First Energy-Efficient Tree House Community


The Hogans were living in Crested Butte, Colo., four years ago when they decided to fly to Costa Rica in search of a surf-shack hideaway. Erica was a writer and editor at a local newspaper. Matt co-owned a company that made roofing tiles from recycled tires.

Finding Inspiration in 'Star Wars'

After taking a tour of a lot of secondary-growth rainforest in the mountainous Southern Zone of Costa Rica, advertised for potential timber logging, Erica Hogan suggested using the jungle to build an Ewok village in the trees, similar to the one on the moon of Endor in the film "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi."

The conversation could have ended there, but her husband liked the idea.

"It's funny, the Ewok village was only featured for a split second in 'Star Wars: Return of the Jedi,' but it left such a lasting impression there are few people who don't know what the Ewok village is," he says.

So Matt and Erica Hogan broke free from their commitments, followed through on their idealism and bought property in the tropical rainforests of Costa Rica.

If they hadn't, the forest may have been lost to loggers, something environmentalists say has happened to half the tropical forests in the world in the past century. The Hogans spent the next four years building their version of an energy-efficient community.

Matt Hogan raced motocross for 12 years, but is finding his peace in the forest. "In a way, this was my way of finding the balance," he says.

It wasn't easy. He chased wildlife poachers off his property with a loaded gun for the first 18 months, sleeping under a tarp at "base camp," an old rock quarry used to build the local loop road off the Pan-American Highway.

He was camping out in the middle of a Costa Rican rainforest, working 18-hour days, amid venomous snakes, scorpions, and mudslides.

His wife joined him after the first year, living outside with a crew of 30 native Costa Rican men for more than six months.

They both planned and literally built the community with their own hands. They've been there, working hand-in-hand with their employees, who are now more like family, building everything on the grounds.

And, today, the Finca is indeed what they had imagined, a community of off-the grid tree house dwellers, living with nature, with access to 300 acres of secondary-growth rainforest.

It's a place where everyone -- including the resident star Kimbo, the half-blind bulldog -- uses zip-lining as a primary means of transportation. They ride on cables, zipping between platforms that rise as high as 90 feet from the forest floor, soaring across the mountaintops and waterfalls.

"It's a real source of transport," Matt Hogan says, walking through the forest. "Even the building materials for the tree house are brought in via zip line."

There are already 23 lines up, with more in the works as the community grows toward a target population of 200 people.

Tree Houses Take Root

Trekking through the property in rubber boots up to his knees, Hogan shows off the waterfall situated below his personal two-story tree house that is soon to house Costa Rica's largest privately-owned hydropower system. When all is said and done, the hydro and solar systems will generate enough power to service all the new structures that will be built.

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