The Kebun Kaki Bukit project, part II : a 5000$ house

Our goal for this renovation project was to turn an old metal shack into comfortable living quarters for volunteers at the farm in Malaysia that we were working on. The project was designed and built by volunteers.

To see the early stages of design and some tips for your own project, read the first part of this article.

The building is intended to accommodate people who will come and help for free, so it should feel good and comfortable. The idea is to split the volume into 3 rooms, so that couples can get some privacy. The building was already divided this way before so we can reuse most of the frame. What it needs now is a good makeover.


Here is a little diagram that explains shadows, and why it is important :

shema shadow

In the early days we explored all types of options : a upper structure over the entire living area, a thatch roof, a double layered zing roof… To keep it feasible (by non professional builders) and cheap, we decided to stick to a neat, one layer zinc roof. With a dozen 2×4, we created composite rafters with the existing frame and extended them to a comfortable 1,2m cantilever. We reinforced the extensions with 45° struts, connected to the metal frame by custom made metal brackets.

sun roof



-          a great outside living space in the shade

-          a facade well protected from the tropical sun and rain.


-          Cost of the material : 10 12ft long 2×4, + nuts and bolts

-          A delay in time, mostly waiting for the custom brackets to be finished (1 week)



Now with an overhanging roof that prevents the rain to get in, the top of the facades do not need to be waterproof : instead we can crown the building with a sexy home made mucharrabieh, nailed on a mosquito screen wrapping. The existing roof slope is enough to create and air flow through the rooms, hopefully enough to cool down the zinc quickly.



-          A nice breeze in the sleeping area

-          A “nest” feeling with a beautiful view

-          Cuts down the cost of the wood for the facades

-          A building that looks more balanced, more elegant.


-          Extra care needed to leave no gap between the mosquito screen and the roof.





To increase the liveable space in the rooms, the beds are elevated into lofts. They will be in the most ventilated part of the room, and it frees some space on the floor to make it feel like a mini appartment. Also with the cladding on the top it will feel like a nest, provide a panoramic view on the fruit crops as well as preserve some privacy.



-          More space

-          An “appartment” feeling for long-term volunteers

-          Possibility of adding an extra bed for a kid or a group.


-          1.80m below the beds. Conform to most building codes, but the tall ones will have to be careful.



Here are some pictures of the process.


stripping the old frame



Two months later, a new roof, all the studs are in place, the top screen is almost finished.


Some volunteers are already camping on the elevated bed frames.


Top corner detail. Work in progress.


Arafat Sheripudin, the young father of this project.


There has been two weeks of work on the flooring : each piece was custom cut and shaved to fit in perfectly.


Starting the walls.

All pictures by Kevin Su Photography


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