quinta-feira, 17 de maio de 2007

English Guide 01 - A house in Arruda

To widen the access to this blog to all of those out there who are not proficient in the language of Camões or Pessoa, I decided to, every so often, post a brief summary in English of what has been written. I am responsible for any mistakes in the language of Auden. After reading the summary of each post, scroll down to the original one in Portuguese to check the pictures.

01 - License to build
The start of this blog. On the 7Th of March 2007 the local council of Arruda-dos-Vinhos (in English something like rue (Ruta sp.) of wines), 35 km Northeast of Lisbon, Portugal, issued a permit for the reconstruction of a small house in typical vineyard countryside. It was the final step of a 13 month licensing process.

I am the client – Rui Pedro Lérias – and the office of architecture Plano B was responsible for the drawings and planning of this project (posts by Quico (Francisco Freire)).

02 – Technical File
Architecture project and technical direction by Plano B Architecture – http://www.planob.com/
Engineering projects by Focus Group – http://www.focusgroup.com.pt/
Building by Socofirma

03 – The Project
This projects deals with the reconstruction of a small building in ruins in an area classified as green belt. The project uses the same materials of the ruined building (stone, earth and wood) but re-ordered: a wood structure filled with local earth (wattle and daub); the stone coming from the demolition will be used in the foundations and surrounding area.
Otherwise, the architects associated natural materials (wood, earth and cork panels) with industrial ones (concrete, metal, glass and polycarbonate). Drawing: 1-living area; 2-kitchen; 3-bathroom; 4-technical area.

04 – Prototype of a wall section
The architects built a section of the projected wall at a natural scale as a prototype. There is a wood structure (20x10 cm wood columns spaced every 60 cm) with stabilising wood poles forming an x cross. The inside of this structure is filled with earth, giving the wall high thermal inertia. The external side of the wall is covered first with panels of cork agglomerate, 5 Cm thick, for thermal insulation, followed, on top of that, by corrugated polycarbonate sheets. The inside of the wall is covered with wood planks, with a trapezoidal cross section, 5 cm wide, every other 10 cm.

05 – Eucalyptus (Tasmanian blue gum) wood structure
The house wood structure will use eucalyptus wood coming from large trees. There are risks involved with this decision, mainly because of structural instability of eucalyptus wood once dried. We wanted to use wood grown in Portugal and that meant almost exclusively either Tasmanian blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) or maritime pine (Pinus pinaster). Despite the risks, we chose the blue gum wood over the pine wood because of the need of the later to be treated with fungicide and insecticide. The safest treatment, using DOT (disodium octaborate tetrahydrate,) is unfortunately not available in Portugal and I strongly resisted using stronger treatments, designed for outdoor wood, such as CCA or Tanalith-E. Blue Gum wood is naturally more resistant to fungal decay and insect attacks so we decided to risk its use, taking care, nevertheless, to minimise the risks in the preparation and fixation of the wood.

06 – Concrete foundations
The foundation structure is a common one.

07 – Steel window frames

08 – The first stone

For connecting the house to the water and electrical suppliers, the first day of building was devoted to laying a single 'stone' pre-fabricated in concrete.

Personal Note 01 – At the mercy of the local electrical supplier (and only one in Portugal) EDP
I describe the difficulties of getting the cooperation of the electrical supplier (no competition in Portugal yet, and it shows) in the connecting process. Withholding of information, refusal of the technicians to talk with the customer, refusal of the customer service to put me in touch with the technicians – directly or indirectly - has led to long delays in the process of getting the electricity connected. 3 months have gone and still no connection. Since there is no competition I am not allowed to simply take my business elsewhere.

09 – Outside Wall layers
A simple, elegant drawing showing the different layers of the onion.

10 – Clearing
The clearing of overgrown vegetation was long overdue and gave the land a different, fresh look.

11 – Terex
The next day was demolition day with a Terex bulldozer.

12 – The largest rock of the day
Pretty big, I would say.

Personal Note 02 – The 'clearing'

After a few years of simply encouraging the growth of oak trees (Quercus faginea) and leaving everything else go wild, the anticipation of the clearing of all the overgrown undergrowth vegetation and felling of 5 oaks, that had grown inside the ruins of the house or immediately in front of it and could not be saved, made me a bit anxious. With the cooperation of the builders, we were, nevertheless, able to save quite a few oaks, a Cork oak (Quercus suber) and a maritime pine in the area surrounding the house. Overall, there are now many more oaks growing in the land than when I first bought it 6 years ago.

Personal Note 03 – White ants ...
If you are building a house made of wood, termites are at the bottom of your list of invited guests. They crashed the party anyway, reminding us of how important good building practices are to prevent termite infestations from occurring. More closely related to cockroaches than ants, termites – in this case subterranean ones – keep their ant association due to their social lifestyle.

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