IKEA-like homes for the tropics

The challenge with the building quality homes in remote places in developing countries is tri-fold: lack of qualified labor, logistics and materials.  What if we could build smartly designed homes using an IKEA-like approach?   That way, with proper supervision, minimally trained workers can put together a high-quality home on even the most remote locations with minimal ground work.

canopyhome

With that goal, Project Selva Santa Fe is researching the design of affordable small homes/cabins for use in the tropics that can be put together like Swedish furniture and withstand the presence of tropical insects that love to eat wood, the harsh climatological conditions and require minimal maintenance.

By keeping the parts small, they can be transported to the building site without mechanical equipment. Nor is such equipment needed to put the house together.

distribution plan

Using small parts also means the wood can be properly treated for conversation, assuring very long life and minimal maintenance.

We are currently investigating suppliers of cost-efficient wood preservation technology and wood skeleton builders to partner in building a prototype.

cabin

 

For sale: The Balboa Inn B&B (Panama)

Balboa Consulting is managing the sale of the Balboa Inn, a 9-room Bed & Breakfast in Panama, located in the quiet, green and very safe neighborhood Balboa (former Canal Zone).

front of Balboa In in beautiful residential area

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a enthusiastic couple this is a great opportunity to live and work in Panama buying a turn-key business.  Besides the 9 guest rooms there is also an owners room with private bathroom.

location map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But this is also a great location for an office, especially one with activities in the maritime field.More info coming soon.

 

 

Waste treatment & recycling in Panama

A very interesting assignment just came my way: a feasibility study and equipment sourcing for an investment party in Panama that is involved in the waste management & recycling of municipal and company waste.

a typical municipal dump in Panama

Right now most, if not all garbage in Panama is dumped in open-air pits.  In villages usually just a few miles down the road like here in Santa Catalina, a surfers paradise….

Cerro Patacon receives the waste from Panama city.  There is almost no separation of plastics from organic waste like we do in the Netherlands. Garden waste is mixed with an old washing machine so to say.  The only recycling is done ‘post-dumping’ like we see in the picture below.A child scavenges for garbage to sell or eat at the Rio Hato landfill in Rio Hato City

So a challenging social and technical issue for sure.  Besides recycling, waste-to-energy – generating electrical power using waste as a fuel – would be an interesting option.  I know right now a lot of garbage, especially in Colon is dumped and burned in the open air.  A true mess in every aspect.  But those plants are expensive and would require some kind of financing and more importantly, a stable investment and regulatory climate.  So I’m also looking into opportunities in Colombia and Peru.

Certainly a very interesting field.

Online booking & payment for hotels in Latin America

A very exciting new opportunity has come my way this month; figure out a way to enable small- and mid-sized hotel owners in Central and South America take online bookings, manage their room inventory and take (credit card) payments online.

This is currently impossible because the local payment providers (some countries online have 1 or 2) don’t offer online-payment unless a very cumbersome procedure is followed.  Like a written authorization sent by fax with both sides of the credit card to give an example of this absurd demands that local hotel owners have to deal with.  Of course, very few card holders will want to comply with this kind of awkward (who has a fax these days anyway) procedures that also don’t instill much confidence: it’s not a very secure system if all the hotel staff has access to your credit card details.  This means that only the bigger hotel chains have access to online payment and yet even they do pay a disproportionate commission for this service.

manage reservations online

The task at and is to find the best, most flexible online booking and property management solution that’s also affordable for small property owners and a payment solution that is safe, fast and affordable.

I’ve already identified the booking software in Germany; now still looking for the payment solution and investigating the legal aspects of such an operation.

 

Looking for trawlers

Balboa Consulting was recently hired to find up to 4 fishing trawlers in Europe for a client in Panama and Ecuador.  My own experience with Dutch beam trawlers (www.expeditionyacht.org)  let to this assignment.

kotter voor Panama of Ecuador

My preference goes to ‘Maaskant’ trawlers from Maaskant Shipyards in the Netherlands. They are simply the best.   When I’ve found the right vessels to purchase, I’ll handle the re-flagging, all related legal matters, a crew and all other practicalities to bring the ships to Panama and Ecuador.

Bridge on beam trawler

Getting TigiSolar established in the Netherlands

For a long time I’ve been looking at a way to heat my own house more affordably.  While my 2012-delivered house is well insulated according to the latest building code, I happen to live in an area that has city heating (stadsverwarming).  So hot waste water from a nearby power plant heats our home and tapwater.

Unfortunately, due to the monopolistic position of the supplier (NUON), we are paying a fortune to heat our house.   The rates for the heat itself (GJ) is reasonable but the fixed fees to be connected are true extorsion:  we pay about USD 600 a year even if we don’t use any heat !!!

So for a long time I’ve been looking at a solution and one very promising one is a product of an Israeli company called TigiSolar (www.tigisolar.com).  The have developed a truely unique breed of solar collectors that turns sunlight to heat.

why-tigiTheir ‘honeycomb’ collector is able to minimize energy losses to the environment, resulting in very high efficiency and economic value even in freezing winter conditions.  Alternative like flat panel solar collectors or vacuum tube collectors perform poorly in such conditions or are expensive and very delicated to handle.

I’m currently looking for resellers in the Netherlands and Belgium and hope my home will be the first in the Netherlands to be heated by TigiSolar products!  By adding a water-heating woodstove I will be able to do away with NUON and heat my house in a sustainable AND affordable way.