Bermingham Longwater House
In 2005 we were engaged by the clients to study alternatives for the construction of a single family residence on the remains of a multi- family residential structure that had been irretrievably damaged during the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989. While originally a concrete and wood three level structure, only the concrete post and beam ground floor structure had survived. In addition to designing for the requirements of a family of five, including parents and three small children, we were also invited to consider how the client’s intention of living in a house that would require little or no mechanical cooling systems or glazing might be made feasible in a tropical environment where the former have become generally considered as essential.
Given the large footprint of the original structure, it was decided that the new living quarters should only occupy one quarter of the available area, with the remaining seventy five percent given over to ancillary functions and courtyards which have been planted with shade trees to enhance the natural cooling of the building. On the ground floor level, the main entrances, children’s quarters, a garage, work shop, storage and laundry room are arranged around two garden courtyards, while living and dining rooms, kitchen, outdoor decks and a swimming pool/hot bath are located on the second level, with the parent’s master bedroom on the third enjoying impressive views of the Panama Canal in the distance.
The ground floor level of the building has been enclosed with solid and fixed louvered walls of recycled lumber retrieved from demolished Canal Zone houses. The upper two levels of the house have been clad with fixed teak panels and operable louvers and sliding screen doors that can be adjusted to capture prevailing breezes or to protect against rain and insects. Along with the hipped “galvalume” roof, the thick wood sections of the facades have proven particularly effective in the reduction of interior temperatures, with variations of up to 10° C from inside to outside.