Modern, Sustainable Architecture

casa amanecer in su casa magazine

Casa Amanecer was published in the March 2009 issue of Su Casa, the leading architecture magazine in Costa Rica. This issue’s focus is on sustainable architecture.

The house was featured for it’s unique design by Luis Diego Quiros which allows the visitor to enjoy the beautiful view of the mountains from anywhere in the house. Local labor and materials were used such as Costa Rican cement, flag stones and gravel from the local quarries, and cultivated teak from nearby Nicaragua. All waste water is dealt with on-site, helping to protect the nearby river from contamination.

A translated version of the article follows:

Amanecer Sostenible (Sustainable Dawn)

Gradually, sustainable architecture is seeing sunlight in Costa Rica. The “Sunrise House” in San Ramón, is a clear example.

One cannot start building a sustainable house without understanding that transportation of materials leaves a footprint on the environment. This is something that we should learn. And one cannot begin to build a sustainable house without understanding that the transportation of materials leaves a sizeable footprint on the environment.

Accordingly, Casa Amanencer set out to be a sustanable project from the early planning stages. The materials — cultivated teak, rock and cement — were bought locally so as not to negatively impact the environment. Also, wood to build interior doors and closets was dried in a solar wood oven.

The manner in which these materials are used (largely uncovered by opaque paints and no ceramic tile), the visitor can feel their warmth, stimulating the senses and putting themselves in contact with nature.

The owners hired local builders to raise the house. And very important is the fact that the owner/builder participated in the construction, raising the house with his own two hands.

The open spaces are the highlights in this construction of two environments. On one side is the family house, and on the other side are the four rooms destined to offer lodging to any client that desires to be near and enjoy the wonderful view (180 degrees, with an amazing view of the sunrise), all in harmony with nature.

The concrete wall covered with flagstone is the division between the house and the common area for the guests. “The owners were afraid that it would be too bland using only wood and concrete”, Quiros said. That’s why they decided to use the flagstone to create a distinctive air.

The combination of elements also gives one the idea of how the spaces function. It makes the space ordered and special. The bedrooms with wooden and glass exteriors contrast with concrete in humid bathrooms.

The design of the house lowers the permits a lower usage of water and electricity. Using glass as another crucial element in the construction, morning light floods the house. Rainwater will eventually be collected off the roof to be stored and used for watering lawns and gardens during the dry months.

Bio-climatic solutions are an important aspect to completing the spirit of the construction. This is where one notices the work of the architect. According to Quirós, bio-climatic solutions “don’t cost more, nor do they cost less”, placement is crucial and where the designer uses his head. It is a fundamental element so that the house will be sustainable.

Thus, ends the responsability of the architect. One must realize that sustainability has two parts; the first correspondes the constuction process (where you need more energy) and the second when arrives the time for maintenance and “how the house lives.” In this case, the owners recycle, compost and limit their use of consumables.

What increases the cost of projects is the use of advanced technology such as solar or wind. But in Costa Rica the climate doesn’t demand the use of such technologies when we are talking about heating or cooling a home, especially in the higher altitudes. In our country, “if you are cold, put on a sweater, and if you are hot, take off your shirt”. The climate in San Ramón, furthermore, is one of the most agreeable in the country.