in many places in the world.
The life expectancy of this building is probably 20 years or so, for the non concrete portion. The concrete and tile represent about 60% of the total cost. So in 20 years, someone will have to spend 6 months wages and rebuild all or most of that. But in the meantime it probably won't be painted or have other money thrown at it. Usually at the time of rebuild, the sheet metal will be scrapped and new roofing purchased. I did not see an asphalt roof during 5 months in the Philippines.
It is a very basic home. He wanted to put a roof over his head, so that he could afford to live in this city, that is much more expensive than his home island, while collecting the higher wages available here. It is missing an expensive HVAC system. There is no need to heat or cool, as people here are perfectly comfortable in the shade, with temperatures that nature provides. A night time low in the high 70s and daytime high usually at about 88 Fahrenheit. It seldom wavers from that.
This house contains very few things that wouldn't be safe too put on the compost pile. So although some labour is required, to maintain it, this house won't create a toxic mess upon its demolition.
I was mostly interested in this because I need to provide quick temporary housing when I buy some land out of the city, where it is likely to cost $1,500. I can put that away in a good week, working in Canada. And that's the part that's important to me. I also need to provide my mother-in-law somewhere to live. And at some point I may need to provide housing for live-in help on a farm.
But really there's no comparison. This is a glorified shed that works quite well as living space for people who are comfortable when the temperature is almost always between 78 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit. It has a water pump, a sewer and bathing facilities. To me, that's a house.
Bamboo grows like wildfire here. Now let's look at the economics of building roughly the same house, but using bamboo grown on the farm for almost everything.
It would still need a concrete floor, but a single block pony wall, to keep the bamboo off the wet ground.
Two inch bamboo can grow at a density about one stick on 2 square feet. 4 inch diameter bamboo needs about 8 square feet per stick. They grow about 80 feet tall, but let's just use the bottom 45 feet that is thicker and free of branches. We'll turn the rest into charcoal. 4 inch bamboo will be useful to within 25 ft of the top.
I'd like palisade walls where we use a whole bunch of 2 inch uprights in order to have a very strong wall. Every 2 inch diameter bamboo gives us 8 inches of wall since we're cutting it into 10 foot sticks. We're going to make this imaginary house 22 x 30, for 660 sq ft. We need 1.5 pieces of standing bamboo for every running foot of wall. We have 104 running feet of wall. We need 156 - 2 inch bamboo on the stump, to build this wall. So that comes to 306 square feet of growing space required. Let's figure 500 square feet just to be safe, so we don't have to split hairs over which variety of bamboo.
We will build the frame out of 4 in material. These are heavy timber bamboos that are likely to have a wall thickness of 3/4 inch. Very strong for their weight. Most people would consider this overkill for a building this size.
We need 60 10ft sticks to frame the walls. This puts a framing member every two feet plus some bracing. Usually bracing material is not 4 inches thick. Each bamboo on the stump will give us four of these framing members. So, we need 15- 4 inch bamboo on the stump, to frame the walls. 15 x 8 square feet equals 120 square feet. Let's give ourselves 200 square feet to grow the wall framing.
The roof rafters need to be about 16 feet long, which leaves lots of overhang. We are only going to get two of those out of each stalk. The portion above 32 ft can be cut at 22 ft, to be used along the ceiling to tie the rafters together. This leaves the remaining 26 feet as scrap. So, we need one 4 inch bamboo on the stump for every rafter pair. Figure on 20 of them so that the roof can be extended 4 feet past the walls on the gables. So we need 20 x 8 square feet to grow the roof rafters. 160 sq ft. Let's give ourselves 200.
Adding it all up.
Palisade walls 500 square feet.
Wall framing 200 square feet
Roof rafters 200 square feet
Let's build some interior partitions, if we don't find useful material in all of those tops that are being thrown away. 300 square feet for that.
We can grow enough bamboo to build a house this size, on 1200 square feet of space. We need a block of land 35 ft square to grow enough bamboo to build a house that is vastly stronger than the one pictured. I have never seen anyone use the amount of material that I'm suggesting. It takes between 3 and 4 years for timber bamboo to fully mature, so that the wall thickness is at its maximum.
Labour in the countryside runs at about $6 per day. I'm not sure how long it takes people to hack down that much bamboo with a machete. I would give them my Milwaukee fuel cordless reciprocating saw, which I have already tested on bamboo. I think a man could prepare all of the material for $100.
Then it's going to take some time to put it all together, again with labour at $6 per day. This is only comprable to other places in the third world.
There are many structures around the farm where I will require bamboo enclosures, and I won't be building any of them to the standard that I've described.
If we build it in the standard way with lighter material and woven walls, I think it might realistically consume one-third this much bamboo. It's an incredibly inexpensive material, especially if you grow it yourself.
For many people, the cost of a house is the cost of the nails and the sheet metal. Some people boil thin strips of bamboo so they can tie everything togethe, and nails aren't required. Those same people are the ones likely to make a thatched roof. Total cost is whatever they paid for the machete.
This little house is built in a similar manor to my mother-in-law's house, although it is bigger and much nicer. Hers is on wooden legs, because sometimes the river floods.
I'm not sure what the guys on the interior are building. It could be shelves, seating or bed platforms.
The drawing shows a couple things that I haven't seen before. It shows roof rafters that project beyond the sheet metal , so that they would get wet. I haven't seen that done. It also shows bamboo posts going all the way to the ground. In the countryside , posts typically come down and rest on a rock. In the city they typically rest on a concrete pier. Again, to prevent rot. Sometimes there is a small stone on top of the stone that is set into the ground. The post rests on the second rock. This helps keep it dry.
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