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tropical house design

tropical house design

Tropical houses are typically open, to maximise airflow and light, minimising use of electricity. If you are not comfortable sharing your space with the wildlife however, you will also need to be able shut it up – Mortein and Ratsak are not recommended and won’t work on the numbers you are up against!  The structure and materials must also be designed to withstand cyclones, rot and termites. Here are some general tips to tropic-proofing your house.


  • Use good quality building materials that will withstand the damp and the termites in particular.
  • A smaller home is generally more efficient, so try to maximise use of space – this will also minimise land clearing.
  • If you are going to extend, build up rather than out – this will reduce the footprint of the house and maximise use of natural light and breeze.  You also need less cleared area around your house to support solar production from rooftop panels.
  • Verandahs and large eave overhangs of 700 – 900mm provide protection for walls and living spaces from rain and the heat of sun.
  • Ceiling heights of 3m or more, in conjunction with elevated air vents, will allow heat to rise and escape above head height.
  • Use a light coloured roofing material (although there is the implication of light coloured roofs can encourage fungi development which will be an issue for looks, plus greater potential for water contamination, if capturing rainwater) and insulate the ceiling well.
  • Position the house, openings, walls and verandahs to maximise the breeze – this will keep the house cool and the humidity down.
  • Large windows that open wide and louvres will maximise airflow.
  • A raised floor construction provides for ventilation and drainage – use metal stirrups in individual concrete foundations to raise timber poles off the ground and avoid termite infestation.  
  • The use of lightweight materials on the external skin of you home and appropriate insulations will reduce thermal heat gain.  Brick and block are not recommended.
  • Fly-screens will keep the bugs out, but will also reduce the amount of breeze that gets in. If insects are not a bother to you, use 10mm square galvanised wire mesh instead of fly-screening on the outside of windows to prevent entry of rodents, and low or yellow lighting to reduce the number of bugs.
  • All openings, especially to the roof space, should be well sealed or meshed to prevent rodents and snakes taking up residence in the roof and walls.  Most snakes here are non-venomous, and 60% of snakebites occur when people are trying to kill them.  If a snake comes into the house, try to encourage it to leave with a broom, or just stay out of its way until it finds its own way out.  If it doesn’t leave, or you think it’s venomous, you can phone 1300 130 372 for a list of snake relocators.  They may charge as much as a couple of hundred dollars, depending on how local they are.
  • Fencing your property will effectively fence it off from wildlife, particularly cassowaries.


The Tropical Green Building Network  is a Far North Queensland initiative promoting the development and uptake of sustainable building practices in tropical North Queensland with an online forum, plus a number of residential case study designs and contacts.  

They also have a very good online library of resources and studies, and a directory for all your building and home improvement needs.