Archive for the ‘Thai Architect’ Category

What More Can They Get Wrong With This Thai House Build Project?

How They Covered Up The Ugly Electrical Wiring By Trashing The Concept For The Vaulted Ceiling

What are those idiots up to? They have a set of construction drawings produced my our Thai Architect in Bangkok which they are supposed to be following. But – yet again – they choose to ignore the drawings and do what they feel like. At the expense of the lovely high and open feel the house would have had if it had been contructed as designed and also at the expense of thousands of additional Baht for the wood they used which is not needed by the design.

How The Ceiling Should Look

If you are a regular here, you will know the picture below which is the design concept for the house ceiling (i.e. there isn’t one):-

Bamboo Wall Mat Between The Rafters Of Our Thai House

Concept For The Vaulted Ceiling

Above, the concept for the vaulted ceiling in our retirement house under construction in Pakchong (Pak Chong), Thailand.

You can see what a lovely ‘airy’ feeling you will get as you walk into the room. It’s beautiful.

And They Have Ruined It

Look at the same picture below, where I have marked up what they have done with the ceiling:-

Image of Where They Put A Flat Bamboo Mat Ceiling

Where They Put A Flat Bamboo Mat Ceiling

All that lovely high level space thrown away. And the detail of the vaulted ceiling (like the above photo) was clearly shown on the Thai Architects house plans we commissioned.

Extracts From The Thai Architect’s House Plans Clearly Showing The Vaulted Ceiling With Bamboo Mat

Below is one of our Thai Architect’s house plans for the retirement house now being built in Pakchong (Pak Chong). This drawing is actually a cross section through the house and I have marked a rectangle in red colour that is shown in close-up in the next image.

Image of Thai Architectural Drawing - Check Out The Detail Indicated On The Next Image

Thai Architectural Drawing - Check Out The Detail Indicated On The Next Image

Below is the close-up taken from the construction drawing above and you can clearly see the text “4mm Thk. Plywood finish with bamboo mat” together with an arrow from the note to the ‘herring-bone’ cross-hatching that represents the bamboo mat in the vaulted ceiling.

This is a clear description of the requirement for the house to have a vaulted ceiling and not a flat ceiling as the builder has now installed.

Image of Thai Architectural Drawing Clearly Showing Bamboo Mat on 4 mm Plywood

Thai Architectural Drawing Clearly Showing Bamboo Mat on 4 mm Plywood

In case you are thinking that the above note is only in the English language and perhaps the builder can’t read English (which is true, but Kanyah can) I’ll refer you to a Thai language note on another construction drawing made as part of the set by our Thai Architect in Bangkok:-

Image of Thai Thai Language In Bamboo Mat Architectural Drawing

Thai Language In Bamboo Mat Architectural Drawing

In the image above (an extract from the Thai house plans made by our Thai architect), note the Thai language note circled in red colour and the arrow clearly pointing to the ‘herring-bone’ cross-hatching that represents the bamboo mat in the vaulted ceiling.

Below is  a close-up of the Thai language note:-

Image of Thai Language In Bamboo Mat Architectural Drawing

Thai Thai Language In Bamboo Mat Architectural Drawing

Above, I think this refers to the bamboo mat in the vaulted ceiling. I’ll get it translated and put the English language translation here.

Now For Some Photographs Of  How The Bamboo Mat Ceilings And Bamboo Mat Walls Were  Actually Installed On Site In Our Pakchong (Pak Chong) Retirement House

The first photo (below) is a photo of the bamboo mat flat ceiling I drew attention to in the marked-up photo above.

Image of Bamboo Mat Ceiling 08

Bamboo Mat Ceiling 08

Above, I must admit that the bamboo mat installation is very neat and clean. I like the wooden trim in the corner between the wall and ceiling. What a pity they didn’t follow the vaulted ceiling concept.

This Is How They Hid Away The Ugly Domestic Electrical Wiring

In the Post “Don’t Let Them Wire Your House In Thailand Like This I showed photographs of how the builder’s electricians had installed the domestic electrical wiring and electrical conduit in areas where it would be visible. I complained of this to Kanyah and after talking to the builder she gave me a list of reasons why “I was talking rubbish and the Thai builders know best” or words to that effect.

Well now I know why they weren’t concerned about the wiring being visible. Look at the photo above or below and behind that flat bamboo mat ceiling lies hidden the ugly electrical wiring.

