Green Building in Costa Rica
Because of its mild climate, Costa Rica is an ideal country for the application of green building practices, and resources to support green building are well developed. Also, because Costa Rica attracts many persons interested in green lifestyles, very interesting examples of sustainable building abound throughout the country, created especially for the conditions of each region, and adapted to all types of budgets. Green construction is becoming more and more common, not only for homes, but also for commercial spaces such as hotels, office parks and shopping centers.
Green building is first and foremost about adapting to the conditions of the building site in order to maximize the comfort and utility of the building, while minimizing the use of resources and thus the building’s impact on the environment, both in its construction and operation.
For example, in wet and warm climates like the Southern Pacific or Caribbean regions of Costa Rica, building designs which allow the free circulation of air and keep the interiors of houses high and dry are recommended. In the case of a home or lodge, this could mean building on stilts to increase air flow and decrease exposure to moisture, while incorporating porches and wide eaves to minimize the exposure to sunlight and rain.
In a relatively hotter and dryer area such as Guanacaste, green buildings should be situated to catch prevailing winds and sea breezes in order to minimize the need for air-conditioning. If air conditioning is used in part of the home, that part should be well-insulated, and steps should be taken to minimize the effect of the sun’s heat on a home’s interior, such as using reflective or light colored roofing materials and exterior paint, conserving or planting shade trees, and the use of wide eaves, awnings or porches.
With its mild temperatures and lack of severe storms, Costa Rica is an excellent place to experiment with alternatives to the excessively heavy – and environmentally unfriendly – steel-reinforced concrete that has become the norm in the modern world. Natural materials such as wood, bamboo and stone are both practical and beautiful. Bamboo and wood, if grown and harvested correctly, are environmentally friendly materials that combat climate change.
Many green designers also use metal frames to build lightweight structures that are ideal for the Costa Rican climate, and that use much fewer resources than concrete buildings. In most cases, these are covered with panels of glass, wood or other materials.
Architects and Designers/ Builders
Articles and Books
Geoff McCabe, Green Building in the Malpais/ Montezuma Area
Steve Mack, Creating with Nature: Green Building BasicsTheTico Times
Steve Mack, An Unbeatable Building Material for Costa Rica? Stick to Bamboo,The Tico Times
Michael Larr and Friedrich Grimme, Sustainable Buildings in the Tropics
Bruno Stagno and Jimena Ugarte Arquitectura Rural en el Trópico (Spanish)
Robert Henrikson and David Greenberg, Bamboo Architecture
Simon Velez, Grow Your Own House