Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I found the following on line for those of you who have asked about the cost of bulding per sqaure meter:

$ 500 ,to $600 LOW / MEDIUM good finishings, ceramic grade 3 without a simple design, internal gypsum divisions, concrete outside, aluminium windows without colors, agglomerated simple doors, kitchen furniture, plating in bathrooms only in humid areas, electric gate, does not include mirrors or lamps.

$ 600 a $750 MEDIUM Good finishings, ceramic grade 4 with a simple design, internal gypsum division, concrete outside, colored aluminum windows, wooden doors with frame, kitchen furniture with melamine with wooden kitchen doors and melamine divisions, closet with internal Hogan type divisions with wooden doors, bathrooms covered with ceramic up to 1.20 m., does not include mirrors.

$ 750 to ..... HIGH Luxurious finishing, ceramic or porcelanato floors, primary internal divisions in concrete and secondary divisions in gypsum, colored aluminum windows, solid wood doors with polyurethane and frame with ornaments, designed ceilings, ceilings with cornice and 4 inches baseboards in wood, kitchen with granite plating, bathrooms with marble, main bathroom with tub or Jacuzzi, laminated wooden floors in the bedrooms.

Information based on survey to M. Arce, Engineer; Arturo Lecaro, Architect; Ricardo Molina,Architect; Fernando Peñaranda, Architect & Engineer; Jose Luis Salinas, Architect; & Monique T´Hoen, Architect.
I recently received a note from one of the CR BBs. It is from a future neighbor of mine in Nosara. I am posting the correspondence here because I cannot tell if it posted correctly on the board, and also because you all might find it interesting.

She wrote:

I read parts of your blog on building in Nosara with interest. I too am located in Boston and just bought a small lot near the beach in Nosara (c-section) for retirement. (Property has gone WAY up since you bought). I have been looking for an architect and am also leaning toward a modern home - want lots of light and open, airy feeling. Found many of the architects that you listed, but not the Datum Zero or Quirpa firms, which look very interesting. I'm working through a property manager recommended by Coldwell Banker real estate agents, which is the agency that handled the sale. The property manager handles every part of the building process for a 10% of the cost of total project fee. This is good for me, because I too will be doing all of this long distance, and I cannot speak Spanish. Constraint is they want everything to go through them, so I've asked them to contact Datum Zero. Anyway, I hope to have the house done by the time I retire, which is two years from now.

Thanks J----,

And I responded:

I am glad that you are getting something out of the blog. It is a bit quiet right now, but it will pick up soon. I am scheduled to meet with the architect, Guillermo Garita, February 3, at his office in New York. I am excited to see the progress and to see this dream take some shape.

It sounds like we are going to be neighbors. C section is the one right near the beach isn't it? Maybe when we are both done, we can visit each other's places and compare results.

Actually, I thank you for the information you shared already. it is good to see someone else's process. Probably a good idea to let the property manger take care of everything. If I had known one I had trusted, then it is likely I might have gone this route also. I would love to hear about your construction company decision making process, because this is making me the most nervous. I have a few names, and I am months off from a decision, but I think the right person will make or break the project.

I fixed the links to
Quirpa and Datum Zero, but I will again place them on the blog also, and post them here. www.datumzero.com. www.quirpa.com.

Quripa has several architects, but I spoke at length with Diego. He knows Nosara well, as he has relatives there and visits often. His e-mail address is
ldquiros@gmail.com. [update, Luis Diego has launched his own architectural office. He has also launched a new web site at http://www.luisdiegoquiros.com/. He continues to work with Quripa, which is the contruction firm, to finish projects. Check it out to see his newest work].

Guillermo is the principal architect at DatumZero. his email is g.garita@datumzero.com. Please mention my name if you contact either of them.

Congratulations on retirement. Will you retire full time to CR? I would love to hear about this, as I am encouraging my mother to consider the same. How are the services there?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Per Square foot.

I have been asked now several times what the cost of builing is in CR per square foot. A perusal of the internet resources will tell you that it is 50-55 dollars per sqaure foot depending on the quality of construction. Well, anecdotal research recently conducted in and around the Guanacaste Penninsula is that costs have risen to 60-65 dollars a square foot.