Next is a photo showing the bamboo mat ceiling and bamboo mat walls.

Image of Bamboo Mat Ceiling and Walls

Bamboo Mat Ceiling and Walls

Above, this is a view inside the house in the Kitchen looking out onto the Balcony. In the corner the concrete column is exposed. This was supposed to have been painted before the bamboo mat was installed and failure to do this was one of the reasons why Kanyah sacked the previous builder!

Next picture shows the bamboo mat walls and the wooden floor.

Image of Bamboo Mat Ceiling Walls And Wooden Floor

Bamboo Mat Ceiling Walls And Wooden Floor

In the photo above you can see the bamboo mat walls and the wooden floor. At high level are the wooden joists to support the flat bamboo mat ceiling. Also visible is the unpainted concrete column in the corner of the room.

More detail on the wooden frame to support the bamboo mat ceiling in the photo below.

Image of Wooden Support Frame For Bamboo Mat Ceiling 01

Wooden Support Frame For Bamboo Mat Ceiling 01

In the photo above you can see the wooden frame they have installed to support the flat bamboo mat ceiling.

This was never intended, never in the design and never in my budget. I have had to pay the full cost of this wood on top of the cost of the original house just to get something I don’t want!

One thing to notice is the white concrete beam running left to right above the ceiling. With the vaulted ceiling this would have been visible. Perhaps that’s why Kanyah decided to go for the flat ceiling – to hide this beam.

I should add that the provision and position of this beam was an oversight by the original Thai Architect, in my view. (He would no doubt have a different view)

The beam is not shown on the Architect’s house plans, but is shown on the structural engineering drawings. Of course, I checked the Architectural drawings quite carefully, but paid less attention to the structural drawings expecting them to be in harmony with the Architect’s Drawings. Big mistake.

Don’t Expect The Thai Architect To Check The Work Of His Sub-Specialists!

By sub-specialists I mean the other engineering disciplines who contribute their expertise to the overall house design and these are mainly the structural engineer and the electrical and mechanical services engineer.

There are several instances where our Thai Architect did not show or check the detail of the structural engineers drawings and these were not spotted either by myself or by the previous builder. Also, there were items in the electrical and plumbing drawings that were incorrect and had to be put right by the builder.

I’ll not go into the detail here – this page is about the bamboo mat ceiling and walls – but maybe make a feature page of all the design errors separately.

Next, a view looking towards the bathroom doors from the Dining Area.

Image of Red Brick Bathroom Walls 02

Red Brick Bathroom Walls 02

In the above photograph above the two white rectangles are the door frames to the two bathrooms.

In the foreground where the worker is standing, this is the Dining Area. Again, you can see the flat bamboo mat ceiling instead of the vaulted ceiling.

Next, a  close-up of the bathrooms.

Image of Red Brick Bathroom Walls 01

Red Brick Bathroom Walls 01

In the above photo, you can see my shower room where the worker is standing and Kanyah’s bathroom to the right.

Notice the grey coloured vertical strip to the right of the picture in the red brickwork and then look at the photo below.

Image of Hidden Electrical Wiring Near The Red Brick Bathroom Walls

Hidden Electrical Wiring Near The Red Brick Bathroom Walls

Above, the grey coloured strip is where they have cut into the red brick wall of the bathroom to bury the yellow conduit for the electrical wiring.

At the top you can see the yellow conduit rising past the concrete beam. As it happens, I had agreed with the previous builder that this half of the house could have flat ceilings (as a cost saving measure – but obviously now its costing me more than the vaulted ceiling if they are putting in the flat bamboo mat ceiling requiring the wooden support frame).

How The Flat Ceilings Were Supposed To Save Me Money

The vaulted ceiling concept was originally applied to every room in the retirement house except for the bathrooms and the small lobby outside of the bathrooms. These were to be flat ceilings made from gypsum board suspended on steel wires.

The original builder’s quotation was above our budget and so before we signed the construction contract with him we went through a ‘Value engineering’ (VE) exercise to get the cost down. (VE – AKA Cost Cutting)

The original builder offered a considerable cost saving if the bedrooms could also be flat ceilings made from gypsum board suspended on steel wires.

I don’t think that Kanyah was up to speed with this, although the previous builder was supposed to mark up the original drawings to show all changes agreed as part of the VE exercise.

