Designing for the tropics is not the same as designing for colder climates for several important reasons. Many people try to recreate the same style home that they love back home here in the tropics. However, in most cases, your favorite home style just doesn’t fit the environment or the lifestyle that can be enjoyed in year-round warm weather.
For starters, a tropical home should have lots of outdoor covered living space for relaxing and entertaining, coupled with ample glass sliding doors or glass walls to allow you to enjoy indoor/outdoor living and panoramic views of nature. One of the benefits of living in a lush tropical paradise is having outdoor showers to rinse off from the beach.
Inside your home, high vaulted ceilings with proper ventilation keep the home cool as do deep eaves on the roof, which also protect your home from both sun and rain. Here in Hawaii, we carefully position our homes so that the cooling trade winds easily flow through the house and pay attention to the style and positioning of windows and doors to use this natural air conditioning. These design decisions, coupled with ceiling fans, often eliminate or reduce the need for air conditioning, however some homeowners elect to condition home offices and bedrooms.
We often hear our clients tell us that they want French patio doors in their tropical home, just like the doors they enjoy in their home on the mainland. Swing doors in the tropics (except for interior use or as a service door) are not generally a good idea because they can slam open and shut when the trade winds blow…which can be quite strong during stormy nights. Who wants to wake up to an abrupt noise and have to get up to go lock the doors?
Other design considerations are the proper selection of building products and finishes suitable for humid climates, such as selecting an appropriate wood species for the tropics, as well as using stainless steel hardware with less moving parts to avoid corrosion caused by salty, humid air. In addition, proper design considerations can avoid unnecessary mold issues, so it is important to include adequate ventilation in enclosed areas such as closets to allow your clothes and shoes to stay fresh. The lifespan of your electronic equipment is increased in dryer spaces, so the home office is an area to consider providing air conditioning.
While there are many more considerations to a well-designed tropical home, it is best to use a tropical architecture firm, experienced in these unique considerations, rather than making avoidable mistakes. Tropical Architecture Group, Inc. specializes in designing sustainable projects with low maintenance for tropical environments. So whether your new home will be in the Hawaiian Islands or any tropical climate, our focus is on capturing your dream vision so that you and your family can enjoy your home and the amazing beauty that drew you to the tropics.