Regrettably, this is important. In CR, your architects fees are a mandated percentage of the total estimated construction value. Yes, value. Not cost. Value. What he believes the project to be worth. Lower actual costs do not result in a lower fee. I have been warned that architects will include in the total sqaure footage estimate pools, driveways, gazeebos, decks and other such. Be careful of this when you interview for your architect.

in CR, the CFIA is a legal body that covers the Architectural, Engineering, Construction and Topographical professions. All Architectural Services are governed by the Colegio Federado de
Ingenieros y Arquitectos de Costa Rica (CFIA). This legal body is responsible for:
􀂾 Determining the qualifications.
􀂾 Maintaining membership roles.
􀂾 Aiding in conflict resolution.
􀂾 Taking administrative action.
􀂾 Performing an occasional investigation.
􀂾 Defining responsibilities.
􀂾 Establishing minimum fees.

The last two items are are the important ones to watch. They could lead swell to represent nearly 20 percent of your building budget. The CFIA is run by the CR architects and engineers it governs.

In CR, the architects has the follwoing resposibilities:
􀂾 A site visit and possibly some preliminary sketches.
􀂾 Conceptual designs.
􀂾 Construction plans and permits.
􀂾 Budgeting.
Plans and Documents.

In CR architects are responsible for construction over sight. There are 3 levels of care available to the project owner.

􀂾 Inspection.
􀂾 Technical direction.
􀂾 Administration.

Inspection is generally restricted to builders that team up with an Architect. It is very rare to find an Architect who will perform Inspection level work with a contractor who has not worked with the Architect previously.

Technical direction is the most commonly negotiated level of service. It is basically the same process as Inspection but possibly includes a little more coordination with the builder.

Administration is what every Architect wants to claim is required. It is supposed to mean that they are responsible for seeing that the job is done exactly as they had in mind.

Other – The Architect is free to charge whatever he/she can negotiate
for any additional services.

The Architect is in control of setting the level of supervision appropriate for your home. Each increasing level requires a higher percentage of the estimated construction value be paid as a fee to the architect.

The legally mandated rates are broken into two parts, one for each
phase. For the Plans and Documents phase, the fees are cumulative.
They are:
Description of Work Fee Cumulative
Preliminary studies 0.5% 0.5%
Conceptual design 1.0% – 1.5% 2.0%
Construction plans 4.0% 6.0%
Budgeting 0.5% - 1.0% 7.0%
Selecting a builder 0.5% 7.5%

For the Control and Execution phase, the Architect will select one of these options:
Description of Work Fee
Inspection 3.0%
Technical direction 5.0%
Administration 12.0%
Other fees Open
Your total cost will be the product of the value per square meter times
the total square meters times the total percentage for the applicable
fees: Value/sq meter x Total sq. meters x Total % of Fees = Total

What the builder can do to manage the fees:

• Tell the Architect that you will select the builder and that the
builder will do the budgeting. That saves over $7,400.
• Demand that the Control and Execution be Technical Direction
instead of Administration. If you have absolute faith in the
builder you can try to talk him down to Inspection which will
save even more.
• Try to convince the Architect that garages, patios and decks
don’t cost as much as the house construction.
• Try to convince him it that the value will reasonable.
You can also use one of several CR services, such as CR Plans, that are build design teams to hold costs down.

OR, you can find an honest architect. I opted for the later.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Note from Guillermo today. He has been in Costa Rica for the past few weeks.

Aparently Guillermo and his CR partner, Sandra, reviewed the project and discussed preliminary ideas for a few days. I am certainly excited about this. They expect to have some very early rough sketches done within 2 weeks. Again- excitement. I have been adding images to my image file. Regrettably I cannot post them as blogger sucks for uploading images. Also, a lot of them are in a shoe box on my desk. That too will likley prevent the easy dissemination of the images.

I need to do research into the particular environental obstacles of my area. Regrettably I cannot find my next door neighbor's email address. He could certainly tell me the concerns that a builder should keep in mind. I mean, what is the dirunal tempurate difference? rain runoff problems? What is the annual tempurate variation? Are winds a problem? from which direction do they flow? I know there are trade winds...how do they function?