So we might have flat bamboo mat ceilings in the bedrooms with the expensive wooden support rafters that you have seen in the photos above.

By the way, strange that Kanyah has not sent me any photos of the bedroom areas. Wonder what she’s up to in there….

In The Next Post We Move To Photos Of The Outside Of The House

I have today received a whole stack of photographs of the external of the house, and oh boy has it moved on. Now you really can see the end in sight.

The photos include:-

  • Massive beautiful (and expensive) Teak double doors to the ground floor workshop (another change I wasn’t asked about)
  • Bamboo mat applied to the underside of the balcony roof. (Despite me telling Kanyah I didn’t agree to the builders price she did it anyway)
  • External views showing the finished wood walls – and how nice it looks.
  • The steps up to the balcony (including a departure they made  from my very detailed design that they should not have made)

And of course you get my usual complementary (not complimentary) commentary!

Don’t Miss it.

Here’s The Story Why Work On Building Our House In Pakchong Stopped – Twice!

Construction Of Our Retirement House In Pakchong Restarts – In Fits And Starts

In the previous post but one “Roof Tiles On – But Problems Are Arising” I mentioned the fact that work had stopped on the construction of our retirement house in Pakchong (Pak Chong) and I’m pleased to be able to report that work has now commenced again – kind of…

Big Problems Building Our Retirement House in Pakchong (Pak Chong)

I reported in a previous post Roof Tiles On – But Problems Are Arising how all construction work ceased on our retirement house build project in Pakchong (Pak Chong) as the builder and all the labor disappeared from site on 30th March, 2011.

In that post I mentioned that a couple of issued had arisen on site and that I would explain them to you and why the builder had left the site as soon as I had got to the bottom of it, so here goes…

Big Roof – Big Roof Problem

This issue came up when I looked more carefully at the photos received from Kanyah on the Steel Roof Rafters Installed Post.

This is the photo that made me think something was amiss:-

Image of House Frame Roof Side View 1

House Frame Roof Side View 1

Above, the photo that made me worry and gave me a couple of sleepless nights. Can you spot what is wrong?

Hint, look at the roof rafters and the ridge girder compared to the roof concrete ring-beam.

Next look at this 3D rendering of our house produced by our Thai architect at concept stage:-

Image of Thai Architects 3 D Rendering of the Roof Gable Concept at Stage

Thai Architects 3 D Rendering of the Roof Gable Concept at Stage

Above, now you can see what appears to be missing from the steel rafter progress photo above. In the above concept drawing it’s clear that the roof extends beyond the house. It overhangs (called a ‘cantilever’ in building terms) the house. The steel rafter progress photo above does not show the ridge girder and the rafters for the roof overhang.

This omission I marked on the next photo, below.

Image Steel Roof Rafters Showing Missing Rafters

Steel Roof Rafters Showing Missing Rafters

I sent that marked-up photo to the builder and to Kanyah to find out what was going on and why the builder was (apparently) not following the Thai Architects roof plans.

The answer came back “don’t worry, the roof is not finished yet”.

Big Roof  - Big Roof Problem Gets Bigger…

Then I realised something else that really had me worried.

Those concrete beams at roof level should not be there! I was looking again at the photo above “Thai Architects 3 D Rendering of the Roof Gable Concept at Stage” and I couldn’t see any concrete extending (cantilevering) from the end of the house. This is clear in the next marked-up rendering produced by our Thai Architect at concept stage:-

Image of Thai Architects 3 D Rendering of the Roof Gable March 2011 - Annotated

Thai Architects 3 D Rendering of the Roof Gable March 2011 - Annotated

The photo below (not our house) shows a properly cantilevered roof. No ugly cantilevered concrete beams.

Image of Cantilevered Roof - How It Should Look

Cantilevered Roof - How It Should Look

Next I looked at the cross sectional drawing produced by our Thai Architect as part of the construction drawings. No cantilevered roof beams were shown:-

Image of Architects Section Drawing At Roof Level

Architects Section Drawing At Roof Level

Above, see that red box? I marked that and it is what the builder has constructed, but it is not shown on the Thai Architects original construction drawing as you can see.

I pondered what to no next. I wanted a cantilevered roof, but not cantilevered concrete roof beams which I thought would be unsightly.

Perhaps the concrete cantilevered beams could be cut off using diamond cutting technology?

