"El Refugio" - Construction

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Property as Purchased

The sale was closed on 17th February 2006. The total area is over 3000m2 located by the side of an irrigation canal. As such, it includes a federal zone which must not be built on, but otherwise may be used as a normal part of the property.

Although by a village and close to a city, the location is rural in nature, the only immediate neighbor being a small farm to the north. It was previously used as a quinta (a weekend retreat or party area). There are outstanding panoramic views over agricultural areas, with urban areas beyond and mountains in the distance.

The photo shows the land as seen from by the entrance gate, looking toward the area where the house will be built. The concrete part of the patio is mainly shaded by fig trees, but the edge is just visible. Two of the seven fig trees along the patio had to be removed to make way for the house, along with some smaller trees.

Land Survey

The professional land survey, showing the existing buildings (supplied as an AutoCAD drawing). The north wall is actually not straight as was assumed, but angles outwards with a consequent discrepancy in non-federal area (which the title gives as 1963m2).

By using triangulation from surveyed positions, other details (such as the patio and plants) were added, and the above error corrected. The resultant detailed and accurate map proved very useful in planning; for example in finding the best position for the house.

Existing construction includes a casita with bathroom at the north end, a basic house at the south end, a well, a WC/storage building and a large concrete patio area up to 80cm above the garden with shelters for dining and cooking. It seemed essential that the house be approached from the patio and so built off it at a higher level, though this would require a deeper foundation.

Planned Layout

This development of the survey map was presented at the Zamora construction office for permission to build (it is an early version of the current detailed map). The patio and the house in its planned position have been added.

As well as keeping the house clear of the federal zone, careful consideration was given to making the most of the views, especially to the east where they could be blocked by trees.

House Design

There are to be 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, a large split-level living room, a family room, a cloakroom, and a study on two storys, with boveda ceilings. It will capitalize on the superb views, but no upstairs windows face north over the neighboring farm and village. It is to fit well with its canal-side location and avoid ornamentation and garish colors; rather form should follow function, with use of natural finishes.

The image shows the set of plans for the house, as submitted to obtain permission to begin construction. Actually, few people in this area bother to apply for this permission, and fewer still would produce detailed technical plans like these. They were initially developed by the architect (who also supervised construction), then reviewed by a structural engineer.

3-Dimensional Model

In addition to the 2-dimensional plans, a 3D model was developed from which a number of mock-up images were produced for both the exterior and interior.

Whilst AutoCAD was used to produce the 2D plans, the 3D model was developed using ArchiCAD. The external views give a remarkably good idea of what the house will look like (although it seems that the people who did the rendering were not aware that the house would feature boveda ceilings).

18 Mar 2006

Some Preliminary Work

Apart from building the main house, substantial development work was done on the land before, during, and after house construction.

Here, a large fallen tree has been cut up, and an unstable dead tree is being felled piece by piece. There is much work to do repairing and reinforcing boundary walls, and replacing the patio kitchen frame. Other work being done at this stage includes providing irrigation stations, installation of a submersible pump in the well and its control unit, numerous electrical installations, reroofing the patio shelters, providing water and gas supplies to the patio, fitting a counter to and retiling the kitchen shelter, fitting sinks in the kitchen shelter and WC, and reroofing and rebuilding the walls of the house at the south end.