These are some of the issues and ideas we think about when introducing “tropicality” into a home design to create a comfortable, affordable, easy to maintain, stylish and interesting home (with thanks to Bruno Stagno and Geoff McCabe).

Materials and Technology
Local, simple materials, used with wit and wisdom can create special places. Metal tubes for the structure, cement blocks, corrugated metal sheets for roofing, plants and trees as climatic conditioning are all easily available in Costa Rica and therefore relatively cheap.   Natural green and earth tones help a house blend into the forest backdrop and chemical free materials for the interior and exterior surfaces ensure no off-gassing.  Materials should also be chosen for their lack of maintenance given the harsh conditions experienced in the tropics.

Air and Ventilation
The air at Reserva Tres Rios is just as it was in the Caribbean when Christopher Columbus described it as “Sweet and warm, hot and humid”.  Since the air carries information about temperature, perfumes, sounds and humidity, and can announce sudden changes in the weather, good design embraces the air rather than keeps it out. Porous architecture, with plenty of natural ventilation, helps with air movement inside and outside the house that creates those lovely cooling breezes.

Temperature and Space
Coolness and brightness are tough companions in tropical design because sunlight brings with it heat.  Spaces under high roofs, cross-ventilation, and larger windows on the northern face can help considerably. Designs not found in temperate climates such as garden bathrooms (roofless spaces connected to the indoor room) are fun with an added benefit of keeping humidity outside. 

Sun and Shade
Shade is a necessary element of comfort and by incorporating extended roofs and greenery one can gain extensive additional living space beyond a home’s walls.  At the same time the sun provides natural lighting to be managed without adding heat.

Greenery and Leaves
Vegetation grows quickly and can provide shade, scent, and beauty through trellises, screens, patios, and flowerpots. Incorporating greenery consciously as a design element, either to the side or above, also creates attractive, additional usable space that bridges home and forest.  It’s also relatively cheap and readily available.

Rain and Roof
With average annual rainfall of 120” - 160”, concentrated in the green season of September – November, one must plan consciously for rain management.  The roof therefore is an essential element in rain water runoff as well as airflow and shade and can form a dramatic design element.  Alternatively a roof top deck under a leafy trellis can provide natural space for meditation, yoga or just a cup of coffee.  Although our Phase 1 lots are connected to municipal water, the use of rainwater catchment and recycling systems can reduce dependence on this supply.

Resource Conservation
Incorporating some or all these themes into a home design can create a comfortable, low-maintenance and affordable house that doesn’t require large amounts of electricity, water and gas to operate.  Although all Phase 1 lots at Reserrva Tres Rios are connected to municipal water and electricity systems, you can still consider alternative systems for the house or a pool.