Building a House in Bogotá – Photo of the Week

Home building in BogotáGraciela:  Michael chose this photo. I saw nothing unusual about it. All my life I have known homes in Bogotá to be built that way.

Michael:  I’m from Michigan. Most homes are constructed of wood. While yes, I have seen homes there made of concrete blocks, I have never seen one of poured concrete reinforced with rebar. Especially the roof beams. Large buildings; yes I have seen, but two story homes, no.

Graciela:  My husband explained the many differences in home construction between the two countries. But it is probably best to let him provide the basics to readers.

Michael:  The interior walls of these homes are block. When it comes time to install the electrical and plumbing the workers chisel spaces into the blocks then just cover the wires or pipes with concrete.
There is obviously no insulation or sound proofing on these interior walls. Well, there is also no insulation or sound proofing on the inside of the exterior walls either. This creates very noisy homes.

I did see a contractor once put a thin Styrofoam between the interior walls of a building. However when the electricians and plumbers came through, they probably had no idea of what it was for and ripped it all out to make their job easier.

Graciela told me about her first apartment in Bogotá. She lived on the first floor. The builders had run the septic pipe through the center concrete support. Consequently whenever anyone flushed the toilet in the entire building it sounded in her apartment.

Yes, they sell drywall here. One day I asked a contractor why they didn’t use it that much. He explained that there were many people they could hire cheap to build a block wall, but good drywallers wanted to be paid a descent wage.  Indeed finding a good installer is difficult. My sister-in-law had her ceiling done by a person recommended by one of the major construction stores in Bogotá. The job looked like something done by an amateur. Anyway it took a few more installations before they got it correct. And yes, in my opinion, many contractors prefer cheap labor over quality work.

A person we know took classes abroad, studied and interned to become a very good drywaller. Problem is no one wanted to pay for a good job. He had to move to Cuba to make descent money.

Another thing that drives me crazy are the single pane windows used everywhere. Bogotá is a noisy city. These one panel pieces of glass give very little sound proofing. Bogotanos are use to the constant noise. Fortunately for tourists some of the better hotels, realizing that not everyone in the world wants busy street noise polluting their environment, build with double pane windows.

Now if you look carefully at the photo you will notice that they are not installing any ducts for heating for cooling. That is because Bogotá has pretty much spring weather all year round. Neither furnaces nor air conditioners are used. However, sometimes it gets pretty chilly for office work. I have watched secretaries sit in 40 degree weather trying to type wearing gloves.

So, how much does a house like the one shown cost?  I was told that by several people that the price easily exceed one million U.S. dollars.


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