I need to know if those ‘concrete ears’ have any structural purpose.

If not I was suggesting that they be cut off. This should be easy using some kind of diamond cutting:-

So I started sending emails to Kanyah, our builder and to the original Thai Architect, with pictures like the ones above and these:-

Image of Concrete Roof Beams to Cut

Concrete Roof Beams to Cut

Image of Detail Cut Concrete Ears

Detail Cut Concrete Ears

Above, I was planning to cut off these cantilevered roof beams (or ‘ears’ as i had started to call them) using a diamond saw. Pretty drastic surgery!

As you can imagine, by this time I was pretty anxious because I had two big problems with the roof and was getting little information from Thailand.

Then our Thai Architect started to reply to my cries for help. Firstly he pointed out that my marked up drawing, above “Architects Section Drawing At Roof Level” being a section through the building would not have shown the ‘ears’. Also, he pointed out that the ‘ears’ were shown on the structural plans as you can see in the picture below.

Image of Structural Drawing At Roof Level - Annotated 2

Structural Drawing At Roof Level - Annotated 2

He also explained that the rendered drawing he had produced at concept stage (see “Thai Architects 3 D Rendering of the Roof Gable March 2011 – Annotated” above) was just that – a concept rendered drawing – and that the roof beams were added in the detail design phase and therefore did not show in the rendered drawing.

Knowing that I was concerned about the visual appearance of the cantilevered beams (the ‘ears’) he produced and emailed to me an updated version of the rendered drawing including the beams. As you can see in the picture below, the cantilevered beams are inconspicuous and not ugly.

Image of Thai Architects 3 D Rendering of the Roof Gable March 2011

Thai Architects 3 D Rendering of the Roof Gable March 2011

O.K. I surrendered on that one. Then I had an email from Kanyah showing that the ‘missing’ rafters and ridge beam had been installed. (You have probably seen these pictures but if not, just wait until you see the “How To Tile A Roof In Thailand” Post.)

Now I don’t know why the rafters weren’t all delivered and lifted into place at the same time. I assume a crane was used to lift the rafters and by lifting the ‘missing’ rafters on a second visit would have incurred additional hire costs for the crane.

Also I don’t know how they managed to extend the ridge beam where it wasn’t long enough at each end. I hope they didn’t (but suspect they did) simply weld an extension beam to the existing ridge beam. you can bet I’m going to take a good look at that when I go out to Thailand next week!

So it seemed that this problem was solved…

… and that

… Then came along “Little Roof Big Problem”

Little Roof – Another Big Problem

It took some investigation work by our Thai Architect in Bangkok to get to the bottom of what all this was about.

Although Kanyah had told me there was a problem with the small roof (the balcony roof) she didn’t tell me what he problem was. Perhaps with her not being a technical person she didn’t know. She also told me that the builder had ‘fixed’ it but again she didn’t tell me how. And I received no emails or communication from the builder.

I did have a guess at what the problem might be and a little later I received an email from our Architect who had been talking by phone to the builder and to Jalan, Kanyah’s nephew who was supervising the build for us. The email confirmed my suspicion as to what was wrong…

Don’t Allow Shallow-Sloping Roofs In Thailand!

The Problem Started With My Choice Of Thai House Design Concept Plans

If you go right back to the beginning of the design process for our retirement house in Thailand all as recorded on this website you will know that it all started with Thai house plans for a small traditional Thai house downloaded for free from the Thai government website.

This is described on the Free Thai House Plans page where you can see pictures and drawings of the concept house that we started with and also get all the links to the websites where you can download free Thai house plans. Here is a sample from one of the drawings that formed the inspiration for our house:-

Image of Inspiration for Our House - Roof Slopes

Inspiration for Our House - Roof Slopes

Above, this is where started our house design. A traditional Thai house plan downloaded from the Thai government website.

You can see that I have added the roof slopes, 45 deg for the main roof and 10 deg for the balcony roof.

The final construction drawings for our house, as drawn by our Thai Architect were 35 deg for the main roof and 10 deg for the balcony roof.

It seems that our builder, when he got to the point of laying the roof tiles, realized that the angle of slope of the balcony was too shallow, particularly as there was no gutter between the main roof and the balcony roof. All the water from the main roof would cascade onto the balcony roof. The deep depth of water on the balcony roof would force water between the tiles and the roof would leak.

