UPDATE 2018: In the meantime we have build a few bamboo structures in our farm here in Ecuador.
Check it our tiny bamboo house (3×6 meters in size).
And here some impressions of the PermaTree Bamboo HQ
Building our own house in the tropics (status 2016)
It’s time for us to start thinking about how we want to build our own house in the tropics. We did some extensive research during the last 2 years – but knowing where we are going to stay makes it a step easier. Of course we are not going to build a house like in Europe or the US. This would make very little to no sense at all.
Different environment very different climate conditions as well as social habits.
We really liked the entire philosophy of the Earth Ships (passive solar house that is made of both natural and recycled materials – here a good read about pro and cons) and Earthbag/Superadobe constructions. But now living in the tropics this make little sense observing the climate and existing houses here. So we will keep the creative inspiration but build something fully adapted to the climate and topography of the land. We also really liked the idea of “less is more” aka the Book from Dee Williams called The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir.
In a nutshell:
Focus rather on a functional structure instead of beautiful structure, because it turns out that a functional object with time becomes beautiful too. It needs to be elevated. The part where we live and the part where we sleep needs to be ventilated enough. Combination of the structure with smart sustainable energy solutions.
- Big multiuse Porch / roof overhang – a covered shelter projecting in front/around the house. To stop both too much sun and too much water hitting the front face
- Rooftop terrace (on the top of the roof)
- Abundance of natural light inside of the house – big windows
- Natural ventilation in very room of the house – with mosquito nets
- House min. 2 meters elevated above the ground to allow for a better floor ventilation and less wall and floor humidity
- Rain water harvesting via roof saved in ground water tank or near Fish pond with Bamboo and floating vegetables.
- Composting Toilet outside of the house but connected with roof (don’t want to get wet)
- Multifunction Rocket Mass Heater Stove combined with Oven, BBQ, Boiler and Clothing / Food Dehydrator – hybrid system: wood / gas / electric (solar powered)
- Shower near the Rocket Mass Heater Stove for hot water. Graywater going to the banana circle system.
- 2 well isolated water tanks on roof one for hot water (black) one for cold water (white)
- Solar Thermal Pipe Coil Water Heater – on roof to heat with daily sunlight and save it in the black water tank.
- Open practical Kitchen and living room / hammocks in one space with big windows for lots of natural light
- Dry natural ventilated store room – “root cellar” near kitchen – place to preserve fruits and vegetables
- Near the house the Gray water treatment with banana circle system
- Roof Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Panels to harvest solar energy in batteries for daily use.
- Use natural river water flow for hydro energy or “watermill”-rotation energy for washing machine and electric energy. Micro Hydro (small turbine) / rover “water vortex” for power generation
- Floor: Terracota “baked earth” floor tiles and wood floor in the 2 bedrooms
Local natural construction materials
One major consideration in sustainable development is using local materials. Biggest issue here is that all the natural constructions material almost don’t get dried at all… normaly. Most likely we will have to also consider a few non sustainable materials such as plastic which is used for plant nurseries.
- Recycling: Glas Bottles, Wood, Aluminum Bottles, etc.
- Palma de pejibaye, “Chonta dura” o Bactris gasipaes (extrem hard material)
- Bamboo / “Guadua”
- Timber wood
- Adobe earth walls / floor
- Palm leafs / roof / walls
We are thinking of a house designed with space and energy-efficiency in mind. Focusing on practical use more than luxury. Using intelligent adapted multi-use natural shapes instead of the usual square house with roof. Geometric volumes neatly fitted together on varying levels. Creating areas of shade and sun that will naturally warm and cool the house throughout the day. Focus on minimizing the environmental impact of the house before, during and after construction. We are just visitors passing by so our footprint should not destroy anything… best case its a better place after we leave.
Bamboo was first found and used in China more than 5000 years ago. This is why the woody plant conjures up images of pandas eating shoots and leaves in the Orient. Even though its many uses are only just becoming widely known, the bamboo plant as an alternative material began long before “going green” became a trend.
Existing visual inspiration
We believe its always important to see what has been done and do goo research also to get visual inspiration. Some examples are more elaborate some more minimal some more luxurious some more simple.