Monday, March 28, 2016

Mindoro Construction Project

After a number of years of discussions, we (that is, the children of MOG and RPG) finally relented and agreed to construct the house that Dad has wanted to build on his seaside property in Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro.

Nearly 90 years old (turning 90 in a few months on July 29, 2016), it doesn't matter to Dad that his preferred site is nearly at the highest elevation of his property, which happens to be relatively far from the nearest source of water (about 1 kilometer away). Similarly, it's probably the farthest point from the two possible points of electrical connection with the local electric cooperative. Hence, while the house itself is a simple and modest affair, the need to (a) maximize rainwater collection for non-potable water supply (Dad has to bathe after all) and (b) to install a solar power system (for basic comforts like lighting and refrigeration) pose some additional challenges to the Project.

I had to install at least one air-condition unit in Dad's room. After all, air-conditioning is one of the essentials of civilized living in the tropics. The other being warm showers. Yes, even in the tropics, tap water can get uncomfortably cold in the mornings of the cool months; hence, a water heater. We decided to take a chance on a solar (thermal not electric) water heater, even if there were concerns about scaling in the equipment that would render it useless.

One of Dad's primary design criteria was to be able to sunbathe in the nude (he is serious about his daily dose of Vitamin D) with relative privacy. In this regard, the indoor/outdoor space adjacent to Dad's room as well as the initial water catchment (a few steps from Dad's room, which we constructed ahead of the house to get a sense of the volume of rainwater) appear to fulfill this design criteria. Yes, senior citizens have more fun in the Philippines!

Most everything else about the house was henceforth configured by Betta. She opted for a simple modern design that takes full advantage of the gorgeous views of the sea and the mountains that envelope the house. This includes plenty of light and air (cross-ventilation in particular). She requested the help of her neighbors, Manny and Trixie (Mañosa & Associates), and voila . . .

Betta did want something special inside--wooden joists that appear to support the high ceilings, inspired by a bungalow in Palo Alto. It turns out, leading-up to the installation of these wooden joists was the most controversial (and probably most difficult) aspect of the construction.

We started construction beginning of February 2016 and expect to be substantially completed by end of July 2016--in time for Dad's 90th birthday and, not coincidentally, about the time when the typhoons start to pass through the Philippines and occasionally meander through Mindoro with devastating intensity. I am hoping the El Niño phenomenon this year will last a little longer so that our site does not experience much rain until August.

Below are pictures that document the construction of Dad's house, which is a work-in-progress. If you would like to view the pictures in a larger format, just right click and open the same in a new tab.

The first order of business is to level a mound.
That's Ka Porek in front of the rented backhoe.

Unloaded at the entrance of the property. Taxi meter starts here.

After what seemed like several hours of travel from the entrance of the property,
the backhoe is finally on-site.

Here's a portion of the mound leveled.

Just like a kid's sandbox with Tonka trucks . . .

. . . except this is the real thing!

Standing on top of the mound and taking a 180 degree picture in 7 takes (1 of 7)

2 of 7

3 of 7

4 of 7

5 of 7

6 of 7

7 of 7
My elevation is about the height of the roof. That's Porek and Poli at the level of the floor.

Service road at the right of the entrance driveway.

"Back of the envelope" construction schedule. Unrealistic on hindsight.
"Substantial completion" still on track by end of July 2016.

The mound has been leveled. Featuring the entrance driveway.

Column foundation works begin.

Behind the scenes, Sendong (my Ilocano foreman "imported" from Nampicuan, Nueva Ecija)
erected a couple of steel columns, which did not follow the specifications in the blueprint.
It turns out he did not know how to interpret steel bar plans even though he claimed he did.
Taught Sendong to interpret plans and he got the columns right.

IBC tanks on the side for water mixed with cement, sand and gravel.

Footprint of the house.

The first rainwater catchment constructed a few months before to assess ability to collect and store rainwater on site.
Also, one of the sunbathing spots of Dad . . . in the nude!

Four IBC tanks with an initial storage capacity of 4,000 liters (1,000 liters each).

Initial list of wood for ceiling joists.

Jalousy width too wide for wind conditions on site.

All jalousy and sliding door specs need to be revised.

Incline between the entrance driveway and the service driveway (1 of 8)

2 of 8

3 of 8

4 of 8

5 of 8

6 of 8

7 of 8

8 of 8
Plenty of landscaping work to be done ahead!

View of caretaker's bahay-kubo from the entrance of the house.

My . . . what large clams! Perfect for a Boston clam chowder or a vongole perhaps?

Steel works for the columns.

Purchased a one-bag cement mixer for all the concrete pouring to be done on the house.

That's the only BMW you're going to find in our household.

Column foundation and columns in progress.

Concrete pour on foundations and columns done. Start cantilever supports for the canopy.
Not in blueprints but did not object to it. More structural support not a bad thing . . . so I thought.

Ground floor foundation in progress.

Initial piping for toilet and bath.

Digging the cistern.
Note the vein of rock in between the workers. What a bitch!

Electrical wiring for electrical outlets.

Gravel and sand in recycled cement sacks in preparation for concrete pour of ground floor.

