Monday, November 27, 2006

The Ninth Circle of Hell

You wouldn't have thought it, but you're looking at the Ninth Circle of Hell -- that is, if you live next door. In our neighborhood a local charity that is building a hospital nearby has purchased several of the large villas for use as dorms for its doctors and nurses. The buildings are all being made over, and so we have been subjected to months of drilling, shouting, radios blasting bad music at all hours, and dust and brick chunks scattered everywhere. The result is that we have to keep our doors and windows closed in the best season of the year.

Remodeling a house in Taiwan is an ear-splitting ordeal. In the US houses are made of wood, and are easily dissembled and reconstructed. Here in Taiwan the usual methods are either concrete poured into molds, or concrete over brick. Consequently, walls have to be demolished, not taken apart, and by jackhammers. The noise is unbelievable torture.

Of course, another fine thing about having remodeling going on in your neighborhood is that in Taiwan, the streets are used for storage. Our neighbors across the street are also remodeling, and they have left these bricks in our parking spot in front of our house for a week or so, in fine neighborly regard for our needs.

Not that they are the only ones. On one side stacks of bricks block the road, on the other, parking is occupied by roofing and siding material.

I can't wait for this to end.

16 comments:

Jonathan Benda said...

Believe me--I know what you're talking about. We had this going on in the apartment downstairs for most of the summer and into October, I think it was. And when they're finished with the dust and the jackhammers, they start with the cigarettes and turpentine.

Anonymous said...

could you tell me why american mades house use woods? we knows there are a lot of TORNADO in US. So, it is dangerous house made of wood sometimes....cheap.. easily remodeling.. else?

Michael Turton said...

Destructive tornadoes are very rare, and will destroy a concrete house as easily as a wooden one. Wood is cheaper, a better insulator, easier to remodel, easier to replace, and so on.

Anonymous said...

Michael, I don't think a tornado can rip through concrete house like a wooden house. It's actually the pressure difference inside and outside the house make the roof pop, I am pretty sure concrete roof can withstand it.

-CSU Student

Anonymous said...

>>>>
Destructive tornadoes are very rare, and will destroy a concrete house as easily as a wooden one.
<<<<<

The above poster does have a point. The sheer strength of a concrete house is much greater than that of a wood-framed house. Concrete houses are better able to withstand earthquakes and hurricanes much beter than wood- framed homes.

>>>>>>
Wood is cheaper, a better insulator, easier to remodel, easier to replace, and so on.
<<<<<<

Wood is cheaper, but skilled framing carpenters are more expensive. I am not sure what process they are using in Taiwan: cast-in-place concrete (in which concrete is poured into upright forms) or tilt-up construction (in which the walls are poured into forms flat on the ground and then tilted up into place with a crane), but the amount of skilled labor required for concrete construction is much reduced.

Wood though also has its advantages. It is very easy to remodel a wood-framed home, it is much easier to run wires and plumbing through the studs, repairs of wood-framed homes are much simpler.

Thick wood-framed houses can hold great amounts of insulation. But then, concrete homes can be insulated as well. Don't they provide insulation for concrete homes in Taiwan?

Michael Turton said...

No, Taiwanese homes are not insulated. They are fearsomely profligate of energy.

Both methods are used in Taiwan, but molds are more common in my experience. Another common method is a steel frame, the walls filled with bricks, and then a layer of concrete is spread over it.

Forgot that carpenters are more expensive than cement pourers.

Maybe a wooden home might collapse more easily, but which would you rather have fall on you? Plus wooden homes are more easily cleared and rebuilt, etc.

Michael

Michael Turton said...

Yet concrete is more brittle. Concrete does of course do better in wind storms.

here's a page on quake/tornado considerations. One advantage concrete has is that it protects from flying missiles.

of coruse, one downside of concrete is that it doesn't breathe. A sealed concrete house is a deathtrap, at least here in Taiwan.

Michael

Anonymous said...

Taiwan doesn't use wood to build the house because it rains damn too much and the moist will kill all the wood.

-CSU Student

Michael Turton said...

No, Taiwan doesn't use wood in order to protect its local cement companies. It has nothing to do with the rain. In seattle and other rainy places in the US the houses are made of wood.

xtrain said...

the rain may not be a major factor, but the humidity surely is.

the west coast of NA isn't near as humid as much of taiwan is.

Anonymous said...

Wood frame structures are easier to build and takes less time, not to mention much cheaper material cost. Large part of consruction cost in North America is Labour and a cement pourer won't be much cheaper than a carpenter...

Wiring and plumbing are easily accessed inside the dry wall.

A experienced crew can layout a whole floor in less than one day.

In Vancouver where it rains continually 6 month of the year. Wood is still used as the main construction material.

Anonymous said...

>>>>>
Wood frame structures are easier to build and takes less time
<<<<

No way. Cement is much faster. THe molds are pre-made so assembly can be done very quickly. Then it's simply a matter of installing rebar and pouring in the concrete. Alternatively, stacking and mortaring cinder block is also a very quick process.

Cement homes and buildings can be completed in matter of days, while wood framing takes a few weeks.

<<<<<
Large part of consruction cost in North America is Labour and a cement pourer won't be much cheaper than a carpenter...

Wiring and plumbing are easily accessed inside the dry wall.

A experienced crew can layout a whole floor in less than one day.
>>>>>

Commercial buildings in North America are usually built with cement. Wood-framed buildings are still popular for residential homes for several reasons. As you mentioned, drywall is used for interiors, so plumbing and eletrical can be hidden behind the sheetrock within the wood-framed studs. The finished look is very neat and tidy.

Running a chase to install plumbing and electrical inside the concrete is difficult and error-prone, so most builders run the pipes and conduits along the wall or between floors. Hiding the pipes, installing insulation and applying a plaster coating to the walls to make them look smooth adds to the cost.

Remodeling a cement home is an arduous and laborious task, requiring jack hammers and pneumatic drills. Something as simple as installing a new light switch requires drilling and chiseling a concrete wall (unless conduit is attached to the wall out in the open), rather than cutting through the drywall.

The extra cost of materials and difficulty in renovations is what drives builders to stick-framing. Concrete buildings though can be erected very quickly.

I don't know what they do with pipes and electrical conduits in Taiwan. Are they inside the walls or surface mounted?

Michael Turton said...

Pipes and conduits are generally inside of the walls. They are placed into the concrete molds and the concrete filled around them.

Michael

Anonymous said...

<<<<<<<
Pipes and conduits are generally inside of the walls. They are placed into the concrete molds and the concrete filled around them.
>>>>>>>>

Do they test the plumbing system before pouring the concrete? What if there's a bad join in the pipe? Water (or worse) would leak into the concrete wall wouldn't it?

Patrick Cowsill said...

As soon as it does end, a new project will noisily pop up to take its place. I remember a jackhammer waking me up at 7:00 every morning for what seemed like a whole summer. When I complained to the landlady (this was going on about two meters from her front door), she said it was "none of our business". Half a year earlier, this same woman left a note pinned to my door asking me to tidy up my two pairs of shoes because their arrangement in the corridor was messing up "the environment".

Michael Turton said...

That's right, leaks are not exactly uncommon, especially as the piping deteriorates over time. Welcome to Taiwan. Add to that substandard concrete, indifferent inspectors, constant corner cutting, skimping, and theft of construction materials....

Michael