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Off-Grid in Costa Rica: ISEAMI Teaches Eco Architecture

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The ISEAMI institute – Institute of Sustainability, Ecology, Art, Mind and Investigation – is a simple and gorgeous eco structure designed by Robles Arquitectos and sited in the OSA peninsula of Cost Rica.

Sited far away from everything in the jungle – it is of necessity, entirely off the grid. Local jobs are few and the natural environment must be protected. This structure is intended as a teaching opportunity for sustainable tropical design.

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Power comes from a solar system on the roof. It is perfectly oriented to have the optimum conditions to generate 10,800 kWh a year of electricity. The house is sited far from power lines, so all the electricity is stored on-site. Some additional electricity is fed in from two micro-hydroelectric turbines in the nearby river.

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Giant polycarbonate skylights bring in diffused cool daylight: the deep overhangs keep out most direct sunlight.

Part of the roof is used for a solar hot water heater that provides hot water, warming the pool and heating the water for washing dishes and taking showers. The house is so far from civilization, there is also no public water supply, so the water is brought in from the forest.

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The exoskeleton design is informed by the climate. The region is extremely humid, but at an almost perfect year round temperature, and so the house is designed to be open and airy to maximize the movement of air to offset the humidity, including above the ceiling.

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Centria‘s Versawall and Versapanel SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels) were chosen for construction, normally a commercial construction material.

Because the interior and the exterior face of a SIP is already sealed into single units, they could be used both for the roof/ceiling, and for the walls. Chosen for their ease of installation, light weight,  low maintenance and resistance to humidity, they brought the construction cost down to $63 per square foot.

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Bright LED lighting uses a tiny fraction of the energy of incandescent lights, and gives off no heat.

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Around the exterior, TREX louvres, that are constructed of recycled plastics modulate temperatures and resist rot. Any off-gassing does not endanger indoor air quality.

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aims to not only minimize the impact of structures on the environment – but also, to minimize the impact of the surrounding environment, the humidity, invasive insects, and potential for mold growth on the building.

Iseami House11 greenThe result?  An emergent tropical architecture prototype for a sustainably constructed, low maintenance building vernacular. The 10 important elements evaluated: Site, Climate, Energy, Water, Materials, environment, atmosphere, cost, innovation in passive strategies, and in construction technologies.

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The region requires earthquake-proof architecture, but the thermal-panels themselves have such high structural capabilities that they reduce the amount of steel structure reinforcement needed.

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Because the SIPs are just one unit, there is no empty spaces between interior and exterior as between traditionally built walls that can grow mold in muggy weather.
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Because the house is put together using prefabricated panels, most of it could be put together in a factory off-site and thus minimize the waste of materials on site. This made for speedy construction and finishing on site.

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SIPs are normally a low cost, green (no waste) option for commercial building.

They make for an interesting and practical choice for constructing a luxurious and yet simple and affordable exo-skeleton style building for a comfortable life in a tropical climate.

Source: Arch Daily

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2 Comments so far to “Off-Grid in Costa Rica: ISEAMI Teaches Eco Architecture”
  1. Lynn Says:

    Hi,
    just came across your site and viewed the pics of your house design. We have property on the OSA and have been considering starting the building process soon. We would love to speak with you live at your earliest convenience

  2. Architectural Design with Storm Surges in Mind | Unique Design Ideas Says:

    [...]  Iseami House in the Costa Rica jungle[1] is built with plastics and metals that resist corrosion in [...]

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