Concrete ground floor is still wet.

Wooden scaffolding in preparation for wood works of canopy.

Wooden form works for the canopy.

Steel works on the beams in progress.
I had some difficulty interpreting the steel plans for the beams.
Eventually figured it out after meeting with the engineers.

Should have seen the recessed cantilever supports of the canopy coming but did not . . .
He just had to look at the drawing but Sendong had to do it his way. Too late to change at this point!

Steel works and electrical wiring at canopy in progress.

Wood form works of beams in progress.

Very substantial steel works in those beams indeed!

At long last . . . the concrete pour on the beams and canopy.

Rented an additional cement mixer and doubled the number of workers to double the capacity of the concrete pour.

If you look carefully, you will notice the steel bolts jutting out of the wood works,
in preparation for the supports of the wooden joists for the ceiling.
Not so easy to execute and required a lot more attention to detail on hindsight.

It took 3.5 working days to complete the concrete pour on the canopy and a few inches above the halfway mark
of the beams. This two-stage concrete pour approach was against the advice of the engineers.
I had no choice in order to execute the wooden joist ceiling design.

Sabong (a former employee who is now working as a construction worker) and his son.
No, we are NOT engaged in child labor. According to Sabong, his son is 17 years old.
In these parts, they start making babies at that age.

Taken from the rainwater catchment.

A little closer. Note the extensive wooden scaffolding
to support the beams and canopy for the concrete pour.

Just in front of the cistern. Some of the scaffolding had been removed to allow the placement of hollow block walls.

Digging the cistern continues . . .

Most of the scaffolding have been taken down.

Just making sure the concrete beams and canopy have dried up before we completely remove the supports.

High density polystyrene for roof insulation.

Look Ma . . . No more supports!

It's beginning to look like a house.

Wood works for the ceiling in progress.

Damn bolts are NOT in a straight line!

Plastic covering on the inside to protect marine wood from water of concrete pour.

Pozo negro in progress

 There goes the 2 x 8 wooden joists. First quadrant in front of entrance.

Marine plywood covering on top of the wooden joists

Wooden joists above the kitchen area

First quadrant done and sealed in plastic.

Above the kitchen area

Above the living and dining area
6 inch pipe where all the rainwater will drain into the cistern
Look at the cistern now! Me thinks that's enough water storage capacity.
The tedious task of plastering, plastering, plastering . . . 

. . . and more plastering . . .

The bangka I acquired. Needs plenty of work for its new role as bantay dagat and scuba boat.
Steelworks before the final concrete roof buhos.
Note the two-inch high density polystyrene sheets for insulation
and all the electrical works underneath.
The last polystyrene sheets being installed
before the plastic cover, steelworks and concrete pour.
All set for the concrete pour!
Safety supports below for the concrete pour.
That's quality plastering.
Corners like a knife's edge.
First day of roof concrete pour.
Just in the nick of time. First time the pick-up had to be pushed from behind
due to the muddy road leading to the house. The rain is falling.
Second day of roof concrete pour.
Third day of roof concrete pour.
As of the afternoon of Wednesday, June 29, 2016, it's done!
Henceforth, it's all finishing works: plastering, installation of windows, sliding doors, regular doors,
water system, electrical room, solar power system, concrete counters (kitchen and bathrooms),
wooden parquet flooring, marble flooring, paint and wood finishing . . . and there is still the outdoor spaces!
A couple of rows of hollow blocks to border the parapet.
Next is to plaster the incline for rainwater collection.
Form works of the cistern.
Aluminum framing for jalousies and sliding doors

Concrete slab counter for kitchen sink

Concrete slab kitchen counter / bar

Team Cistern headed by Jun on the exteme right

Plastering of the parapet wall commences

Electrical room takes shape

Plastering and more plastering . . .

Ditch for sewerage pipes from kitchen and Dad's toilet / bath

Masilya (preparatory coating) prior to first coat of paint

Jalousies installed (screen on the outside to follow)

More masilya . . .

Applying sanding sealer to wood components of electrical room

Concrete slab counter for lavatory in Dad's bathroom

Circuit breaker box and the plywood board that will NOT be used for the charge controllers.
The battery set-up was done on-site and inadvertently blocked the plywood board,
on which the charge controllers were originally intended to be attached.

The lifeline of the house . . . the rainwater pipe leading to the cistern.

Backfilling the porch. Bebot did NOT follow the plan, which extends only 2.6 meters.
It's extended 4 meters. Some "mistakes" are a good thing.

Solar panel assembly on-site nearly completed.

"Infinity pool" feel of the porch

Electrical room exterior

Electrical room interior with 24 deep-cycle gel-type batteries

Double-throw switch below the circuit breaker box to switch-over from
the main 5 kW inverter to the back-up 3 kW inverter in case of failure of the main inverter.

20 (250 watts) Glomax solar panels above Dad's bedroom and kitchen

Still plenty of room to have a party on the rooftop!

Rainwater collection incline on the canopy commences

Masilya, masilya and more masilya . . . 

Ooops! The three white lights at the back need to be switched to black spotlights facing the wall.