This is roughly how our Thai Architect explained it after talking to our builder:-

  • The “Inspiration for Our House – Roof Slopes” drawing with the 10 deg balcony roof slope would have been OK because the specification for the roof material was for concrete sheets which can have a large over-lap and therefore safe for deep water.
  • I changed the roof type from concrete sheets to concrete tiles which are much smaller and have much less overlap.
  • Concrete tile roofs typically need a minimum slope of 20 deg. (I would have said 35 deg minimum, but lets go with 20 deg for now)
  • Our Thai Architect added a roof gutter to collect the water from the main roof and preventing it from cascading onto the balcony roof.
  • I told out builder not to provide that gutter to save money. (I have since asked the builder to provide the gutter)
  • According to our Thai Architect, our builder has taken two mitigation measures (but nobody told me):-
    • The 10 deg slope was increased to 12 – 15 deg.
    • The lap of the tiles was increased.
  • Our Thai Architect has proposed various other solutions to prevent the balcony roof from leaking.

My decision is (apart from adding back the main-roof gutter) to leave everything as it is for now and see what happens during a heavy rainfall. If some additional measure is required then deal with it at that time.

Accusations And Bad Feelings?

These problems have led to accusations and bad feelings all round but the basic problem has been lack of clear communication:-

  • The builder blames the design by the Architect
  • The Thai Architect blames the builder for:-
    • blindly crashing on with the build without producing shop drawings
    • not raising issues with the Architect and discussing them before continuing
  • At first I blamed the builder for not building to the Architect’s drawings (I later apologized for that when I realized he had followed the drawings)
  • I blamed everybody on site, that means the builder and Kanyah for not informing me about issues
  • I blamed the builder for making changes to the Architect’s design without authority
  • I blamed Kanyah and Jalan for not checking properly
  • I blamed myself for a load of things:-
    • Not picking up on the shallow angle balcony roof issue at concept stage. (I knew the issues relating to shallow roofs and potential for leakage. I am a building design professional  and have been in meetings with Architects in the U.K. where the roof slope has been a matter of discussion and deliberation for hours. Check me out on the Alan’s Construction Industry Bio page.)
    • Not checking the original Architects Structural drawings well enough to make sure I understood the roof beam design.
    • Jumping to conclusions about the provision of the ‘ears’ based on an early concept stage Architects rendering drawings instead of checking the structural drawings more carefully.

So you can imagine that tempers were getting frayed, and that’s probably a contributing factor to Kanyah not phoning me and sending me photographs for a couple of weeks.

At this stage the Architect visited site.

The Next Day The Builder And The Construction Workers Were Nowhere To Be Seen

The next day the builder and the construction workers were nowhere to be seen and he didn’t answer his phone for days.

I was worried that he had been upset by all the criticism that may have been flying round and decide to call it quits. But what came next?

Sweltering Summer Turns To Freezing Winter As Freak Weather Storms Create Turmoil In Thailand

Blasts of icy wind from China wreck havoc on Thailand plunging what a few days ago was a blistering hot summer  into a winter monsoon season overnight!

The temperature plummeted faster than a bungee jumper on his downward fall and vast areas of souther Thailand were suddenly flooded meters deep.

Image of Koh Samui Thailand Floods 1

Koh Samui Thailand Floods 1

More on Thailand’s  freak weather, earthquakes, over a million people to be stranded, floods, freezing temperatures and unseasonal tropical downpours.

The Reason For The Builder Leaving Site (For The First Time ) And All Constuction Stopping

At last we get to it. it wasn’t the roof problems that caused our Thai builder and all his labor to stop the building work on our retirement home in Pakchong (Pak Chong). it was the bad weather!

Quite simply, the freak weather reached as far as Pakchong (Pak Chong) and the torrential downpour for three days meant that no construction work could continue.

I Have Just Received The Finished Construction Version Of The Thai House Plans To Build Our Retirement House In Thailand

Yesterday, September 29th, 2010, I received a set of construction drawings from our Thai architect to allow us to move forward on the road to building our retirment home in Thailand.

The house plans consisted of a set of very detailed Thai house plans, 46 sheets in all covering, Architecture, Structural, Electrical and Sanitation works.

I was delighted with the quantity and the quality of the drawings. I will describe what I received here in the post and show one or two of them but to do justice to the house drawings I have displayed them in the Galleries Section of the website.

