Sustainable landscape architecture good practices

Right orientation of a structure in Costa Rica can be tricky. There are 10 basic types of ¨local climates¨ all over the country which result in a huge variety of different microclimates.Flora and fauna biodiversity are blessed with these conditions, and one of the main objectives of tropical modern architecture is to design with nature, adapting designs to local weather. Not adapting the weather to a house. This can probably be the main reason for construction materials not being as durable as we thought so.

Example of site analysis combined with microclimate analysis.

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Those who live in Costa Rica already know that living in the tropics means not only living in paradise, but also having to deal with the forces of Mother Nature. One of these forces: water. Last rainy season left us a lesson.This summer is a great time to implement sustainable and simple practices that will protect your home from future unwanted floods and landslides. Remember that climate change is a problem that seems to be increasing rather than being solved.  Instituto Meteorologico Nacional de Costa Rica announced a heavy rainy season for this year.

So why not plan ahead and install an infiltration planter?

Section for an infiltration planter

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This tropical modern project features 4 units each with 1 bedroom, specially designed to rent to a very specific user: single persons and students. My client specifically ensured does not want to deal with families or children. We are on a $440 per squared meter cost. That’s why this design features zinc exterior walls on north and south facades, to reduce costs, and because of the small lot we are working on. On the other hand, east and west facades have operable windows every  to let natural air and light to come into all the apartments, crosses ventilation concept applied here. This will help to reduce the electricity bill. Landscape design is crucial, because the project is a downslope building. Nature will be the user’s view from everywhere in the apartment. This is a great example of a steel frame building design. Finishes are polished concrete floors, concrete built in counter, low cost accessories, minimum use of doors.Construction starting on march 2011.

Note: 60k does not include earth movement and retaining wall. Spending 60K is possible on a flat lot.

Hello from Costa Rica! Glad to present an example of an initial architectural project phase. This is what I call concept design, and is part of schematic design or “anteproyecto”.

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Rain Garden Success!

Image by Beau Owens Photography via Flickr

Hello hello to all of you readers! Here we are , at a great stage of the construction of this tropical modern house to define landscape, so we can start getting together all that scattered hummus left from the excavation work.

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A natural pool or natural pond is a system consisting of a constructed body of water, where the water is contained by an isolating membrane or membranes, in which no chemicals or devices that disinfect or sterilize water are used, and all clarifying and cleaning of the water is achieved purely with the motion of the water through biological filters and plants rooted hydroponically in the system.
Plants actually act as a water cleaner.
Basically, there are 3 different systems: where plants are integrated in the pool, where plants are out of the pool, and a hybrid system.

Particularly me, I would really like to touch the plants and its roots when inside the pool…what an exhilarating experience that would be! Combined with natural stone, this would look truly natural.
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Vegetated swales or biofilters are constructed open-channel drainageways used to convey stormwater runoff. Vegetated swales are often used as an alternative to, or an enhancement of, traditional storm sewer pipes. They do not pond water for a long period of time and induce infiltration. Vegetated swales generally have a trapezoidal or parabolic shape with relatively flat side slopes. Individual vegetated swales generally treat small drainage areas.
Rain gardens are at times confused with bioswales. Swales slope to a destination, while rain gardens do not; however, a bioswale may end with a rain garden. Drainage ditches may be handled like bioswales and even include rain gardens in series, saving time and money on maintenance. 
Vegetated swales can be used as an environmentally sensitive alternative to conventional storm sewers in common areas of residential subdivisions and along large property boundaries.
I would rather prefer to see more plants, than a concrete esplanade generating more heat into the atmosphere. I suggest developers to stop thinking always about money, and start thinking on high quality spaces. We costaricans deserve it!
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