Wiring embedded in the concrete roof; before installation of lighting fixtures.

Hello tuko (gecko)! Nearly a feet long from the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail.

Installation of electrical outlets

Sample of the black spotlight facing the wall.

Canopy border thickens due to the rainwater collection incline.
Design detail of water pump system--see below for actual installation.
Water pump room walled above the cistern.

Conventional water booster pump and bladder pressure tank set-up in the water pump room.

Main rain water collection pipe leading to the cistern.

Finishing the rooftop to collect every drop of rain.

The incline is such that it nudges the rain water from
where I stand in the foreground all the way to the end of the picture.

In this case, the rain water flows from the end of the picture to my direction.

Sewage pipes from the two adjacent bathrooms.

Sewage pipe from Dad's bathroom and the kitchen sinks.

Sliding doors installed.

August 26, 2016, the day we energized the solar power system.

Let there be light! Living and dining area in the middle of darkness.
The ceiling fans (which have additional lights) are not yet installed.

Kitchen area


Veranda at another angle

Veranda at another angle. Notice the transition walkway
adjacent to each of the three bedrooms.

The entrance at night.

Narra parquet, ceramic tiles and doors . . . waiting to be installed.

Comfortable benches at the entrance.

Outside the living, dining and kitchen area at night.

Jalousie installation complete.

Screens to be installed after painting and finishing are done.
Detailed design and tiling layout of bathroom divider.
Detailed design of skylight.
Narra parquet flooring in the bedrooms completed.

Doors in the bedrooms installed. Door knobs to be installed when all doors have been installed.

Effect of the pinlights on the bedroom wall, where a painting or paintings will be installed.

Transition walkway outside the bedroom.

Rock wall at the entrance using rocks from the excavation on-site.

Simple steel balusters bordering the wooden deck--not yet installed.

Rock wall and the earthen tiles in the transition area.

"Lips" (tempted to place gargoyles) that drain the rainwater from the rooftop to the canopy.

The plywood has come back to bite me. Notice the stains on the plywood that look like watermarks on stationery.
We decided to paint all the plywood surfaces white to conceal this defect. It will first be completely surfaced with marine epoxy, then painted matted white. I will never use plywood again for a final finished surface.

Earthen tiles in the transition area.

The finish on the 2 by 8 wooden joists and the 2 by 4 supports came out nicely.
The much awaited marble finally arrived. The boat and crew docked at the Mansalay Pier at around 7 pm on Sep 26 (Mon) and unloaded the cargo in Cagulong Bay (in front of the bangka parking area of the property) at around 7 am on Sep 27 (Tue).

Important lesson learned . . . in large quantities (i.e., over 50 pieces), order Romblon marble way ahead of time!!!
We waited nearly two months for the marble from date of order to date of delivery on site.
My mistake delayed completion of house by one month.

It was high tide in the morning so the workers did not have to walk much to unload the marble tiles,
which come in bundles of 10 pieces. Very heavy!

The Toyota Fortuner could take only 10 bundles at a time; whereas, the KIA pick-up could take 15 bundles at a time. 1,400 pieces or 140 bundles translates to 5 hauls of the Fortuner and 6 hauls of the KIA.

500 pieces of marble at the entrance of the house.

900 pieces of marble beside the house just in the nick of time! The rain poured heavily that evening,
which may have delayed further the hauling of the marble on site. Whew!
Marine epoxy primer before painting white.

Plywood stains gone!

Bathroom separator sans marble surface.

Welding of steel balusters done.

Welding of water pump gate done.
The small black barrel is the heart of the rain water collection system--made in Germany!
View from the cistern, which is now filled with water
due to the rains over the past couple of nights.

Polycarbonate skylight above the indoor/outdoor room.

Skylight above the entrance area.
Front entrance porch

Living dining area with Sijbren (my nephew) sitting on my grandfather's butaka
(traditionally used as a birthing chair but it's also a comfortable lounging chair)

Dining area

Middle bedroom

Living dining area at sunrise

South side

North side porch

Front entrance

The last eight pictures above were taken by my sister, Betta. This was sometime in late November, after she had arranged the delivery of furnitures and appliances to make the house livable. At that time, the water pumping system and the solar power system were not working together properly. Indeed, one of the four solar charge controllers was inoperative. In early December, I stayed at the house for several days to "stress test" the utilities. After discovering a loose connection between the "inoperative" charge controller (which worked just fine after the loose connection was fixed) and switching over to the main 5 kW inverter (it was running on the bare bones back-up 3 kW inverter), everything worked quite nicely. I turned on the air conditioner in Dad's room every night during my stay (even if it was not necessary as December is cool enough in these parts) and it worked like a charm--barely discharging the batteries. 

And so ends this particular chapter of the Mindoro Construction Project, which has been a metaphor for my own recovery from the accident. I am nearly back to my normal physical condition, albeit a little slower and more careful in each stride. The house is ready for Dad (who was scheduled to visit after Christmas 2016) but, alas, he has gotten too weak to travel. We still hope he will have the opportunity to live here, if only for a few days at at time to enjoy his dearest and most costly mistress.

From here onwards, it's all about landscaping!

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