NYIT architecture students traveled to Costa Rica this past summer to start construction of a much-needed recycling center project they designed for Nosara, Costa Rica.
Costa Rica has a severe municipal solid waste management problem that stands in stark contrast with its eco-image. Lacking appropriate infrastructure and policies, more than 60% of waste is put into open, unregulated dumps, and 250 tons are dumped illegally every day into rivers and tropical forests, polluting ground water, threatening the health of local communities and destroying a fragile ecosystem whose well-being is of critical importance not only locally, but also planet-wide.
sLAB Costa Rica, a design-build initiative at the School of Architecture and Design at the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) that is led by my studio, Holler Architecture, is working on a project that will help the waste management problem for Nosara, a small community in Costa Rica. My students and I designed of a much-needed Recycling and Education Center, and this past summer the project made a huge step toward reality.
Funded in part through a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter, more than 30 NYIT architecture students traveled to Costa Rica this past July and August and volunteered on the construction site of this important community project. In order not to lose momentum, the students have set up a second Kickstarter campaign to help finish the project this upcoming January.
The Nosara Recycling Center will collect, compact and sell recyclables for the future transformation into new materials, greatly reducing the amount of waste currently arriving at the Nosara dump, and eliminating the unsanitary, hazardous and inefficient recycling practices currently in place. The center will also serve as a communal education center for proper waste management. The project has the potential to become a model of sustainable waste management practices for communities in all of Costa Rica and other tropical countries.
Under the supervision of local construction professionals, we were able to set up the construction site, complete the site grading, concrete foundations and concrete block walls, and even built the first wooden roof truss.
However, the project is far from completed, with much work remaining before the building is ready to help with the local waste management problem. Local workers continue to build the project right now, but without help from the student volunteers, the construction pace has slowed considerably.
In order not to loose the momentum of this important community project, the students hope to return to Nosara for three weeks in January to continue to help with the project’s construction. To aid in their expenses for housing and the production of a documentary by Ayana de Vos, the students launched another Kickstarter campaign to raise $9,000 by December 13.
Please help us help Nosara! Pura vida!
The building design
The final design is decidedly modern, but inspired by local passive-tropical design strategies. An elongated building form consisting of three zones (a sorting facility, an open lobby and support spaces) under a common roof is placed horizontally along the existing slope of the site, minimizing excavation and impact to the site. An open-entry lobby with a wall made of upcycled aluminum cans and a landscaped seating area with views into the recycling area will enable the community to engage with and become knowledgeable in the process of recycling.
The building’s narrow plan is oriented to maximize passive cooling through cross-ventilation. The roof geometry is optimized to capture prevailing breezes but protect the building from the Papagayos, seasonal gale-force winds. The high ceilings and reflective roofing materials will further reduce heat buildup. The building’s structure is made from local pochote sustainably grown on the project site and nearby. During the wet season, rainwater will be collected on the large roof and stored in cisterns for 100% of the facility’s water needs.
Tobias Holler, AIA, LEED AP, is an assistant professor of architecture at the New York Institute of Technology, where he teaches environmental design and technology. A registered architect in Germany and New York, he is also the principal of HOLLER architecture, an independent design practice in Brooklyn, NY.
HOLLER architecture is one of seven firms chosen for NPNY 2012 (New Practices New York) through the AIA New York, an award that recognizes and promotes innovative and emerging architecture firms within the city. In Holler’s research and design practice he is interested in the relationship between architecture, urbanism, landscape and technology with an emphasis on using environmental performance as a generator for architectural form.