High-End Development Unveils ‘Eco-Houses’
November 16th, 2007
SAN JUAN DEL SUR – Nicaragua’s vast Pacific coast is long on stunning views, but short on basic resources. Despite increased investment in the area over the years, electricity still remains spotty and everything from flat-screen televisions to simple refrigerators can grind to a halt, on top of the scheduled blackouts.
So, the developers at Balcones de Majagual decided to bypass the problematic conventional power grid as much as possible, and turn to nature. With a clever design and a handful of solar panels, this high-end development’s first set of “eco-houses” are having the sun and wind keep them in business.
“The houses are designed to be low-maintenance,” said Aram Terry, who manages the coastal project set between the beaches of Maderas and Majagual, 20 minutes north of San Juan del Sur. “They hardly use any energy.”
The first five eco-homes recently opened their doors, and a total of 11 are planned. The architect, Mathew Falkiner, is the same designer of the internationally famous Morgan’s Rock, the pioneering resort that brought environmentally conscience luxury to Nicaragua in 2005.
Like Morgan’s Rock, the Majagual project blends into the surrounding area by using wood exteriors and following that natural hill line of this dry tropical forest. Balcones de Majagual also has more traditional homes similar in style to Morgan’s Rock, which rely on regular power. But Terry said that the ecohomes are Falkiner’s first departure from what made the British architect famous.
“He wanted to design something completely different,” Terry said.
Barely protruding from the trees, the 2,200 square-foot homes are constructed with concrete and sustainably forested wood. Wide-screen windows take up the upper half of each wall, allowing cool breezes to pass through.
“You don’t need an air-conditioner,” Terry said.
The only real drain on electricity is the refrigerator. The houses come with back-up power to meet any shortages, but Terry said that the solar panels are almost always enough.
Falkiner, who also designs locally made furniture, did not skimp on aesthetics to be eco-friendly. The dark woods contrast elegantly with the washed-out concrete, while the broad windows allow for plenty of natural light, even on a cloudy day.With bamboo ceilings and walls that slide open to reach one of two bedrooms, the homes have a modern, almost Asian feel.
Each grouping of homes in Balcones de Majagual comes with their own small swimming pool, cut into a peaceful cliff side perch overlooking the ocean.
A 30-room beach-side hotel will offer a club house, spa, and pool that stretches several hundred yards.
Terry said they are planning to start construction on a new series “green houses” in March, which will be covered in grass roofs and also rely on renewable energy.
The entire project, the former Peace Corps volunteer says, offers a more natural fit with Nicaragua’s fragile, but stunning coastline.
As others worry about President Daniel Ortega’s effect on the real estate market, Terry said that environmentally conscience clients have already snapped up 8 of the 11 eco-homes.
“Our buyers don’t care who’s President,”he said.
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