Last moment with our tree

Tomorrow the government has promised to take down the tree, so here are a few last moment shots of what the place looks like with a giant 50 year old 25m high tree.

Lobby roof up

It’s time to get our most important central public space up. The walls have mostly been there for quite some time now, but now we get to put in the support beams for the roof and then pour in the concrete base for the floor.

Our main foreman Mr. Liu, with Mr. Guo looking on..

Concrete’s been poured in and smoothed out

Inside’s a bit dark now.

View towards the south east – the entrance.

Close up of the concrete base. This will be our kitchen!

In come the Heaters

The question of how we would heat The Orchid has always been a big one. Cooling is a bit more straightforward since there are only so many options that are in the slightly affordable range. But heating – so many possibilities. The Hutongs of Beijing have always been notorious for making it through the cold winters. In Beijing’s recent history even as close as those growing up here in the 80’s, the hutong winter life was painful. Getting out of bed was difficult enough, but simply thinking about managing the coal for the heating took up so much time, and in the event of a problem it wasn’t unheard of for many people to die of cold through the night. Modern Beijing’s hutong life has changed a lot —- since last year. The government has been briskly adding in power capacity throughout each neighbourhood, and then subsidizing electric heaters as well as the cost of the electricity from 10pm to 6am. It is still a more expensive proposition for many poor people living here, but the majority is quite happy about it. As far as efficiency is concerned, there are better ways to do things. And certainly the benefit of options comes more easily to those starting from scratch like us.

It was always in our mind to simultaneously increase comfort and raise electrical efficiency by using floor heating. We had hoped originally to somehow use a large array of solar water heaters to convert heat for both regular water consumption as well as floor heating, but this quickly started to look like we’d need an entire additional set of equipment to deal with all those days of inadequate sun. In the end we settled for air-source heat pumps. This is essentially what most people have sitting outside, attached to their indoor AC units, except the outside unit is far bigger. Due to 220V limitations we had to settle for a smaller size unit, and buy two of them to meet capacity. The benefit of these units are the fact that they handle normal AC in the summer and then do all water heating needs in the winter. Also they are the most efficient at providing hot water for floor heating in the winter than all other means available in the area. They also weigh 300kg each!

Receiving the units on the street, and marveling at their size

Our workers wondering if we’ve thought this through properly

Installation company attempting to use the wheelbarrow to move them in

No problem.

Roof raising fun

Here are some great shots of this evening’s roof raising ceremony. For the purposes of good luck upon finishing a roof, certain cuts of pork ribs were purchased along with some incense. Then, to keep spirits high we treated the workers to a great cut of meat, in this case pork face, for an added boost to the usual dinner and we held a mild celebration before continuing a bit of work and then sleeping.

Restaurant is raised

Now is when things begin getting extremely interesting. A major second floor being raised overnight adds a lot more dimension to the yard and makes it feel like everything is moving along towards our architectural renderings (stay tuned for those!).

Southern wall of the restaurant dining room is up!

View from the street. A few things missing —

Best room in the house

Walls are up finally, on what should also become our most well-placed and secluded large room. You can see five huge gaps – those are all massive double-pane glass windows. The first is for the bathroom and the rest for the room itself, with the furthest one acting also as a door for entering the long and spacious garden.

Main entrance to the room facing the central garden facade

North-west room's got a new floor

Here’s a fun one. It took only one day for these walls and the facade of the stairwell to come up. Still a ways away from having stairs though, so views from up top will have to wait.

Central garden facade goes up!

Today the workers have built up the main facade bordering our central garden from the South. The facade also creates a main floor alleyway separating the two south bedrooms.

A worker standing on a make-shift platform for placing the bricks

Two hours later — Done.

Brand new North-west Room

Oh – look at that — A new room has been made!

In only two days the structural walls have come up and all the support beams are in place to hold up the concrete ceiling. The grey brick facade has also been placed around the private garden. If we wall in the room with glass at the front as planned then this room will have a total area of 20 square meters. That’s a nice size room for a hotel, but a very generous room considering it will exist within a traditional courtyard in the hutongs of Beijing.

Siuming and Mr. Guo discussing the plans

Private garden space facing the room

Large bathroom area facing the stairs up to the unbuilt second floor

From the bathroom facing the unfinished wall and stairs

Looking out of the room towards the small private garden.

The Lookout

A 10th room has been recovered. Loosely defined public space on the second floor has been repurposed into a wonderfully positioned luxury room with a generous amount of space, a superb view and a unique 2nd floor entrance. It would have made a great lounge space, but we feel we might have enough with the restaurant/bar and main floor lobby area. We hope you agree.

Seeing both South-west rooms – a garden room below and the Lookout above it

Another view from the main yard.

Here’s why it’s called the Lookout. That’s the bell tower right there..