Another aspect to consider is how to use the naturally occurring wind patterns to ventilate your home. The key word is “cross ventilation” and the idea is to position the home, windows and open areas to best utilize wind to cool the home naturally. It does not take much effort to incorporate these aspects into your new home. It’s a matter of planning and execution. And in most cases the additional investment pays off in the long run with reduced electric bills.
As for construction materials, you can even substitute out some of the concrete with natural materials. A relatively new product on the market in Costa Rica is construction grade, treated bamboo poles. These can be used in various ways and are a completely sustainable, renewable resource grown here in Costa Rica. Entire homes can be built using this material and you can’t get more ecologically friendly than a plant stronger than steel that grows in just a few years. Even just incorporating its use in some aspects of the home, such as posts, beams and ceiling rafters, can provide a beautiful, tropical feel and at the same time reduce the use of steel in your roof structure, thus building your home with less impact on the planet.
Some tropical hardwoods found in Costa Rica have both an ecological advantage and disadvantage. A commonly used hardwood, which is both beautiful and highly sought after in world markets, teak is grown in our local Guanacaste surroundings. Teak is considered a “green” wood because it’s grown on plantations, which tend to be sustainable in that old growth forests are not being cut down. The negative aspect of teak is that the plantations tend to acidify the soil where they are planted. However, this beautiful wood can be used on floors, handrails, ceilings and the roof structure and though not as “green” as bamboo, it provides a more sustainable alternative to steel and galvanized steel.
Another important thing to consider is the recycling of waste water from the home. Water from the toilet is considered “black water” while all other water is “grey water”. Black water must be treated before it can be reused. Grey water can be used directly in certain irrigation purposes with very little additional cost. However, the system must be designed to not store the water but rather directly irrigate certain plants. There are quite a few wastewater treatment plants on the market today in Costa Rica, and they can treat both black and grey water for reuse in your garden. This water can be stored and used in irrigation with no negative health consequences, saving and recycling water that would normally be wasted.
When designing and building your new home in Costa Rica, you have the opportunity to incorporate as many “green” aspects into its construction as you wish. Combining those things, you can have an energy efficient home utilizing sustainably sourced building materials, thus minimizing the ecological footprint of your home, saving money on energy costs, saving water, and recycling waste materials, and at the same time have the stunning, tropical home of your dreams!