- January 31st, 2020
- in Lifestyle
Due to the many and varied cultural and ethnic influences in the Caribbean over the centuries, architectural styles have evolved with an eclectic mix of style, colour and design. France, Spain, the Netherlands and those from the African continent influenced the way houses have been built and designed over the years.
An exciting combination of construction using locally sourced materials, the use of colour and references to the type of climate we enjoy in the West Indies have all played a part in how homes have evolved through the years.
The extensive and almost exclusive use of timber as the mainstay of construction 300 years ago has been replaced by a varied selection of mostly imported building materials from around the world that were once unheard of, or not available. The quintessential wooden buildings with a wrap-around porch, hipped galvanised roofs and gingerbread decorative woodwork have been replaced by steel-reinforced concrete and standing seam roof coverings.
The introduction of glazed ceramic, Spanish terracotta or poured Ferro cement roofing materials is no longer an unusual sight in the Caribbean. However, despite innovations in new building materials and design possibilities, the essential foundations for constructing a dwelling in the Caribbean are still relevant today.
The hot and humid weather we mostly enjoy demands that respect is given to the dominant climatic conditions that influence our daily lives. The potential for extreme weather which appears to be more and more likely in the future demands that we build in such a way as to protect our investment but more importantly, our lives. Generally, buildings are constructed to avoid prevailing winds and include the installation of hurricane shutters and possibly reinforced roof ventilation.
Covered outdoor spaces to protect us from the intense sun and tropical rains are commonplace. Once single-story buildings were the norm, but with the influence that followed the arrival of seafaring nations like France and Spain, two and three-story homes became popular, but possibly more vulnerable.
Spain brought the idea of large verandahs for social gatherings outdoors but in the shade. With the advent of air-conditioning in modern times, double- or even triple-glazing and better-insulated homes, the options available are almost limitless.
As the world becomes more and more aware of climate change, conservation and waste management, our homes are beginning to reflect the evolution of what is acceptable or permissible. The extensive use of solar panels to provide alternative power resources, better insulation to reduce the need for energy, natural drainage and biomass sewage treatment plants are all positive indications of progress over the centuries to deal with our evolving and changing world.