Or you can go directly to the Architectural Construction Drawings Gallery

Samples Of The Thai House Plans – Construction Drawings – Designed By Our Thai Architect In Bangkok

Image of Thai House Plan Pakchong 2nd Floor Plan A07

Above, a sample of one of the construction drawings. This is the architectural layout for the second floor.

Image of Thai House Plan Pakchong End Elevation 2 A10

Construction Drawing Our Pakchong House End Elevation 2

Above, another example of one of the construction drawings. This is the front elevation.

Image of Thai House Plan Pakchong End Elevation 1 A09

Construction Drawing Our Pakchong House End Elevation 1

And above is the side elevation of the drawing for our our retirement home.

Image of Thai House Plan Pakchong Section BB A14

Construction Drawing Our Pakchong House Section BB

Above, another sample of the Thai house plans designed by our Thai architect. this time it is a section through the house that is shown.This is the last of the Thai house plans that I am displaying in this Post. I will be uploading more of the Thai house plans to a separate web page.

How Many House Plans Do You Need To Build A house In Thailand And What Level Of Detail Is Necessary?

There is a minimum quantity and level of detail that your house plans need to satisfy in order for you to build your hosue in Thailand. The minimum level depends upon the size of the house (i.e. how many rooms) the capability of the builder and the degree of control over the detail in the finished article that you want.

For our small house to be built in Pakchong, it is only 200 m2, our Thai architect has produced a set of house plans of construction stage quality and comprising 47 sheets of drawings. Here is a summary of what the set of construction drawings comprises:-

Summary of Construction Drawings to Build a Retirement House in Pakchong Thailand
Drawing Type No. of Sheets
Architectural Construction Drawings
Plans 4
Elevations 4
Sections 2
Details 9
Specification, Materials, Miscellaneous 5
Total 24
Structural Construction Drawings
Plans 5
Details 3
Specifications, Miscellanous 3
Total 11
Electrical Construction Drawings
Plans 4
Specifications, Miscellanous 2
Total 6
Sanitary (Plumbing) Construction Drawings
Plans 2
Specification, Details, Miscellaneous 4
Total 6
Total Number of House Plans for Construction 47

Site Testing Of The Soil For House Foundation Design

My architectural and design company, from Bangkok in Thailand, has arranged at my request to send a team to the house site in Pakchong to test the soil so that the foundation design of our planned retirment house can be finalised.

The test will be what is technically termed a “Standard Penetration Test” (SPT) and will start on 11th or 13 th September 2010 and a Report will be produced.

For more detailed information about how to determine Ground Bearing Pressure (GBP) and how to correctly size house foundations refer to the Thai House Foundation Design web page.


What follows below is what I have learned about this soil testing procedure so far and no doubt as the investigation proceeds I will learn more.

Please take this article in the manner in which it was written – In good faith and with limited knowledge. I am no expert in this subject and cannot take any responsibility for any events that may occur by you taking any action as a result of reading this article.

Remember that all this is new to me – this is the first time I have had a house designed anywhere – let alone in Thailand!

Always have a properly qualified engineer to design your foundations for you!

What The Standard Penetration Test Will Achieve

In simple terms, the (SPT) test will determine the Ground Bearing Capacityof the soil, in other words how much weight the soil can support. This is measured (in Thailand) in tons per square meter. (Ton/m2). In the metric system the units are kN/m2.

From this, the size of the foundations necessary to carry the weight of the house can be calculated. Of course the weight of the house when contructed and in use has to be determined first.

How Important Is It To Have This Soil Test Carried Out?

To me it’s vital. After all that’s why I am paying for the test to be carried out. As I mentioned above I’m no expert in these matters so I am proceeding cautiously. I have been told by a civil engineer here in the UK that there are many reasons why the ground bearing pressure can vary significantly even on the same plot of land. This can be because the type of soil varies form location to location. Another big factor influencing the soil bearing pressure is whether the soil is compacted i.e. undisturbed or whether is is loose i.e. it is is soil that has been placed on the lad – often to fill a hole. In our case in PakchongI do know that the soil is agricultural land so it will have been ploughed to a certain depth.

However, this test is not always performed when designing house foundation and there are several reasons for this.

