How to build inexpensively, in a Jamaican way
Some of the British press reported that the work in Jamaica by the Prince’s Foundation would produce “a little slice of Poundbury” in a blighted Caribbean locale. That’s true in one sense: The Foundation is fostering a community that employs traditional building materials and construction techniques, has gathering spaces and narrow streets, and achieves a human scale.
Certainly, though, Rose Town, in West Kingston, will not look or feel like the community that Prince Charles has been developing since 1993 in Dorchester, England. The project in Jamaica takes its cues from the climate and economic and social conditions of a place much different from prosperous southwestern England.
The character of Rose Town is reflected in the guidelines that architect Steve Mouzon produced for people undertaking improvements there. This is a place that is subject to hurricanes and floodwaters as well as human disorder. Here are some of Mouzon’s locally calibrated recommendations:
• Raise the floor of your house at least half of your height above the ground because even the higher ground will flood in the worst of storms.
• Build your foundation strong, with heavy columns of brick, block, or concrete, so that logs and branches washing along in the flood do not smash your foundation and sweep your house away.
• Build your house where each room has at least two outdoor walls, letting light and air into every room, because light exposes the dirt, and air dries the wet things that would make you sick.
• Build your ceilings high, up to twice your height or more, so that the hot air can rise, keeping you cooler.
• Build the wall where the sun sets as narrow as possible, then protect it from the hot, afternoon sun with bushes and louvered verandas so that you stay cooler in your home.
• Build your walls of nog (a concoction of small stones and cement, filling in between timbers) or block so that they are stronger when the hurricane comes.
• Build most of your house from materials available in Jamaica whenever possible so that you do not have to pay for shipping heavy materials from overseas.
• Build at least one window on each end of your house that is either under a tree or under a veranda so you can leave these windows open and pull cool air into your home.
• Build a veranda opening onto the street, because it is in sitting on the street veranda that you can both visit with your neighbors and also take back your street from those who are behaving rudely or out of order.
• Let there be a wall built at the front of your house which is as tall as your shoulder, so that your yard is private from the street but you can watch the street from your veranda.
• If you build an upstairs, put the stairs outside so that they do not take up space in your house.
• Build the place where you work near the street so your raw materials are easy to deliver and your customers don’t need to come into your yard.
• Plant your yard with things you can eat, for why should your yard lie fallow while you spend more of your money at the grocery store? ��