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Bamboo Volunteer Cabin

The latest PermaTree micro project is to build a bamboo house mainly for volunteers with an amazing view of the Rio Zamora and the Valle de las Luciernagas. The size will be 6 x 3 meters and there will be a fix hammock on the panoramic view side of the house.

This is another so called ecological or natural building we are finalizing here. Actually in this remote region of Ecuador most local people who can,  build concrete and steel just because they believe its better… so once a while we get visitors at our place its always interesting to see their reactions 🙂 Most important is that we can use sustainable materials such as fast growing bamboo and some wood elements which are needed. The wood is going to be a real issue long term in Ecuador and most of Latin America. There is no real serious existing timber tree replanting policy in most countries. So once the trees are cut. There are no more trees. And some take over 200 year to grow. So we believe thinking long term bamboo and giant bamboo is a real good alternative because it can theoretically grow 90 cm / 35 in which is more than just amazing because it has literally 100s of additional beneficial factors.

Photos of the development of the volunteer bamboo house at PermaTree 

Bamboo cabana

The building chronology of the PermaTree bamboo cabana in the amazonas region of Ecuador in South America. Harvesting, Transporting, Planning, Building …

permatree bamboo HQ ecuador amazonaspermatree bamboo HQ ecuador amazonas

permatree bamboo HQ ecuador amazonaspermatree bamboo HQ ecuador amazonas

All photos in chronological order:

  1. Harvesting bamboo during good moon – means during the 6th and 8th day after full moon, between 12pm and 6am = lowest starch content!
  2. Transporting – After the cutting of the giant bamboo during night it was time to transport them from the river to the nearest road which was about only 400 meters by foot but took as good 2 days of work to get all of the 30 bamboos there.
  3. We had to pre-cut some of them which where longer than 30 meters for the better transport with the small truck and to have the right size for the cabana. The first transport went well until we arrived on the new build road of the finca and there after a few bumps all of the bamboos just fell down and we had to push them into the truck again to get them to the nearest location to the cabana. The truck looked funny from the side because the bamboo was 3 times longer the the actual size of the truck 🙂
  4. Cabana planning sessions with the white board – old school – yes. But indeed practical.
  5. Cabana structure is build with chontaduro palm which grow all over the finca and are heavily used in this region for building pillars because they are such a hard material and dont have any issues with the high humidity.
  6. On top of the chontadura palm come the giant bamboo trunks and some wood trunks to be able to nail the floor on it. (update: this was an error.)
  7. In the mean time the property road access is almost done. There have been setback because of the heavy rain during the last weeks but nerveless half of the road is good with rocks and the rest still a raw dirt road which cannot by access by car unless we have more than 3 days of sun.
  8. During the last weeks we also installed a water catchment system from higher in the river property and got the electric cables connected to the cabana from the grid. We did dig the solar option but with the current politics here in Ecuador everything which is imported costs min. 45% more than the normal price so the batteries which are needed for a solar installation cost more than the solar panels themselves… so sadly here solar makes currently absolutely no sense. Lets hope that this will change and the the solar technology will improve even further in near future.

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Building our own house in the tropics

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).

tiny bamboo house at PermaTree in EcuadorTiny bamboo house with hexagonal windows

And here some impressions of the PermaTree Bamboo HQ

permatree bamboo HQ ecuador amazonaspermatree bamboo HQ ecuador amazonas

permatree bamboo HQ ecuador amazonaspermatree bamboo HQ ecuador amazonas

 

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.

 

House Focus:

  • 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
  • etc.

 

Smart sustainable

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

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.

sustainable-architecture-inspiration

sustainable bamboo architecture

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Regenerative Farm / Finca Aveterra - Byrd Family, Mindo, Ecuadorsustainable-architecture-inspiration Natural Building Lots Of Light

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sustainable-architecture-inspiration sustainable-architecture-inspiration sustainable-architecture-inspirationsustainable-architecture-inspiration  sustainable-architecture-inspiration  sustainable-architecture-inspirationsustainable-architecture-inspiration sustainable-architecture-inspiration sustainable-architecture-inspiration

Compost Toilet Jungle Colombia

Compost Toilet Jungle Colombia

sustainable-architecture-inspiration

bamboo cabana in EjeCafetera colombia Simple bamboo cabanas in OlmedoManabi Ecuador Typical architecture in the countryside ecuador bamboo