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Concrete Fence Design In The Philippines

Concrete Fence Design In The Philippines - Great Wall of China

So, you wanna build a fence?

This article is part of a series on how we built our concrete hollow block fence or wall in the Philippines.
More information can be found here: Perimeter Fence Philippines: Index
Concrete fence design is a lot like ordering coffee at Starbucks: it’s all coffee, but there are many ways to make it. Do you want to use 4-inch or 6-inch concrete hollow block? How high do you want to build? What size rebar do you want to reinforce the concrete blocks? Do you want steel bars on top? Do you want barbed wire? Embedded broken glass? Steamed milk or foam? One espresso shot or two? Hot or iced? So many choices!

Concrete fence design is a lot like ordering coffee at Starbucks: it’s all coffee, but there are many ways to make it. Do you want to use 4-inch or 6-inch concrete hollow block? How high do you want to build? What size rebar do you want to reinforce the concrete blocks? Do you want steel bars on top? Do you want barbed wire? Embedded broken glass? Steamed milk or foam? One espresso shot or two? Hot or iced? So many choices!

Beginning The Fence Design Process

To build a concrete block fence, or wall, you’ll need someone to design it and someone to do the actual building. Each of those choices influence the other so they’re really like one BIG choice put together.

Here in Davao City, an architect and/or a licensed engineer has to sign off on on your drawn plans to satisfy the city and secure a fence permit.  (You can probably build a fence without a permit in many locations in the Philippines, even if one is required by law  – plenty of people here simply build one – but we were determined to do everything legally to save ourselves from headaches down the line.)

As I mentioned above, designing and building are really linked. If you hire an engineer or architect, you’ll have to hire a contractor as well. You’ll have to determine if the designer is competent to design something workable and determine if the contractor has the experience and ability to build what the engineer designs. You’ll also have to act as, or hire someone to act as, project manager to make sure your designer and builder are working together well to complete your fence.

Here are some things to keep in mind, things that helped us get through the initial process of designing the fence that went around the perimeter of our 768-square meter lot here in Davao.

Concrete Fence Design In The Philippines - Blueprint Photo

Architect Or Engineer?

We first tried to find a civil engineer to draw our plans for a fence design. We reasoned that an engineer would be easier to find. We also reasoned that even a recent engineering grad could design us a fence and that a young engineer would jump at the chance to get a paid project for their resume. The plans would cost less coming from an engineer as well.

But finding a civil engineer isn’t easy. Once we asked our friends if they knew an engineer and struck out there, we had no idea where to look but online. The problem is that much of the Philippines still operates by word-of-mouth and even in this high-tech age, few professionals or design companies have their own web sites.

After some searching and talking to friends, we reasoned that an architectural outfit might be a better fit for us.  An architectural firm is more likely to have the capacity to both design and build a fence for a lot our size (768 sqm), saving us from having to also find a project manager.

No one we knew had a relative or friend who was an architect, though. We went back online and searched for firms in Davao that seemed to had more success finding architects online than we had with engineers. We called a few, met with a couple and settled on one.

Tips For Meeting The Architect

Taking on a fence or house project for the expat is daunting. Not knowing the procedures, or the building processes is only compounded by not knowing the language. We found an architect who spoke English fairly well which was a help for me. But it was clear from the beginning that my smart, assertive wife Menchu was going to be the communicator on this project. Without her ability to speak the language and take the lead, we would have never gotten our projects off of the ground. You really have to choose a lead and be able to communicate to and through that lead. Of course, your designer/builder/manager has to be ok with communicating with whomever you choose.

We met the architect that we chose at our rental house. He sat down at the kitchen table with us and we talked about aspects of his services and our wants and needs. He told us that he most often quoted his jobs at a cost that included 40% for labor. Knowing this before we saw the contract helped us determine that we’d purchase the materials ourselves. He told us about the permit process and we discussed my concerns about maintaining concrete mix quality. We went to the lot (which was nearby) so he could get a better idea what he might be dealing with and we knocked around a few more design ideas.

The deal that we hashed out with the architect was to draw up our plans for P10,000. If we liked them, we’d use his outfit to build the fence for us. The contract we would negotiate later would have all of the nitty-gritty details in it. For now, we’d just discuss design and get some lines on paper.

Concrete Fence Design In The Philippines - Montgri-Castle

My first design was rejected.

 

Design For Something

Before anything is set in stone (or concrete), ask yourself this question first: What are you trying to do?

I initially wanted a fence for a worse-case scenario: a total breakdown of authority here in the Philippines and civil unrest which would lead to people forcing their way onto our property. The reality is that you can’t fully design for that on a sensible budget.

When we asked ourselves what is it we really needed to do, our answer was to focus on the crime most often committed here in Davao: theft. Focusing on the most common threat, in effect thinking like a thief, instantly made our design needs clearer and gave us workable choices that fit into our budget.

Our design included:

  • A high wall at the rear where a vacant lot and a few trees close to the lot line might give someone ideas.
  • Strands of barbed wire atop that wall, to give third thoughts to anyone who got past second thoughts caused by the height of the fence.
  • Five-foot angle bar trimmed to points atop four-foot walls along the sides, disallowing any comfortable “up and over” actions yet allowing cross breezes.
  • Steel and hardwood gates that allowed no view into the property to discourage “browsing”.

Concrete Fence Design: Still To Come

In the next part of this series on designing a concrete fence in the Philippines, we’ll take a closeup look at the actual plans, describe the contract we signed, talk about the fence permit and more.

Leave a comment below if you’d like to join in the discussion.

Photo credit: SBA73 via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

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