The Living In Panama House is the perfect design for a tropical climate.
- Designed to keep you cool and comfortable
- Economical to build and easy to maintain
- Beautiful and high quality
- Allows a strong connection with the natural surroundings
What makes the Living In Panama House different?
The Living In Panama House is, in essence, is a big covered porch, wrapped around the bedrooms and the bathrooms. Compare this with a more typical construction of a house with a porch attached.
Depending upon the model you choose, up to 75% of the house is an open-air secured and covered porch.
House As Mango Tree
Our design gives you the same cool feeling as being in the shade under a big mango tree by the beach.
You’re protected from the sun, and there is nothing between you and the refreshing breeze.
Being under a big shady Mango tree at the beach is as cool as it gets here. That is, unless you turn on the air conditioning.
We are positive about this.
There is a big beautiful mango tree on lot 6 of our Corazon de Oro property, where we check the temperature throughout the day. It is the coolest spot around.
Made in the Shade of A Mango Tree
Why is it so cool and comfortable under a big shade tree with a cool breeze blowing?
This seems like a silly question. We all know it’s true.
However, when designing the perfect tropical house, you must ask, “Why is it true?”
1st – Mature Mango trees provide a wide area of dense shade.
The dense shade of the Mango tree protects you from the sun. Not only that, it also shades the ground all around you. This means that the entire area under the tree does not heat up, allowing you to stay cool and comfortable.
2nd – Mango tree branches are high up, so they don’t block the ocean breezes.
Because it can easily flow under the Mango tree, the breeze is free to work its evaporative magic upon your skin, keeping you cool.
And, don’t forget about the psychological effect of air movement. Air flowing over our skin, makes us feel cooler, even if the temperature hasn’t changed. This phenomenon is known as the “perceived” cooling effect.
What else can we learn from the Mango tree, so we can build a really great tropical house?
Actually, that’s it. The secret to building a cool tropical house, believe it or not, is not to ruin this simple formula: Provide deep shade and don’t obstruct the cooling breeze — Shade, air movement, evaporation, and perceived cooling.
North American Style House In The Tropics
Most builders botch tropical houses because they build the way they always have. They don’t stop to think about context, about what produces a comfortable house in the tropics.
Expats’ Thoughts On Their North American Style Homes
From various studies and surveys, and through our own observations, we have learned a lot about expats who live in North American style homes in Panama.
- Many wish they had built a smaller house
- Discover it takes more time to clean and maintain a house in Panama than in the US. (Another knock against a big house.)
- They end up spending 90% of their time on their covered porch. The rest of the house gets used much less than when they were living in the States or Canada.
- When they fully AC their house, they don’t get outside much. It’s too much of a shock to go from the air-conditioned house, to the relative heat of outdoors – even when the outdoor temperature is perfect, which it often is here.
- Without A/C their North American style home gets hot as a furnace.
- Constantly battling mold, mildew and bugs. Typical American construction includes sheetrock, drop ceilings, soffits, built-in cabinetry, just to name a few. These are either unnecessary or even damaging to a house in Panama. These unnecessary layers trap air. Stagnant, warm air is the ideal place for mold and mildew to grow and for bugs to live and breed. (Plus, how can you tell if construction quality is good when it is buried behind all these “cosmetic” layers. The Living in Panama house has all of the structural work exposed. What you see is what you get. It allows you to examine our high quality, design, and construction skills at a glance.)
- It is hard to make a good return when selling the house. The bigger the house, the more investment, the more likely you won’t make a good return on that investment. If you use common sense when you buy, and when you build, you should make money on your retirement home investment in Panama, not lose it
- Many expats have spent more to build than they had planned
- House construction took much longer than anticipated. Builders in Panama are much less experienced at building North American Style houses. Which means they build much more slowly and make more errors, all of which costs you money. Some expats have waited 1, 2, or even 3 years to get their big North-American style dream house built.
Living in Panama House As Mango Tree – A Closer Look
How does the Living in Panama House bring together all the elements necessary to imitate the cool, comfort beneath our big mango tree? Shade, air movement, evaporation, perceived cooling.
The mango tree has these going for it. What about the Living in Panama House?
1st, the Living in Panama House has wide, 5-foot roof overhangs. This means that, just as if you were relaxing in a hammock beneath our big mango tree, you are protected from the sun by this big, sheltering roof. It also means that no part of the Living In Panama House, except the roof, is exposed to sunlight. By keeping the house structure from heating up during the day, you don’t heat up. What’s more, you will stay cool and comfortable all night.
Now, back to our mango tree comparison: The leaves at the top of the Mango tree get very hot, during the day, due to direct contact with the sun’s rays. Since a mango tree has so many layers of leaves, all that heat is trapped; It never gets to you, napping in your hammock down in the shade.
In the case of the Living in Panama House, we actually have the mango tree beat here. The mango’s tree’s thick canopy requires tons of branches and leaves to provide shade down below. Obviously, this is not a good model for building a house; It’s an inefficient use of materials), By contrast, The Living In Panama House has a metal roof, and galvanized steel roof framing.
Metal roofing is the most popular roofing in Panama, so it is readily available.
2nd, our metal roof system is very lightweight, or low in mass, which means that the roof can’t store heat.
3rd, the roof has a dramatically energy-efficient roof color, white. A white roof can reduce surface temperatures by as much as 100 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to a dark roof color. This means those solar rays are reflected right back into space. This is known as the Albedo Effect. The end result: a significantly cooler house. To learn more about why a white roof is the best choice for a cooler house, check out this article on the Texas Smart Roof, here.