I suspect cooling will be my ownly problem. I even consdered making entire floors of the building open, with only a roof. In the end, I think I will opt for large, moveable windows and doors, but I would like to know if heating is ever a problem, and how extreme the summer heat can get.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Le Corbusier.

On my request, guillermo gave me some recommendations for books to give me alittle background into architecture. He recommended, for starters:

Space, Form and order, by Ching. (this is an excellent book to understand some basic arch. concepts.
Deconstruction: a students guide. By Academy Editions (journal of arch. theory and criticism.)
Towards a new architecture. by Le Corbusier,

I went to the library this weekend but was able to find only Le Corbuier's book. I started it this morning.

Le Corbusier talks about form being the sum of function, mass, structure, surface and line. He is, of course, famous for his appraisal of a home as a "machine for living". I will let you know what I think.

Luis Diego Quiros, the architect from Quirpa who was one of the two firms that seemed to match best with my requirements of modern design, sustainable features, vision, and enthusiasm, recently completed his M House. He surfed this New Year's day at Playa Grande, near Nosara. He was nice enough to let me know what he is up to, and I believe we have a surf session in our future in which I will try to leverage whatever strength I have gained from surfing in New Hampshire in a 6/5 wet suit hauling 45 pounds of water up with me each time I pop up, into a little speed in CR so as not to completely embarrass myself.

Anyway, here is M house.

The street view of M house is a little tame. The view of the building to the North, I think it is north, is open and airy, with a walk way joining the two columns of the building, and a porch in the master bedroom. I think this is a 1400 square foot structure, and there are more details on the Quirpa web site.

and, here is an example of a 3-d rendering of a single level dwelling. Not the M house, which is located in San Jose, but it looks to be designs for location in the veld.
Luis is in San Jose. I highly recommend him to anyone looking for someone young, eager and green. He has a lot of US experience and training. He worked for my two other favorite Costa Rican Architects, Guillermo Garita of DatumZero, and Jaime Roullion. He taught green architecture at the university of Kansas, as adjunct faculty.

Anyway, my best to Luis, and to his budding career. Happy New Year.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


I finalized the outline of the agreement between Guillermo and I regarding the design and construction of the Costa Rica house. It all seems so far away right now. The surveyor is again not answering his telephone, which is making it extremely hard for me to allow him to extort more money for me. Furthermore, it is delaying the project. I am frustrated already.

I have been ripping images out of a magazine to which I had a subscription by some weird accident called Coastal living. Apparently, living on the coast is supposed to consist of white people white washing their houses and debating between serving shrimp cocktail and another round of golf. It was most unhelpful. Unless, of course, I want a house that looks like a doiley.

DatumZero's services will cost me 17,400. This covers:

Provision of a fully approved set of design Architectural construction documents; fully approved set of Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Fire Protection & Structural construction documents; Mechanical,Electrical, Plumbing, & Structural specifications; As-Built Documents; Specification binder of selected
exterior & interior finishes, door hardware, plumbing fixture, lighting, kitchen and bathroom accessories.

The proposal lays out timelines for schematic design, project coordination and site visits, legal documentation, scaled drawings and deigns, construction documents, and the filing of pertinent documentation with the government. DM will also assist me in selecting, bidding, and monitoring an independent construction contractor.

Fees will be paid with a retainer of 25 %, then small amount as the design is completed. Only 15% is left to the end of construction. I contacted Guillermo hoping to push more of the payment until completion. I have had a bad experience with contractors not finishing projects once the money is substantially transferred. Guillermo was firm. Apparently he has had the opposite experience, with clients not completing payment once the construction was under way. He wrote me a nice letter explaining his position, and answering all the questions I had about the proposal. He sent me another draft with my concerns explained expressly.

Jeremy went over this with me. He works in urban design and has a lot of experience with proposals and contracts, albeit in a commercial setting. I can read a contract, but there are just too many terms here with which I am unfamiliar. Generally, Jeremy thought it was fair. There are even some elements that will be covered by DM that are not usually covered by an American firm.

So I sent the retainer fee last week, and we are on our way.
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