Monday, July 24, 2006

Using Illustrator

I have suspended using Sketchup until more fundamental issues are resolved. It was a mistake to use Sketchup so early until the issue of affordability is addressed. We have a limited budget for building the house and hence I not not have license to design the house until the issue of costs are settled. Costs are primarily driven by square feet of the floor area of the house. Of course while building materials and even design (structure as well as interior) can affect the costs, the bottom line is still amount of floor space.

From discussions with several contractors and people who has built their own house (recently), the estimates would range from RM 80 to RM 120 per sq ft. After more detailed discussions it was agreed that any thing over RM 100 would be considered a luxurious house. And hence our focus should be around RM 80 to RM 90 per sq ft. That leaves us with a house less than 2,500 sq ft ! That is not actually the size that I was thinking of for a large family. In any case I now have a design constraint.

In addition, it was advised that to further reduce the cost of the house, I have to keep the structure light and the roofs simple.

So with hindsight, that should have been our first objective;

"Determine the constraints for the house design"

Monday, May 08, 2006

Sketchup bought up by Google

Sketchup has been bought by Google. What it means now is that the software is free ! Nudge nudge say no more.
Also it means that you can use google maps to site your house. No use for me but those of you who has detailed google maps of your zone, think about the possibilities !
Also has a warehouse full of sketchup models contributed by users including some samples from freefonts.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tools of the Trade

I used a series of tools to develop the house design and plans. It started with MS Powerpoint where I outlined some basic principles for the house we wanted. Powerpoint is a useful tool as it allows me to outline the ideas and also allow me to present them to the "stakeholders". From the principles and also resulting design features, I started using the next tool for dimensioning the house to see if the design was going to be practical or possible at all.

For this I used Adobe Illustrator. Why lah ? Thats because I am very familiar with this tool and also it is a very precise vector drawing tool that allows me to visualise the design in 2D format. From this tool, I developed a floor plan for every level and also an elevation view of front, back and sides.

With the estimated dimensions, I needed to see what it would look like in 3D and also very importantly, what effect the sun would have on the house (in terms of shading). I chose Sketchup from Last Software. The website is
This tool allows me to develop the 3D design and the final product would be viewed by the family for comments.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Why am I Fatfreddy?

Well, Fatfreddy is a member of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. They were popular casts of a comic strip produced by the Rip Off Press based in San Francisco in the early 70's. I was informed that Fatfreddy was actually based on a true character, a sketch shown above. He was my favourite character and yes he was in fact fat and bumbling idiot but always cheerful and indomitable like Obelix. They dont produce such comics anymore. They were popular in a period when mainstream comics were controlled by a Comics Code in which the content was strictly controlled. Now however the controls are almost gone in an age where porn and any content can be easily obtained from the Internet. Sadly for this reason and others, the Rip Off Press and other like them are no longer relevant.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Identifying the Location

The first task was to identify the location and plot of land.

Like it or not, Kuching is becoming racially and economically segregated. This has a bearing on the cost of the land. For example Tabuan Jaya/Dusun is becoming more upmarket and Chinese. Petra Jaya is now more Malay. Much of the land in Petra Jaya is not attainable as they are classified as "native land" and hence cannot be bought by non Bumiputras (Chinese and Indians mostly). We could not afford the Tabuan Jaya areas as they would cost at least RM 15,000 per point. 1 acre is 100 points. Normally a terrace house or semi detached house rarely exceeds 10 points. 8 points are the norm. To build a detached house, u would be looking at 15 points and above. Preferably about 18 to 25 points.

From a budget point of view, we would not want to spend more than RM 180,000 for the land. We have been advised that we should put aside at least RM 200,000 for the construction of house, services, infrastructure etc. So this would put the cap of on our house at RM 400,000. That would be the cost of a semi D on 8 points.

This meant that our target would be about RM 1,000 per point, a tough objective.

A natural source would be housing development project where they would be willing to sell off some of their sub divided lots. This would have the advantage of a built up area including services, drainage etc.

As luck would have it (and a lot of prayers from my wife), we have identified such a piece 16.5 points at RM 1,000 per point in a completed housing development project. They ran out of money to develop the last few large plots.

So - we have put a down payment on this plot.

In The Beginning

My wife and I have tentatively taken the first steps towards building our own detached house in Kuching. We have decided to build rather than buy a commercially built house. The savings, we estimated, would be between 50k to 100k easily. Besides we will have our own design and a detached rather than a semi detached house.

Well actually a contractor(or contractors) will build the house. However we will be blogging the initial phases of the project (including identifying and purchase of the land), design considerations and also the resulting construction supervision. I havent decided on how long to keep this blog after the house is completed.

The main reason why I am blogging this is to encourage other people in Malaysia (and in other countries I am sure) to build their own house. Sure it is quite intimidating but this is one way to break from the chicken coup/rabbit hatches housing that is so prevalent in Malaysia together with the speculative prices in which a house appreciates even before it is completed.

We are convinced that we can build a detached house for the cost of a semi detached house and on a plot of land not too far from the city.

My blog will include the encounters with officialdom as well as what design tools and methods I use. I am sure I will make mistakes. So visitors please offer tips and before I commit them ! hehe

For obvious security reasons we shall remain anonymous. However we shall try to reply to all questions.