Bong House


Building Design, Industrial Design

180 SM

Garza, Costa Rica

Sustainability Engineer

Arup, Los Angeles

The residential commission for living and work studio areas involved developing environmentally informed building systems including methods for water collection and reuse, solar power generation, and most significantly, passive cooling. To condition the house, INABA and ARUP created a large intake scoop below the main living level that receives offshore breezes and channels the cool air upward through a central ‘air chimney.’ Aided by the Venturi effect, the pressurized air circulates through the house during night and morning hours. As the tropical temperature rises during the day, windows and shutters are opened to allow warm air to escape upward and out the top of the chimney. The three-meter high, load bearing scoop doubles as a terrace with views of the coast below the hilltop site, while large rocks placed inside provide additional thermal mass for cooling.


The house’s conditioned air travels a similar path as smoke through a ‘bong,’ or water pipe. Air moves from an external source point just as the smoke is drawn from the bowl and into the stem. It then travels over the rocks and is further cooled, like the smoke that is said to cool as it passes through the water chamber. Air and smoke alike then stream upward along their respective vent stacks to the outside. To illustrate the passive cooling system, INABA was commissioned to fabricate a bong prototype, which is available commercially.