Week #25 — Some doors installed, and much more

Construction crews have now built all of the columns for the final ceiling / flat roof. Once the columns are up then the workers start to connect beams from column to column. From there they place bamboo sticks every foot or so to support a plywood base for the concrete pour (in approx. 12 days).

In the meantime the electrical and plumbing crew are hard at work wiring the place up. There have been a few hiccups on the placement of plugs, switches, and even air conditioning units. I will take the responsibility for these problems, as I didn’t force my builder to review the MEP (mechanical, electrical & plumbing) team’s plans. We used plans from my architect, but then I made changes with my builder, and those changes were not properly reviewed. Part of the problem rests with language barriers as well.

Photo: Standing at the future pool and guest walkway, straight ahead. The building shows a large terrace above the bamboo sticks. That will become the landing for entry into the upper two guest apartments. Below that are two apartments as well (each with a loft)

Making changes at this stage is the most economical, as most of the time it involves material that has not been finished. In other words, moving an electrical outlet for example involves ripping some brick and moving the wire, but the finishing coat of plaster and paint has not been applied yet so it’s generally a quick fix.

Week #24 — Half the roof is done!

An exciting week here in good old Pererenan. We’ve been fortunate to stay ahead of the rainy season and cover half of the building with a roof. The other half is about two weeks away.

In the meantime we have a crew for building brick walls and then plastering them. When needed the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) crew come out and set wires into the brick walls:

They also run water pipes through the walls, as well as prepare the drainage system. Offsite, a windows and door crew are working with aluminum and glass.

Tomorrow we meet with a custom furniture maker and will see whether his prices are affordable.

Pescado Arrives

During one of the numerous meetings with our architects it was casually mentioned that they’re designing a restaurant in Pererenan, not far from where our retreat will be. I found it back in May:

I immediately liked the look, and I was also told it will be serving Spanish food. I thought oh tapas that will be great!

In June I finally met Jose, the Brazilian entrepreneur behind Pescado:

The rumors were true about Spanish food, but it wasn’t going to be a tapas place. Jose was bringing a chef from Spain, who will train local chefs for at least two months in the intricacies of Spanish cooking. Wow!

The results, on display at the soft opening on Sunday, July 22 was over-the-top delicious!

Getting ready for the crowds.

Jose and his business partner’s niece.

And the happy crowd.

Please visit Pescado when you’re in the Canggu area. It will be worth your while, especially if you like fish.

Stepping forward & sideways

With any building project, or during the process of any lasting endeavor, there will always be a variety of bumps in the road. In our minds we’d like things to progress smoothly. We make predictions based on an internalized _flow_ from one task to the next. But then there’s a bump and the flow stops. Anxiety sets in. You start wondering whether the project is really moving forward. Doubts start to magnify. You don’t sleep as well.

And then, hopefully, the clouds part and you sense some progress:

In my case I was able, with some help, to get the Banjar (local community) and district signatures and stamps that I needed — as part of the building permit process. Neighbors on all sides of the property sign off, then the neighborhood Banjar, then the regional head of the local Banjar groups, and finally the director / head of the district. None of this includes the Indonesian government. They have their own set of processes that have more to do with land zoning, ownership, and the purposes of the proposed structure. However, they require local and regional representatives to sign off on the project too.

In terms of the government permit (IMB), we made some changes to the drawings (this is our second attempt for building plan approval) but there were still a few mistakes.

In the drawing above, on the left side, we reduced the number of levels from three to two, as there are a maximum of two levels that are allowed for a Pondak Wisata (home stay) permit. Bali has always had building height restrictions but the architecture team didn’t know about the limit on residential levels. Our height restriction is fine, as its below 15 meters.

A Pondak Wisata is a renewable license for five years at a time, with income taxes paid monthly or annually. You can have up to five rental units, plus a unit for the owner.

On the right side of the drawing we showed roof access (the pergola), two residential levels, and a parking area. We were told to get rid of the pergola and the staircase leading to the roof. If we want to build access to the roof it can be done after the permit is completed. Like most government procedures, if you follow their restrictions you will eventually get what you want — on paper. In reality you have to make a plan for the builder, as well as one for the government.

Finally, we were told to make an elevation drawing so that the parking area is below the ground. This way it cannot be mistaken for a building level.

As stated above, we had progress (the signatures and stamps), but also went sideways with the government. The good news is that the government is willing to work with you. In exchange, they want plans that they can approve, even though it may not line up with what happens on the building site. This is expected in most places. Here in Indonesia its a bit more than just re-naming rooms. You may have to build a staircase after the fact. And the government will tell you that when you consult with them, which is strangely reassuring.

A tag team for building and site design

Yesterday was a bit of a marathon meeting, as our architectural team called in their government permit expert and, in the end, it was decided that it’s best to re-design for two levels (instead of the current three levels) and try to somehow squeeze in the rooftop bar.

We threw some re-design ideas around for a bit and then it was decided that within a week the architectural team will create something that the government can gaze at and comment on.

It’s one thing to say a room is a library and then later, after the government inspector is gone, turn it into a bedroom — and quite another to say a roof that begins 2.5 meters above the top floor is that way in order to make the structure look cool — when in reality it’s that way to support people wandering around an open-air rooftop bar.

And so we have to make lemonade from lemons that the government deems worthy to squeeze.

While a small part of me temporarily wanted to throw in the towel, I’m eager to see what kind of rabbit Arkana Architects will pull out of it’s hat.

After the permit meeting we called in our road and wall building team to meet with Arkana.

Due to the sloping building site and the fact that part of the structure will have a parking space under it, we need to carefully determine the heights of each portion of the property for proper drainage.

It was decided to have a tiered setup: building structure, pool, and then a final tier for the cafe. The other option is a gradual slope, but by tiering the property we can do something creative with the pool placement. Essentially the downhill part of the pool wall will be more exposed in order to avoid bringing in more fill.

Calculations were made and then everyone was happy with the result.

It is remarkable that architects essentially problem-solve all day long. The beautiful touches that an architect adds to a building is probably 10% of their job. The bulk of their work consists of the nuts and bolts of, for example, making sure a water pipe doesn’t end up in the wrong place.

It’s always exciting to grind away at an idea until it comes to life. The bureaucratic hurdles can appear to be stifling, but you have to use the government’s constraints and still try your best to stay true to your vision.

None of it is easy.