What do you say to someone who decides that he wants his house built on a specific site, in a specific position on that site, and using an architectural design which is totally unsuitable for that site? If you cannot reasonably persuade a knowledgeable and determined person that their ideas are impractical and not worth the effort of trying to make them work, then you have the option to either walk away or stick around and watch the magic happen.
Challenges? They are little more than problem-solving opportunities to some people
Houses come in all shapes and sizes, and some of them have far more challenging technical and design aspects than others, which is what makes them so special. However, when you have someone who insists on flying in the face of reason and practicality – and succeeding – then you have to applaud them. This man insisted on building a single-level house on a site which posed the following difficulties :
– the site was situated on the side of an extreme slope;
– was subject to water and mud avalanches during the rainy season;
– boasted gigantic rocky outcrops right where the house was to be situated;
– offered no natural elevation, distance or unobstructed views for a proposed rim-flow (infinity) pool;
– offered little opportunity for the proposed expansive lawns and garden because most of the site was composed of bedrock which does not hold water or soil;
– could not be built using concrete stilts to allow for the slope because the owner wanted to be able to walk outside directly to his garden from French doors on all front-facing rooms.
Easy solutions are definitely not the most satisfying
It has to be said, this man has both vision and determination, and refuses to accept answers which offer an easy solution but do not fit his vision. Difficulties, to him, are just challenges waiting to be overcome, so choosing an alternative and more suitable vacant site or changing the whole style of the house to make use of the natural features of the site was not an option. No, not this man! Why? Because he owns an earthmoving and construction company and knows what can be done with judicious use of available machinery and, simply, because he knows what he wants and this particular site held a deep emotional value for him. He built the house he wanted, on the site he wanted, by using a number of excavation methods, including :
– excavating the large rocks and boulders by controlled and planned drilling and blasting methods, which was the most hazardous part of the process. The majority of the rocks were used to build up and level the lower sloped areas of the site, whilst others were broken down into small stones which were added to concrete to create his driveway. The best and most interesting rocks were used for creating a rock garden and separate waterfall which flowed directly into his swimming pool.
– excavating as much muck and mud from the slope as possible, as preparation work began during the wet season, and additional water jets were used to clear away loose or crumbling soil to minimise the possibility of landslides during building. This naturally washed a lot of soil onto lower ground, where it was held in place by retaining walls. Retaining walls were also built at the base of the slope where the levelling began, to avoid any future problems.
– using ‘stripping’ excavation methods, he then cleared the whole area of the shallower layers of debris, sand, topsoil, and general rubble and used this material to further level off the building area, which was easily achieved through motorised graders.
– additional organic materials, rocks, layers and layers of heavy soil were then transported to the site and graders levelled this organic base, as well as tamping it down through the use of different compacting methods. He successfully utilised rammers for the narrower areas due to their small footprint, as these compactors are capable of delivering high-amplitude hits of anything from 500 to 750 times per minute, and are extremely effective in compacting cohesive soils. Diesel-engined vibratory plates were used to compact the granular sections of the area. These are larger machines which vibrate at speeds of 2 500 to 6 000 vibrations per minute are able to move both forwards and in reverse or be used in a stationary position. In specific areas, such as his driveway and various pathways around his garden, he made use of the small hand-operated or automotive rollers which we are all used to seeing when roadworks are being carried out. Because of his ‘mixed bag’ of grounding soils, various sizes of rollers were a good choice to ensure good compaction of both granular and mixed soil bases.
Once this base was laid, he waited for over a year to allow all the different elements to bind together and further compact naturally through the annual climatic cycle, before moving forward again.
– his next move was a simple topsoil excavation to remove all vegetation (i.e. weeds, shrubbery and indigenous trees which had taken root) and general debris which had been blown onto the site and remove this from the area. The site was again graded and compacted once cleared.
– he was finally able to carry out the final so-called ‘earth excavation’ in order to prepare the site for foundations to be laid, knowing that his base was sound and sturdy. Trenches were then dug to accommodate service lines, sewer systems and pipelines to carry other essential services.
If you have the time, the equipment and the patience, use these wisely
The building of the house, from start to finish, took just over two years, half of which was devoted to his determined ‘partial terraforming’ of the site to suit his needs. He achieved his single-storey house, multiple French-door access to the garden, shaded by beautiful pergolas and slate patios facing the rim-flow swimming pool which borders the only drop-off area at the bottom of the garden, made even more spectacular by the natural rock fountain on one side.
Be your own best advert by proving what can be done through careful thought, plenty of effort and determination
This single individual has proved so many specialists wrong in their recommendations to abandon his house plans or the site itself, and all because he knows his business and how valuable his machines and vehicles are. As he says, “All it takes is knowledge of your industry or craft, your tools and sheer determination to achieve your goals, and nothing is absolutely impossible”. He is his own best advertisement for his earthmoving and excavation business, and has inspired so many others not to give up on their dreams and goals. For more information on earthmoving and excavation specialists, be sure to read Uptasker’s articles and find the right one for your needs.