Monday, July 23, 2007

Hello readers,

Its been a while, and for that I apologize. The reason for my absence is two fold. first, and less interesting, I was submerged at the office in a series of 14 hour days that lasted 2 weeks.

Second, and this one is germane to the building project, I was trying to confirm that I indeed owned my property. Yes, you read that correctly.

One of the reasons that I was able to buy the land cheaply in Costa Rica, is that I was not facing, at that time, a lot of competition driving the market up. The Guanacaste peninsula was not easily accessible, for example, the river bridge at Tempesquie [SP] was not yet build and Liberia was a much smaller airport, and therefore the land was unknown. Another reason for there being not much competition for land in Nosara at that time, was that it is daunting to buy land in a foreign country, in a foreign language. There is much uncertainty, and uncertainty creates risk, and risk, in turn, depresses prices.

I bought the land from a local who sold real estate. He was representing the owner. I never spoke to, or heard from, the owner. I, on the agents advice, used a real estate agent in Nicoya, who treated me well, and spoke English. But the fact of the matter is that I knew nothing about land deals in Costa Rica. I knew nothing about deeds and titles, and land records. I was fortunate, perhaps, that everyone in the deal was honest and everything was recorded properly, for I could not have been much more naive when it came to the transaction. You hear, on occasion, horror stories of people buying land that was not for sale, or buying land that could not be sold, or developed. This is not always costa rica, of course. This happens here in the United States. But frankly, I felt very exposed, standing in the law offices of Ceasar Jiminez in board shorts and flip flops with naught but a year of college spanish and faith.

I checked the Rigistro Nacional on line, and learned that my land was registered to a USEKARA SA. An SA is an anonymous society. Like a corporation in the US. It was possible that I was USEKARA, but since I had never heard this word before, it only made sense in the attorney had selected it for me.

I began to worry that the land was registered to someone else.

Fortunately, Guillermo, in his recent trip to CR, called Sr. Jimenez on my bahlf and the matter was quickly resolved. My name is on the local title, which is the one that counts, and only the national registry has not updated their records. It was a very welcome e-mail to receive. And thanks to Guillermo for doing what I would have had a very hard time doing without speaking Spanish.

With that, on to Plan B.
Guillermo recommended Marine Plywood for the paneling of the ceiling of the horizontal volume. I quickly had to look up what it was. Now it looks like clear wood panels, you can check on line for yourself, but Wikipedia, what would I do without thee, informed me that:

"In construction, marine plywood is a specially treated plywood that is designed to resist rotting in a high-moisture environment. Marine plywood is frequently used in the construction of docks and boats.

Advantages of marine plywood
Durability - small scratches through painted plywood may expose the interior to water. Inexpensive plywood may not last long when it is damp
Strength - marine plywood is stronger and has consistent mechanical properties: no voids.
Workability - marine plywood is usually easier than fiberglass to cut and bend
Resistance to Warping - marine plywood (with the exception of Fir-based plywoods) will resist warping or check

Disadvantages of marine plywood
Cost - Marine plywood is much more expensive than standard plywood. Costs for a typical 4 foot by 8 foot 1/2 inch thick board is roughly $75 to $100 US or around $2.5 per square foot. This is about three times as expensive as standard plywood.
Marine plywood comes in several common thicknesses:
1/8 inch (3 mm)
1/4 inch (6 mm)
3/8 inch (9 mm)
1/2 inch (12 mm)
3/4 inch (18 mm)

[edit] Standards and ratings
Marine plywood can be graded as being compliant with BS 1088, which is a British Standard for marine plywood.
There are few international standards for grading marine plywood and most of the standards are voluntary. Some marine plywood has a Lloyd's of London stamp that certifies it to be BS 1088 compliant. Some plywood is also labeled based on the wood used to manufacture it. "

Now, there several dozens of types of wood used in marine plywood, and which one will be used in Plan B, I don't know, but the material choice makes sense- low warp, high resistance to moisture, flexible. I like it.

And that's about all I have for now. We are filing for permits, and the soil report should be done anytime now. Its exciting, and I am looking forward to breaking ground.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007


My father raised a good point in the execution of Plan B. The long thing horizontal volume of the house is completely flat. He was concerned that under a regular and high wind, that the walls might produce a harmonic, likening the problem to the chapel in the Air Force Academy, which vibrates like the interior of an airplane wing in the wind.

I likened the horizontal volume in this thought experiment, to a xylophone key.

I think the idea is that a variation in the face, some sort of featuer, would decrease the winds ability to run along it. I dont know if this is possible, likley, or can be tested. But it is an interesting, and valid, concern.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The image you see below is one of a set of 4 delivered to me by Guillermo and his team at DatumZero. My impression on seeing them probably mirrored yours---Oh My Heavens. I was stunned by the accuracy and detail of the images, but taken by the outcomes of the project thus far.

The images are so close to real life, that a friend to which I showed them had to look closely before she would believe they were not photographs. I dont know what the software is that does that, but it is amazing.

Two of the images are of the interior of the house. One looking in each direction through the horizontal volume of the house from the gallery. The living room looks very warm. Pale wood floors, and wood walls. Until this treatment, I had not thought about the collor or materiality of the walls on the interior. GUillermo, in San Jose, had intimated that they would be wood, but we talked about a white washed plywood constructions. I still do not know for certain that the walls here are wood. They might be concrete. Concrete can be textured to look like wood. Still, it appears that at least for now, the walls are wooden both outside and in. The sliding glass doors took shape and form in the presentation. I saw how they stand, and slide, and open.

The frame of the house is steel. Blue grey gunmetal. It will be an austere counterpoint to the wood, and the surroundings of Plan B. I saw, in this images, for the first time, how the roof floats over the house. There are small windows at the top of all the wall, allowing the house ot be opened, and for the wind to blow unimpeded through the house, as well as under and over.

The kitchen warmed my heart. The floor is polished concrete. [authors note- I had concrete floors onces in florida and learned to buy more dishes than I needed. Plates and glasses do not bounce, they shatter.]. There is a prep island/breakfast bar, floating from the counter space. on the counter is the oven, stove, and hood as well as an indutrila strength sink. There is a floating spice rack, or light, over the prep space. The wall behind the counter look to be covered in grey green glass, or tile. wonderful. The overall effect is asian in line and simplicity, and french in utility. Wonderful. There is a dedicated space for cookbooks, and then I think spice racks and pantries. I am really pleased.

And there is so much light. The house is floating, almost naked. It will still feel secure becuase it will let in the trees, and the green and the color of the soil, but there will never be a reason to turn on a light until the sun sets.

I cannot wait to see the treatments for the tower, or the bed room. But for now, its my move. I have not yet paid the soil engineer, and I need to. I was trying to open a Costa Rican bank account to save myself the wiring fees which will mount up considerably as we move forward, but so far have not found a good solution. I need to get him moving. everyone I know asks...when will it be done. I tell them, winter, probably new years. But none of that is going to move forward until this soil report is done.

These pictures are the first time the tickle of inevitability has touched me. For a moment, I sould see myself there, feel myself there, in the breeze, having a drink, looking at the view. It makes me uncomfortable, in a good way, like my feet want to be there.

Stacy, my good friend, asked me if I was anxious to have it ready. I told her no. The process has been so fufilling, so invigorating, that I do not want to rush a moment of it. I told her that the most important part of the process was working to enunciate a vision and finding someone who shared it. This has been the most gratifying experience, working with datum zero. I suspect they may not be for everyone. They will not be of much use if you want size, or a victorian, or a house anyone could build. But seeing my dreams sporatically translated into blueprints and digital images has been a high I had not imagined.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

'nuff said.
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