Building in the Tropics

plants-costa-ricaYou would be amazed to watch the heavy rains that pour down and the grass that soaks it all up like a sponge, at a truly amazing absorption rate. Truly blessed with lush jungles and flowing rivers, after experiencing one rainy season, it becomes obvious not only why the forests are so rich, but it also becomes clear that one must design and build in order to account for the amount of rain, and the speed at which it falls. Here are a few con-siderations to maintain a comfortable home and low maintenance lifestyle.

Roof Design & Rain Water Channeling Systems
Your roof is probably the most important structural element that gives protection in homes within latitudes of 10 degrees of that of the equator. The roof is the material that is most exposed to the elements, choose it wisely for durability. Slope, orientation, downspout and gutter design (yes, gutter designs which you won’t find at the local ‘Ferreteria’) are elements that will provide you with a healthy indoor environment and long lasting wall materials. There are a variety of materials including regular zinc sheets, flat tiles, to more qualified materials such as concrete slabs and TPO (Ther-moplastic PolyOlefin). A simple design solution is to design a small sloped structure with oversized gutters and downspouts that face the main breeze direction. Have several checkpoints and an open air sloped rainwater channel that arrives at a bioswale, where a natural filtration process can happen. Surround your house with this type of channel and avoid displacing earth and disrupting the natural flow when building, adapt to Nature in-stead. In the case of sloppy lots, building off the ground is for you.

Subdivided Compact Architectural Floor Plans Work Best
In the tropics, separated smaller units that compose different areas of the house gives more airflow and shading opportunities than designing a sin-gle block home. The subdivided compact architectural floor plan is a passive strategy design guideline.

Conduct a Breeze & Rainfall Analysis
Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 11.35.12 AMDwelling Implantation basically follows a local site analysis that takes ad-vantage of main breeze flow. These flows need to be analyzed throughout the year in order to also manage the times when they carry lots of horizon-tal rain and moisture. Correct orientation and openings strategy will result in appropriately ventilated areas. A correct dwelling orientation will give way to a breeze that washes away excessive moisture. You will not only be able to live in a non A/C house but you will also have a lower electricity bill.

Build Your House Off The Ground
By building a dwelling off the ground, it not only lets airflow to pass underneath the structure, it allows for a pipe checkpoint as well, and added benefit include long term wall durability as they won’t be touching any soil. A lightweight structure that incorporates drywalls mixed with some concrete walls, can be ideal in order to accommodate even the most moderate budgets.

About the Writer Gloriana Mejia

meGloriana is a local architect, born and raised in Costa Rica. She designs with passion and is professionally active in the Caribbean, South Pacific and North Pacific of Costa Rica. She implements designs following the passive strategy for her designs.