Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tropical Wooden Houses

Tropical wooden houses in Minahasa have been around for hundreds of years. Most of the Minahasan people live in houses that are constructed from wood. Cempaka, Merbau,  and Natoh (Latin: Micelia celebica) are the main types of wood used in the house construction due to their hardness and durability in resisting wet climate of the tropical weather. In addition, they are more resistant to termite attack. Most of the earthquake resistant wooden houses of Minahasa are single and two floors constructions. Besides they are more suitable to hot and high moisture climate, wooden houses are chosen for aesthetic reasons. All of the rooms in a traditional wood house of Minahasa have ventilation holes. Jalousie glass windows are the preferred choice because they allow sunlight to penetrate the rooms even when they are closed. They enable the air to flow freely in and out of the house. Most of the ventilation in bedrooms are covered with mosquito nets. 
 Minahasa is a regency in the province of North Sulawesi of the Republic of Indonesia that is surrounded by several active volcanoes such as Mount Lokon, and Mount Soputan. In addition, it is located within the ring of fire of the Pacific Ocean where tectonic earthquake frequently occurs.
If we explore wooden house thoroughly, we will see that ladders are installed one at the front of the house which enables guests to come up directly to the second floor (where the living room is located) and the other at the back of the house connecting the second floor with the kitchen (which is located at the ground floor). The ground floor is usually allocated for the storage of agricultural produce (such as clove, rice, peanuts, and coffee), parking area for cars, and kitchen. Typical Minahasan wood houses have large yard area where the owners (whose profession as farmers) dry their agricultural commodity under the sun. Minahasan people like to grow clove and coconut trees in front of their houses. They also grow various flowers at the front yard as decoration that beautify the outside appearance of the house. The second floor is usually allocated for bedrooms and living room. These ladders stiffen and strengthen the construction of the wooden house against horizontal movements caused by tectonic and volcanic earthquakes. Read: Earthquake Resistant Wood House.
In the past the roof of the wooden houses are made of palm leaves. Because of frequent fire incident, today's wood houses have roof made of metal sheets which in Indonesia are called daun seng. Ordinary thin corrugated metal roof is actually not suitable for house construction in Minahasa whose atmosphere is often filled by sulphur emitted by the volcanoes but the local people there do not have other option. Actually the manufacturers of the metal roof need to produce metal roof sheets that are more resistant to corrosion caused by high sulphur content in air. 
Today the Minahasan wooden houses are being exported in the form of knock-down package that can be ordered directly from the internet and shipped in containers. House builders will be sent to help the buyer of the house construct the package.
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