4th, the metal roof is strong. It does not rest on top of the walls the way it does in typical house construction. Instead, the Living in Panama House roof is connected to the walls by a series of steel columns. The steel column supports are welded to steel reinforcement poured integrally into the concrete walls. This is the strongest roof design we have seen here.
Our Living In Panama House roof system is special in another way too.
5th, there is ample ventilation space to allow heat to escape and daylight to enter. In our current model home, there is 132 lineal feet of open ventilation between the roof and the top of the walls. At 2.5 feet in height, this ventilation system provides 330 square feet of ventilation, high up where you want it. (By comparison, a big 3’x 5’ double-hung window offers about 9 square feet of ventilation). This is just one of our vent systems.
What’s more, this high vent is not only a perfect way for the house to expel heat, but it is also the ideal location for clerestory lighting. This design, allowing natural daylight to enter the house high up, completely eliminates the dark, cave-like feeling that is found in many expat homes in the tropics.
Our tropical sun here is extremely bright. Without the extra effort to balance the lighting, the contrast between the blinding tropical sunshine and the relative dimness of the indoors gives an impression of gloominess. The interior daylight of most houses here makes you feel a bit as if you were in a basement apartment in the States. I like spaces that are light and cheery, so I find the interior light of theses homes depressing.
6th, There is no space where the heat will get trapped. Beneath the Mango tree, there are no walls (no doors, nor windows either). Nowhere for heat to get trapped. The Living In Panama House is similar, in that there is almost no floor to ceiling walls except in the bathrooms and bedrooms. (However, the bedrooms and bathrooms also have tall windows and doors for light and ventilation). The breeze can circulate freely throughout all of the living spaces, constantly exchanging the interior air for clean, fresh air right off the ocean.
7th, Long and lean design to allow free airflow. Another advantage to our design is that the Living In Panama House is long and lean, so the breeze can easily pass through the entire house.
Wide, fat houses are a mistake here in the tropics. That style of house requires more walls, plus interior hallways to access the spaces deep inside the house.
8th, Gable roof acts as a chimney to release any heat build up. The gable roof of The Living In Panama House is perfect for cross ventilation. Both ends are open. The peak of this beautiful roof is way up there, nearly 19 feet off the ground. There are no drop ceilings (unless you add them). This means there is a vaulted ceiling sloping upward from 13 to 19 feet overhead. We all know that heat rises. Since heat is free to migrate naturally upward and then be whisked away by the breeze, The House stays cooler. You stay cooler.
I have always loved the look of the old Chiquita Banana houses with their half-hipped roofs. You have probably seen them on our website, or maybe you’ve already visited Puerto Armuelles and seen them there. These roofs are a classic. They are part of the historic look of Puerto Armuelles.
When we first arrived in Puerto, I thought I’d like to copy the look of the Chiquita era homes, including the half hip roofs, but with a few design tricks to make them more efficient. To be honest, it took me a few years to finally accept the reality that hip roofs are beautiful and historic, but they don’t work.
Hip roofs, even half hip roofs trap heat. Even when they have those charming little wooden vents on the half gable ends In fact, the attic of our own Chiquita Banana House heats up to over 150 degrees on summer days. Finally, I had to let go of my love affair with the Chiquita Banana half-hipped roof.
9th, the Living in Panama house is designed for big ceiling fans for those days when the wind doesn’t want to blow. Ceiling fans are an attractive and efficient way to move warm air up and out of the house. They are a classic, tropical look that dates back over a hundred years.
10th, the Living in Panama house is A/C ready too. Obviously, not everyone wants to live without air conditioning. Some days, you just feel like going indoors and sitting in the media room, or the office, or taking a nap in a truly “chill” space. For that reason, the bedrooms, office/media room, and the bathroom zones are all designed for air conditioning. The decision to create an air-conditioned “cool zone” is up to you. These zones can be as big, or as small as you wish.
11th, easy to enclose more space over time. With our Living In Panama House design, it’s simple to enclose more space. You could even enclose it all if you really want to A/C the entire house. However, we suggest that you live in your new house for a while to experience what combination of fan vs A/C fits your tropical lifestyle. Then, with our system, it is very easy and fast to add walls, windows, etc, if you decide to adjust the Living In Panama House to your needs.
Build a Living in Panama House
We think you will enjoy living in a Living in Panama House. If a Living In Panama House fits your needs, please let us know.
We will send you its construction plans. They cost $250 if you are not buying one of our properties. The plans are free if you do buy a property from us.
Don’t forget, if you buy one of our properties, we are here to help answer your questions about the LIP House all along the way.
Learn more about the Living in Panama House models and other details.
If you have questions, please feel free to contact us.
Explore Corazon de Oro: The most beautiful beach properties in Puerto Armuelles.
I would be interested to see some photos and a floor plan of the house you have described.
I built a large home in Sonoma County CA 15 years ago. We use similar construction planning. Large overhangs especially to the West. Even though I was required to put in a ridiculously large amount of air conditioning tonnage, we put in high level vents and skylights. Then in each room we had awning windows to let cooler breezes outside push the hotter air through the upper vents/skylights. Our architect called in convection cooling. I rarely ever turned on the AC.
You are in effect doing the same thing but not calling it Convection Cooling.