Building while protecting Nosara’s nature is possible
Its calculated that since the end of world war 2 around 80% of Costa Ricas once abundant forests have been cleared to make room for cattle ranchers and real estate developers. This campaign began in earnest in the 1950s, during which it’s estimated that over 60% of Costa Rican forests were cut down to produce beef for the world market. This was drastically worsened when in the 1960s the US government forked out tens of millions of dollars in loans to ranchers to produce beef. Up until the 1990s Costa Rica had one of the largest rates of deforestation of any country in Central America. Nowadays, despite the Costa Rican governments work to place many of the remaining forest areas under the protectorate of national park, disputes over privately owned plots, the ongoing tourism boom, and lenient and ill-enforced laws on logging make many of these laws difficult to implement.
A prime example of an area where such deforestation took place is Nosara. In the 1940s Playa Guiones and the surrounding area was pure untouched jungle, and home only to the many species of creature that once inhabited it. The beginning of the end came in the late 1940s, when nearly the entire jungle was razed to make way for cattle pasture.. In the 1960s, along came an American land developer, who purchased the land from the farmers. This marked the birth of what came to be known as “The American project” that formed the blueprint for the town of Playa Guiones we know today.
Luckily, the initiation of this ‘project’ also marked the start of efforts to preserve what was left of the jungle, and to restore and rejuvenate the surrounding area. In comparison to many other areas of Costa Rica this has been a great success story, with many areas being restored to their former glory. Unfortunately, the real estate boom that began decades ago poses an ever present threat to many of the jungle areas that local wildlife calls home.
Although further development in Playa Guiones doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, many people believe that there are ways in which the continued construction of hotels, businesses, and private houses can be carried out in such a way to be of little impact to the environment. The most crucial part of these efforts involves the preservation of the trees. In order to find out the best way to achieve a balance between sustainability and development nosara.com spoke with local architect Donald Loria. In recent years Donald has designed and constructed a number of residences where the local flora and fauna took precedence over the construction. Here, Donald outlines a few of these construction projects, and the steps necessary to achieve the preservation of the dwindling local forests.
Casa Treehouse: This was a unique situation in which the area of land which was to be built upon was home to many old Pachote trees growing on the property. Some of them had been growing there uninterrupted for hundreds of years. The property owner was very specific on two things. First, he wanted to ensure that none of the old trees would be removed or even damaged during the construction process. Second, he requested that as the trees aged and developed, the foundations of the property would not interfere with the trees natural growth. This was an interesting design challenge but one which was accomplished successfully. The secret to it’s success lies in both the custom design of the buildings foundations, and the fact that the property was raised off the ground. This house is now 12 years old. The property has never been affected by the trees that surround it and vice versa.
Olas verdes: When the owner approached us he requested that sustainability in the design was essential, and wanted a construction plan that put the trees first. This was achieved by designing the entire master plan around the trees that had been growing on the and for many decades. Similar to Casa Treehouse, the main thing to deal with was the foundation. Additionally, the roofs were cut to accommodate both current and anticipated future tree growth.
In addition to working in a manner that didn’t impact the trees, Olas Verdes also installed a comprehensive grey water system around the property. The grey water is used on to keep the plants healthy, but whats interesting is how unique Olas Verde garden is in comparison to so many of the other man made gardens in and around Playa Guiones. Olas Verdes uses 100% native plants. These plants all evolved in the local areas dry conditions and require little watering, zero pesticides or fertilizers, help prevent erosion, and help restore the natural environment which attracts all sorts of native wildlife species.
By the time Olas Verdes was complete it was considered such an outstanding example of sustainable construction it was awarded the U.S LEED platinum sustainability award.
Lagarta lodge: Many visitors to the Lagarta Lodge of old will remember the stunning views of the Guanacaste coastline it was famous for. They will also remember it as an eco-lodge which marked the entrance to many of the biological reserve forest and mangrove trails. Although the views and trails are still accessible, and as beautiful d exciting as ever, the face of Lagarta Lodge has changed dramatically following an investment some years back. On completion, Lagarta Lodge received one of the highest certifications for sustainability possible: five leaves of the CST certificate (Certification of sustainable tourism). The awarding of this certificate has strict criteria, most notably the active protection of the local environment. “This is one of the most difficult certificates in the world to obtain” says Donald Loria. Although some trees were inevitably removed when it was first built in the eighties, the team behind the reconstruction brought on board a professional arborealist to ensure no trees were impacted during the construction. This was done on instruction from the hotel owners who demanded as little environmental impact as possible. As such, not a single tree was removed, relocated, or cut down during the build process.
Interested on knowing more about how to protect the environment while building your new house in Nosara? Read about our native plants and the importance of preserving them!