Thursday, September 27, 2007

Ok. I am not officially a bona fide member of the Nosara civi association. I got word this morning that the NCA received my check, my dues, and were able to deposit the check. I paid, for whomever is interested, in dollars. Thats right, in Costa Rica you can deposit directly a check drawn on foriegn funds. Interesting. I wonder what the colone has been doing lately against the dollar. It seems like the entire world has a better, relative, economy. The Canadian dollar is nearly 1:1, the aussie dollar is up, the euro is at record highs against the dollar, even the mexican peso is up against the dollar. Let me write that again: the mexican peso is outperforming the dollar. But I have not checked the colone. I wonder if the two economies are so dependant the the dollar is dragging the colone down. I wonder if the locals will even want to take dollars next time I am down there. I wonder how this will effect construction and material costs. I wonder if China has left any steel in the entire world for the rest of us, or if I am going to have to recycle.

I wonder if copper is even affordable. If China is going to give the DR congo 5 billion to develop thier copper mines, then my guess is that copper is expensive. I think Corten it is. Hrdwoods, thank god, are local and should be affordable, but all other raw materials might come dear.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Air conditioning.

I have had someone ask what my approach to climate control, within Plan B, will be. [Thanks Peter].

The overall plan in this house is to demonstrate the efficacy of passive cooling systems by making the entire house independent of mechanical air conditioning units---with one small exception.

The house will be constructed off the ground. This allows the winds to pass underneath the house and to cool the floor. The house is oriented directly along the prevailing trade winds, so we can depend on those winds blowing perpendicularly to the house's breadth.

The roof of the house will have two walls, creating an air space in between the two, for the same breeze to flow through, and to act as insulation, without relying on toxic materials.

There is a gap between the roof and the walls of the house, with operable windows and screens. These gap allows air to flow through even when the windows are closed.

The house is a single depth. This mean that opening windows and doors will allow the winds to pass easily through. They will not get frustrated in deep hallways.

The bedroom itself is partly underground. It is the only earth moving we are doing. The depth of the cut into the earth should cool at least two of the walls of the bedroom to the uniform 54 degrees of the earth.

There will be overhead fans, which can be used to move air. Moving air feels 10 degrees cooler than still air. This is a mechanical intervention, of course, but not invasive, and I hope to have the fans solar powered as soon as solar panels are scalable.

The exception is the last room of the house, which is glassed off, and which is climate controlled for the purpose of running an office or computing. It is the humidity, rather than the heat, which is the danger, but the best way to control that humidity will be the availability of an air conditioner in that bedroom/office, which can be turned on, but which cools only that room.

Loyal reader Peter P addresses his concerns with solar:

"In regards to solar: I would love it, but not making enough sense to me now. I can see massive improvements in Solar coming in price and efficiency and that makes me want to wait. Plus, I am counting on CAFTA to drop import taxes. All that may make it a real deal when I am ready. Also, I want a pool, so that takes a bit of power. If electric is free and the timing is right, I might do Solar as for tree hugging, and backup electric so I don’t have to live like a hippie."

Peter is dead on. As much as the media hype might lead you to believe otherwise, solar is not scalable. The people and grocery stores and businesses that you see in the US making the conversion are only able to economically do so because of the subsidies and tax breaks offered US citizens. The US as a market for solar almost does not show up on the world map of solar power consumption. Over 80 % of solar panels are sold to Asia. That is because solar v. oil, and solar is going to lose, but solar v. darkness, and solar wins. I mean, these people have no grid to rely on, so solar makes sense, because it is the only option.

I want solar, and I expect that we will see oil hit 120 dollars a barrel or more if the dollar keeps dropping, but right now, it is not the most efficient choice. I believe that green is not only the morally correct choice, but that it will prove to be the economically correct choice also going forward.

As an aside, Peter also tells me of a house he saw in Tambor which cools the pantry, so that produce lasts longer. Interesting idea that.

Monday, September 24, 2007

In an effort to keep those of you who follow this blog up to speed on this project, the answer to "how is it going"? is this:

The water permit is not yet resolved, but progress might be being made.

There is a hold up because the paper work for the permits to build were lost. I use the term lost broadly. Guillermo asked me to sign the documents and send them down next day mail. He asked me to get a tracking number. I screwed up, leaving the package with the mail department and asking them to send it next day and get a tracking number. They sent it US priority mail, which was "lost". They did not get a tracking number. Guillermo told me, after I dropped this ball, that the mail service in CR opens the mail looking for goodies and then discards it if there is nothing of interest to them. This vexes me, but now I understand the reason for his clear instructions, I will use Fed Ex or DHL to carry all documents from here on out. What a disappointment. You get used to things getting where you sent them in this country. generating new papers, signing them and sending them will be guaranteed to cause a 3 week delay. It already has.

Guillermo and Datum Zero and I have a meeting on materials that will occur in the future in NYC but when and where are not clear. Perhaps soon. I hope so, I am eager to get this thing moving.

DZ is interviewing contractors and builders for bids. I dont know where we stand in this process. Obviously this will be the determining factor of whether we can get finished anywhere near the Jan 1 2008 goal. The team is more important than the time line though, and I am interested to hear about our options.

Thats it, I think. Personal affairs have been taking my attention from the blog and this project, but I am now able to focus on it completely.

As always I thank you for your continuing interest.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A bump.

In order to get a water hookup from the city of Nosara, it is necessary to get a letter of authorization from the Nosara Civic Association. I applied for such a letter and recently was denied. The response was that no new water permits were being granted on new developments.

From what I understand the Nosara Civic Association was instrumental in halting overdevelopment of the Nosara area. They refused to allow water to flow to projects that did not follow the civic plan. This was effective in preventing overzealous developers from creating hotels and 90% density lots.

I am puzzled as to why this measure is being applied to me. First of all, I have owned land in Nosara since 1999. Thats nearly 8.5 years now. I bought this before the land crazyness began. I bought the land to develop it, one day, but was waiting the right approach. I dont feel like it is proper to put me in the back of the line when I have been a land holder in Nosara for all these years.

Second, Plan B is intended to demonstrate to people that development can co-exist with ecology. I have not cut any exotic hardwoods, I have not created a retaining wall and filled the land as many people have done. The design nestles onto the landscape; its piers allow it to kiss hte landscape and use little earth movement.

I am building a roof that will catch water for cisterns to reduce my reliance on any water, in addition to managing run off. It seems counterintuitive that my project should be stopped when it is an education in how little one can ask from the land.

Third, without another option, I will, eventually be forced to consider the advice that I get from real estate agents: build a retaining wall, cut the parcel in two, cut all the trees, fill the land and sell it as two properties for someone else to develop. I dont want to do this.

I am having a hard time getting a response from the NCA. They have been nothing but pleasant in the past when I have contacted them. The last I heard from them, they were requesting association dues. I sent an email asking how to effect payment, as they left no transfer banking number, but I never heard a reply. I hope they are willing to work with me on this.
Free Hit Counter