Saturday, September 29, 2007


Hola Amigos,

As most of you know, the part of our property in front of the creek at Selva Del Mar has been approved by Marena for a clubhouse, restaurant/bar and lodging.

Pepe Tercero designed a beautiful hotel restaurant combo for us, but the slowing of the Nicaragua real estate market has made those plans too costly to implement at this time.

Meanwhile, it has become evident that, despite slow lot sales, demand for lodging in Gigante has increased faster than supply.

So the issue became, how can we inexpensively offer lodging that is consistent with our eco-friendly theme, and where potential lot buyers can stay. I have learned from my own personal experience that staying at Selva Del Mar only makes the heart grow fonder. I am confident that when we have beautiful places to stay at Selva Del Mar, others will fall in love with it and want a place of their own there.

A friend had emailed me about

These bamboo homes are built in Vietnam, taken apart and shipped to wherever you are building. With the shipping cost, they are still a bit pricy, so I emailed our architect, Pepe Tercero, and asked him if he had any experience with bamboo architecture. As you may already know, Pepe is a professor of architecture at a university in Managua. He replied that he and his class had been exploring bamboo architecture and one Colombian student had personal familiarity with the work of famed Colombian bamboo architect Simon Velez (a name worth googling). Before I knew it, Pepe had sent me rendering of some casita ideas. Here are some of the images.

It turns out that the bamboo for construction (Guadua) grows in the mountains around Matagalpa. You can buy 30' long bamboo, 4" in diameter for $1.

Bamboo has many environmental benefits. You can grow enough bamboo on a quarter acre lot to build a house in 4 to 5 years. If cut properly, it regrows without replanting. Bamboo absorbs more greenhouse gasses than most trees, and releases more oxygen. It has incredible tensile strength, and has a strong root system that resists erosion.

In fact we are planting yellow bamboo on the property near the creek, and some green bamboo already exists This green bamboo is just to your left after you cross the creek.

Here is our caretaker, Vidal, planting some of the yellow bamboo near a fallen tree.

Although Bamboo is more resistant to termites than most woods, you render it more so by soaking the interior of the bamboo with a solution of Borax and water. This is a non-toxic way of making the bamboo pest resistant.

Following up on these ideas, I asked Pepe if he knew of anybody with bamboo construction experience. After some searching, he found a master bamboo craftsman from Masaya, named Ponta Leon. An NGO sent him to Taiwan to study bamboo house construction. Below are some pics of his furniture, some joining techniques, and other stuff.

Estimated construction costs are considerably lower than traditional construction materials and techniques.

Unlike our original plans, the whole thing can be developed in a modular way, starting small. A single casita (without a kitchen) can be built for around $15,000. Each would lead by path to a veranda area where food can be prepared for all. Our first Casita would have a kitchen and would be close to the veranda so it's kitchen could be used for the veranda and casita patrons.

All this is within the parameters of the Marena approval (though we would get their blessing for the change) and in fact would be a lighter impact than the approved plans with the hotel and commercial area. You can see the the original hotel layout on our topo master plan pdf.

I don't think we have found the right entrance and gate design yet, but these images are moving in the right direction.

Some of the pics here are conceptual only. The casitas would actually be further apart, some in the area of the new entrance road, and some in the area along the creek, including toward Angel's and Aida's place. There are a few natural clearings where we could build the casitas without cutting any trees. Many of these spots have creek views.

The basic idea is very similar to the model at Tavarua. The restaurant area is the meeting, eating and cermony area, with paths leading to individual Bure's.

And we can start with one at a time, adding on as demand grows and cash flow increases, up to 8 to 10 casitas total. Let me know if your are interested in our plans to finance this part of the project.

Pepe and his students will soon visit Selva Del Mar to refine these ideas and follow up on locations for the various elements of the idea. I will post an update when I know more.

So that's the story behind the bamboo plan. I welcome your thoughts