Tropical House Design Patterns for Gambia


The influential architect Christopher Alexander has contributed to house design by his idea of “Design Patterns”. At their simplest, they are beneficial patterns that are repeated and proven in past housing design that can be replicated and used again and again to design housing.

We have isolated a number of patterns for use in our designs and outline them here for reference for our members and others in house design practice.
They are divided into specific patterns for the tropical area of Gambia and general patterns for all house designs.

We have put the tropical patterns first to focus on them for Gambia,but the general patterns are just as important.

OVERALL HOUSE DESIGN – Tropical Patterns
These are overall patterns for house design and location of areas in the house..
The tropical designs are particularly important for designing for Gambia and tropical Africa.

House shape is more important in the tropics than in the temperate zones as we are trying to reduce the heating from the sun moving from East to West as well as encourage the cooling breeze to flow through the house.
These patterns are the basis for the house shape and need to be implemented early in the design phase.

HOUSE VENTILATION – Tropical Patterns
Following on from the House shape and Orientation patterns previously, the house ventilation patterns are focussed around utilising passive design to encourage air flows through the house to both cool the occupants directly, and also cool the house leading to cooling of the corrupants.

ROOF DESIGN – Tropical Patterns
The roof is the first barrier to the sunlight, so is important for initially reducing the heat penetration into the house.
Tropical roofs need to be lightweight, reflective, with large overhangs and have ventilation penetrations to aid air flow. These patterns are helpful for designing a tropical roof.

WINDOWS – Tropical Patterns
Passive cooling in the tropics is reliant on air flow. Even heated air can cool if moving over the skin. There are a number of patterns for windows that aid in tropical house design.

DOORS – Tropical Patterns
Door design is not a huge influence in the tropics,but it is important to know the minor variations that can be used to aid air flow in design.
These patterns are more general innatures, but still with the tropical influence added.

FLOORS – Tropical Patterns
Floors in the tropica can be very helpful in keeping the house cool by linking the house to the cooler ground. But it also can be a problem if allowed to heat up during the day. These patterns help make the best from floor.

WALLS – Tropical Patterns
The design and materials walls are made of is important in the tropics. As is shading them to reduce heat build up. These patterns can be applied to make walls beneficial in the tropics, rather than an overheating problem.

LANDSCAPING – Tropical Patterns
Vegetation around a house can have a dramatic affect on the heat reaching the ouse as well as making it pleasant to live . The landscaping does need to be planned and these patterns help to design an effective landscaping.

WATER – Tropical Patterns
It is becoming more common to incorporate water into tropical house design,both for its use as a plunge or swimming pool to cool off, as well as the cooling effect of the water vapour taking heat from the air. These designs help you utilise water in an effective way.

LIGHTING – Tropical Patterns
Balancing natural lighting and reducing heating from sunlight can be tricky when designing tropical houses. But there are ways that this can be done and we present them in these lighting patterns.

AIR CONDITIONING – Tropical Patterns
When most people think of living in the tropics they instantly think that air conditions of the whole house is needed. But air conditioning is not only highly energy intensive, but it also reduces the aclimatisation of occupants. If air conditioning is to be used, there are guidelines for its most effective use.These patterns help design houses for minimal air conditioning use, and maximum effectiveness where they have to be used.

INSECT CONTROL – Tropical Patterns
The open air design of tropical houses conflicts with insects coming into the house. We have a few patterns that can help use insect screens to best advantage.

CEILING HEIGHT – Tropical Patterns
The hot air in the tropics requires a change from normal ceiling heights to ensure that the hot air can rise and move out of the house.
We have recommendations for ceiling heights from tropical experience.

SECURITY – Tropical Patterns
The need for open walls for air flow, and the in and out tropical living presents some security concerns. Here we have some patterns to help occupants to be more secure.

STORAGE – Tropical Patterns
With its greater outdoor living, tropical households have greater need for outside storage areas for sporting equipment and outdoor living items. We have put together some patterns for this storage.

AREAS – KITCHEN – Tropical Patterns
Tropical kitchens need to be more open to take out the heat coming from cooking. They are also designed to cater more for BBQ style cooking. We outline some patterns for kitchen design in the tropics.

AREAS – BEDROOM – Tropical Patterns
With the strong tropical morning and afternoon sun and the need for a sleeping area for siestas during the hot day, the placement and design of bedrooms in the tropics is crucial for comfortable daytime and nighttime sleeping.

AREAS – LIVING AREA – Tropical Patterns
Tropical living is a transition from indoor areas to outdoor areas increasing living areas and allowing heat to be removed from indoors. Here are some living room (or more appropriately, living areas) patterns.

AREAS – DINING AREA – Tropical Patterns
Dining areas in the tropics are similar to living areas and the separation of dining, kitchen and living areas is blurred to encourage air flow and outdoor shaded living space.
Here are some patterns to assist in dining area design.

AREAS – BATHROOM – Tropical Patterns
Tropical bathroom need to be open and able to have sufficient sunlight to dry them and keep away standing moisture that creates mould and mildew. We have some patterns that help design comfortable bathrooms.

AREAS – UTILITY ROOM – Tropical Patterns
Here we outline a few design patterns for the utility room, which in the tropics is an area that not only needs to be able to carry out washing and other work, but also be a cool enough areas for it to be comfortable when working.

AREAS – VERANDAH & PATIO – Tropical Patterns
Verandahs and patios have great use in the tropics, bueng not only transition areas, but also can be used for additional outdoor living areas. We look at some patterns here.