Inhabitat’s Prefab Friday column has seen its fair share of shipping container homes, but we’ve never seen shipping containers paired with bamboo as a construction material before. But now, Bamboo Groves, a design and construction firm in Costa Rica, has developed some great designs for homes made from insulated shipping containers and bamboo. Developed for the tropical climate, these prefab homes are different from the designs we are accustomed to — those designed for temperate or cooler climates.  Many of these prefab and shipping container homes focus on passive heating and cooling. But in warmer climates, such as Central America, construction requires a different tactic – insulating from the heat and providing lots of natural ventilation to help cool.

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Bamboo Groves uses Intermodal Steel Building Units (ISBUs), which are insulated shipping containers, in creating the framework of the home. Then Guadua Bamboo, which is one of the fastest growing bamboos, is harvested from nearby Costa Rican bamboo plantations and used as the structural beams for the roof. Current designs range from 100 sq meters with one ISBU up to 250 sq meter split level villas with three ISBUs. Construction should take less than 5 months and be very affordable.

Concrete is a very common and accessible building material in Central America, so it is used for countertops and other built-in pieces of furniture like benches and bed stands. Other sustainable elements could be added to these homes, such as a greywater recycling system, rainwater collection, and wind or solar systems. Green building supplies like low-VOC paints, formaldehyde-free cabinets are not easily accessible there, but as the demand for these items grow, they will surely be available soon.

We are impressed by these prefabs for two reasons: first, that they are built from insulated shipping containers and  a local material, bamboo; and second that it accommodates the tropical climate by minimizing heat gain and maximizing natural ventilation. With those items in mind, we think this company certainly has a good handle on creating affordable and beautiful homes.

+ Bamboo Groves