8 APR 20 | Sustainable Design in the Rainforest


During my recent visit to Costa Rica – a country that prides itself on their eco-tourism – I had to book a stay at Hidden Valley Farm. Tucked into the Monteverde Rainforest, this eco-hotel is a destination of ecological design, renewable energy, and permaculture. I booked myself on the one day guided tour to get a better understanding of how the community thrived. 

With views like this, I surely was not disappointed.


Permaculture is a design approach intended to create ecological human habitats and food production systems; it is a land use and community building movement all in one. The concept was founded in the 1970’s by David Holmgren and Bill Mollison and has continued to grow in popularity ever since. 

The Principles of Permaculture 


On my guided tour through Hidden Valley Farm, I learned how they are practicing the 12 Principles. Here were a few of my favorite examples:

#2 Catch and store energy 

It was a surprise to me that having hot showers in Costa Rica is not a given. Yet again, who needs hot water in the tropics? Well, this softy American does, so it was a pleasant surprise to be able to take a hot shower due to the solar hot water systems they set up in all of their residential facilities.

#3 Obtain a yield

Being in a clouded rainforest, they often can get heavy downpours and flash floods, yet they have learned to utilize this as an asset. There were beautiful ponds located throughout the premises as ways to capture new water and recycle greywater

They also capture rainwater to use an aquaculture system to grow their own tilapia, which then gets severed in the cafe. This highly nutrient fish water goes back into the gardens, to grow nutrient-rich vegetables also served in the cafe ( I highly recommend trying their oven-baked pizza, and ask for the fresh garden basil!).

#5 Use and value renewable resources & services

In order to save energy costs on running industrial dryers, they created a drying room. Think of a greenhouse with natural airflow. This is how they dry the towels and sheets.

They also make most of their tables, chairs, and wood siding from wood harvested off their property.

#6 Produce no waste

By taking the food scraps and waste from the cafeteria, they are able to produce their own rich and organic soils to treat their gardens with. They also use fermented tea to make liquid fertilizers to feed their coffee plants and fruit trees.


#12 Creatively use and response to change

I came home with many takeaways from my stay at the eco-hotel, the most important being that the only constant thing we have in this world is change. In recent weeks, due to COVID-19 we’ve been handed a unique opportunity to slow down and observe the interconnectivity of our socioeconomics, and how interwoven we humans are with each other, the economy, and earth’s biology.

By following this 12th Principle, I think we will find a creative response for a better future.

Thanks for reading!

Cesar Gellido | Architectural Designer
08 April 2020