I hope you have enjoyed the previous 3 articles on design and material recommendations for sustainable home building in the humid tropics. Now let’s take a look at the construction logistics as well as how to get off to a good start with your garden! The following is a continuation of the previous 3 articles.
1. As mentioned previously, always confirm whether you need an environmental impact study for your project site. PROFEPPA is the agency that handles this assessment.
2. Remember, that if your building is commencing in the rainy season (July through October), heavy equipment can wreck irreversible havoc on your soil. Necessary heavy equipment is ideally limited to the dry season, to mitigate damages. Excavation fill must be handled legally and not dumped on a neighboring property
3. Road building should be parallel to the contours of the topography as much as possible. Roads can be pitched towards drainage ditches and bioswales, diverting water to passive water holding dams or cisterns. Roads should be perceived not only as providers of access, but also intentional channellers or water and fire barriers. An excellent consultancy in Jalisco that specializes in these areas is Mas Humus (https://www.facebook.com/Mashumus).
4. Local artisans and contractors are the ideal partners in making your sustainable home and garden a reality. Be aware that the local construction industry struggles with the issue of living wages (or, more accurately, lack of). This results in a tragedy of addiction and migration that affects all of society. It is up to the consumer and home builder to participate in raising these standards. This can only begin by building up relationships with small crews and taking responsibility that living wages make it into the accounts of the individual workers, not just deposits that arrive first to the family of the worker, ensure that funds get first and foremost allocated to family support. Appropriate allocation is equally important to raising wages.
5. When planning for a construction project, it is beneficial to hash out a rough timeline, with goals per quarter, that the home owner can cross reference as the building progresses. This way if time or monetary targets are grossly missed, the homeowner can detect the discrepancy early in the building process. A good general practice is to break lump sum payments into thirds, with 1/3 initiating materials. Paying a large percentage of a construction project upfront can be regrettable.
6. Erosion control should always be considered when designing your landscape. I have written about the incredible grass species Vetiver here https://www.vallartatribune.com/sustainably-erosion-awareness/. A source is provided there. This is an ideal species to contain erosion for sunny conditions. In shade, another very hardy species that helps stabilize slopes is mother-in-law-tongue, or, Sansivieria, Sansevieria trifasciata.
7. Always dedicate a portion of your property to habitat protection and for the pollinators. Audubon Mexico and the Vallarta Botanical Garden have some great tips in this regard. In fact, dedicating 20% of a back yard to pollinators and birds is a core value we are incorporating into the planning at ecoBravo, Lo de Marcos, a project I am assisting with (www.ecobravo.org)
8. If you are inclined towards backyard food production, building an attractive screen room with growing tables is ideal. A screen room is the tropical version of the greenhouse – it is contained by mosquito screen rather than glass and its main purpose is to prevent pest entry and provide shelter from our extreme elements. I have written a guide on growing vegetables in the humid tropics here http://phytostone.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/PHYTOSTONE-GROW-BOX-GUIDE_NEW.pdf. It’s free to download!
The previous installments to this Tribune series can be found online. I’d love to know your experiences in creating your own sustainable oasis here in the Bay – email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to share. Happy sustainable homemaking!
Photo: Villa Azelia, El Tuito