  • Sometimes it is not necessary to undertakea soil test for an individual property because the load bearing capacity of the soil may already be know for the region and held on record either with builders or piling companies or in the local Land Office. This information may have come from tests undertaken by other companies for other projects.
  • Another reason that a Standard Penetration Test may not be required on a small house is that the load bearing pressure of the soil can be approximately determined by a knowledgeable geotechnical engineer from a knowledge of the soil classification. Tables of bearing capacities of various types of soil (such as rock, clay, gravel, sand etc) are readily available. In fact the British Building Regulations Approved Document A at table 10 gives the foundation sizes for various types of ground for houses of various weights.
    So a good geotechnical/civil engineer with some local knowledge may be able to estimate a suitable safe size for foundations for a small house like the house we are planning to build in Pakchong. In case there is any suspicion of the type of ground, the foundations can be slightly oversized. This may be an unnecessary expense but the additional cost may only be a small percentage of the total house cost.

Design Procedures And Responsibility For Foundation Design In Thailand

I have been advised that it is common in Thailand not to finalise the size of the house foundations before appointing a construction company to build the house. In this case the design company makes an assessment of the foundation design based on ‘common practice’. The builder then takes responsibility for the foundation design and obtains the load bearing capacity of the soild to do so, either from local knowledge, existing data or by means of soil tests.

To me, this has several disadvantages and issues.

  1. The design company has to sign the drawings and provide the calculations for the foundation design. I don’t see how that can be done if the ground bearing capacity of the soil is not known.
  2. The Or Bor Tor (The land office in Thailand where the house plans are submitted to apply for a building permit) will check the structural calculations. If these are not based on a knowledge of the actual load bearing capacity (that the Or BorTor Officer may well know because he deals with the applications daily) the calculations may not be accepted and a building permit may not be issued.
  3. The local builder may not have the necessary knowledge and skills to determine the load bearing capacity and to re-design the foundations if necessary. Yes, a large company may have a qualified enginer, but I’m expecting to find a small, local builder in Pakchong who may not have the necessary expertise. By the way, I’m told that there is a Thai regulation that applies for buildings over 150 square metres and it stipulates that the builder must have a qualified and knowledgeable engineer to supervise the project to control the construction process. Well, judging by the coments on so many Thai websites, that expertise is often not applied very well!
  4. I will be unable to award a construction contract with a known fixed scope, price and timescale and will be at the mercy of the builder when it comes to price and programme.
  5. Responsibilities become blurred. the designer is effectively passing the responsibility for foundation design on the the builder. The builder may not accept this.
  6. Extention to the programme. I am having the soil bearing pressure tested and the foundation design finalised in parallel with the preparation for the construction drawings. If this work is handed over to the builder there will be a delay to the construction programme while it is carried out.
  7. Design costs will be more expensive. The design company has spent time designing foundations and making drawings, including steel reinforcement details. This will may have to be repeated by the builder and he will charge me for it. Double work. Double cost.
  8. I may not be in Thailand at the time of the build. The works will be supervised by my wife, Kanyah, who does not have building knowledge and she would not understand the commercial implications of undertaking the soil test and the foundation (re)design. Yes, we will appoint an inspector to take care of the technical details of the build, but he will not be expected to manage the builder’s activities.

More Information On Foundation Design

You may not be interested in how to design house foundations and I can well understand that. But you ought to understand how foundations are designed so that you can decide whether to design your house the way I am and let the design company finalise the house foundation design or to do it the common Thai way and let the builder do it.

I have therefore written an article about foundation design and the effect of land bearing pressure for the complete novice.

A Thai Architect In Bangkok Is Making Our Retirement House Plans

On 14th July 2010, we gave the go-ahead to a Bangkok-based Architectural design-and-build company to proceed with producing the construction drawings for our retirement house we want to build in Pakchong, Thailand.

The company is called Kensington Company Limited and according to their Thai Builders website they have designed and built many beautiful and prestigious properties and won several awards including the Conde Nast Hottest 100 Asia Hotels Award May 2008 for designing and building “The Villa Water Orchid”.

Although I was a bit apprehensive at appointing the company from arms length i.e. from U.K. via email and not having met them in Thailand, I must say that to date I am very impressed with their service and the quality of their design work. The architect has now produced the final ground and first floor house layouts which I have now approved. Also, he has produced some very nice perspective views of the house obtained from a 3D computer model he has made.

I have posted some of these drawings on the website on the Thai Architects House Plans page at I have some more perspective views which I’ll post there in a couple of days time and as I receive more details I’ll post those on that page also.

