This gorgeous modern building is the headquarters for the new ISEAMI Institute, which is devoted to the investigation of sustainability, ecology, and art. Located on the Osa Peninsula, deep in the rich and biologically-diverse rainforest of Costa Rica, Casa Iseami runs totally off-grid thanks to an on-site hydropower system plus a photovoltaic roof. Costa Rica-based Robles Arquitectos designed the building according to their SDRA design process, which evaluates 10 important elements in order to reduce a project's negative impact on the environment.
Juan Robles developed a method for architecture design that explores 10 elements: site, climate, energy, water, materials, environment, atmosphere, cost, innovation, and the use of passive strategies and implemented processes. By balancing these elements he successfully laid out a design plan that reduces the negative impacts of the ISEAMI Institute throughout its lifecycle. As the institute is located on a biologically diverse peninsula, the architect sought to keep its impact upon the site to a minimum, and the house had to be completely self-sufficient and off-grid because no utilities could be brought in.
The resulting institute headquarters utilized prefabricated construction to speed the building process and minimize site impact. The building features low-maintenance and durable materials, like steel and thermal-panels (Versawall and Versapanel by Centria), which maximize structural support, insulation and durability while minimizing the growth of mold and fungi in the high-humidity environment. The entire structure is white, so if mold or fungi begin to form, they can easily be detected and dealt with. Materials were chosen based on their ability to be recycled at the end of the life of the home.
Power for the facility is completely generated on-site with a 2 micro hydro turbines that generate 800 kWh per year and a roof top solar system that generates 10,800 kWh annually. A solar hot water system heats hot water for the residents and visitors of the institute. The hybrid energy system provides enough power for Casa Iseami as well as the caretaker’s and maintenance housing and the existing lodge for the institute’s participants. In addition to the use of renewable energy, solar passive design was employed by using large overhangs to provide shade, orienting the home to maximize natural ventilation, and installing skylights for daylighting.