In addition to the high quality of the drawings, plans if you like, the architect is producing I want to mention other things that has made me very glad that we chose to proceed with the Kensington Company.

Excellent Service. I deal exclusively via email with Chris Clayton the Managing Director of the Kensington Company. Chris is always quick to respond to my emails usually within hours and always on the same day.

Further, both Chris and Yos, the Thai Architect, keep telling me that they want me to be happy and nothing is too much trouble. If I want to change something or don’t like what Yos has proposed for a particular situation, Yos will change it if I ask for it to be changed. Here for example are typical snippets from some of Chris’s email:-

“I am glad it all seems clearer. I know it can be difficult doing it thousands of miles away by e-mail. But have no worries. Yos and I will work on this design until you are happy which I think will come together fairly quickly now. Now things are clearer to all.”

“No problem at all. It’s my pleasure and also my job to help. Yos will happily make whatever changes you ask for.”

Quality Assurance. Another concern I had was that I had produced sketches of my concept for the house and knew that there were certain areas where my concept needed some development to make it work. One example is the roofs. My concept is visually pretty but as Yos pointed out for several reason is unpractical and would lead to leaks and difficulties in construction. Hence the architect’s roof solution is different from my concept and I have to accept this. At every step of the way Yos is checking my concept to make sure that what he delivers is practical and complies with the Thai building regulations and standards. This is from one of Chris’s emails discussing my concept for the roofs:-

“Dear Alan,

Thanks for all the comments and ideas.

Yos has gone over them carefully. He is happy to help you in anyway and try to come up with solutions. However he is particularly concerned with your desire for this roof design you have created. Naturally he wants you to have the home as you like it but as an architect he has to point out to you and make it clear if your choices are potentially going to cause problems to you, the home or the construction contractor. He was worried about this roof and asked me please to point it out again to you. He suggested the roof style he did because it is practical for construction and Thailand’s weather. Whereas if he does it as you want, you will have problems with leaks and practical issues to be concerned about.

He has written a explanation with drawings to try and help everyone understand what he means. He is happy to do as you ask but wants you to know it could very easily cause you problems with the house.

Look forward to your comments and resolving this issue. If you have any thoughts or ideas please forward them. Very important you the customer is happy but at the same time the home will be practical.”

And this is an extract from Yos’s messages to me:-

“Dear Alan

What we are most concerned about is the house has to be comfortable for living, be suitable for the Thai weather, and be in line with Thai construction methods and practical. So as an architect I may make comments or observations that from experience in both design and construction I feel are necessary and the best advice for you as the home owner. I hope you do not mind me doing this but I would like to explain one more time perhaps better than before so it is clear regarding the roof. I can do whatever you ask but naturally I am responsible for the design of the home and I need to make sure everything is clear, in case something asked means the house will have problems or not be practical. Here are my thoughts and comments:”

Ease of Communication. I was again concerned about the ability to communicate ideas and thoughts across the world to a Thai company in Bangkok from my home in the U.K. In fact this has turned out to be very easy because as you can see in the message from Yos above, Yos has an excellent command of the English language.

In summary, therefore, we are very happy with the way the production of the construction drawings is progressing. Although the process is far from complete, the service we have received from the Kensington Company to date gives us confidence that the final set of drawings will be perfectly acceptable.

Assuming that will be the case then we will have proven that you can commission a Thai architect in Bangkok, Thailand to design your retirement home in Thailand even if you live half way round the world and never even visit Thailand.

Having said that, the drawings are not yet complete, there is still much work to do, and only then will I be able to give a 100% recommendation of the Kensington Company.

More Information And Thai House Plan Drawings

Please make sure you visit the web page Thai Architects House Plans  periodically to check out the latest drawings and perspectives of our planned retirement house. In fact, to make sure you are alerted whenever I post new information why not join the Announcement List by entering your name and email at the top of this page? I will then send you an email whenever anything interested is posted on the website.

Get A Free Consultation For Thai House Plans – Have Your Retirement House Designed Or Built In Thailand

Chris, Managing Director of Kensington Company will be happy to meet with anyone who contacts him from this website or from my recommendation and he will provide a personal service and a free consultation. If you do contact  Kensington Company mak sure that you ask for Chris. To make is easy for you I have put a Contact Kensington Form on the website for you to use. 

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