New Home Standards

Techos Siglo XXI

Eco-built Sustainable Homes for the 21st Century

Price is only half the formula + How would we make your new home?

What components would go into making your GREAT Home???

Minimum Architectural Standards:

Please take note that what follows are what we consider to be the minimum standards that it takes to build an economical, yet enduring, eco-home of both world class quality and comfort level for the owner(s).  So far we have found no one in Costa Rica who builds to our minimum standards.  Plus wherever it is possible, our goal is to eliminate as much building materials that are major environmental offenders. The greatest being concrete (80% carbon footprint) and steel (180% carbon footprint.) Should you prefer to lower these standards below this level, then we simply are not the builder for you. Attempting to take anything out of this formula will only succeed in cheapening the home but let’s not confuse that with making the home more economical at all. Cheap and Economical are not the same thing at all. Cheap will only provide the owner with much more expensive repairs, problems and headaches in the future meaning less than desirable results especially when considering your comfort, enjoyment level as well as good old hassle factor.

We have been meticulously careful in both our material and method selections to ensure that both a home’s construction costs and future costs will be exemplary. These factors especially come to roost when it comes time for resale. False savings in the end provides no benefit to the owner or the builder. Our mission and passion is simple: “To build great homes” and if we cannot assist you in that endeavor then we would rather find something else to amuse ourselves with. Reality is there is tons of second and third rate junk built in Costa Rica by both Tico and worse yet foreigner builders or what I call morons that know better yet behave like bandits.  It simply is not our goal to be included in that crowd, nor do we seek clients that will accept such.  Just go read our 100+ page e-book to find out all the in-depth reasons and examples from which I draw this most blunt assessment of such.

Total transparency contracting is our only method.  This method is basically unheard of in Costa Rica so I shall explain how this works.  Once design drawings are completed so that we have the exact details in which to price from we provide you with all of our cost sheets covering what will go into your new home.  This will include all of the direct costs, indirect costs, labour, fee for on site management as well as our fees for managing every detail of your home construction for you whether that be to lock-up or turn key, which ever you prefer.  As construction progresses we provide copies of all invoices on a weekly basis that reflect our discounted pricing on all materials and services direct to the owner using this cost plus method of accounting for every cent spent in creating your home.  We find this method way less stressful when both parties know exactly where, why and how your money is being spent.  We also never need to raise prices to cover possible contingencies of changes occurring while under construction.  There is a budget set for each item in the home and whenever we spend more or less on each of these it will be reflected in the final billing as well as providing you the option to adjust items as we move through the process.  Hence the final result is no big surprises and nothing hidden away!

With any luck, we speak directly to the heart of the things that matter to you in considering the building of your dream home in Costa Rica, so lets just review in brief what all goes into making up a great home….

Note the sections in green text are the dressings that would not be included when purchasing a home only to lock-up.

1. Walls – For main floor or second story of two story homes – 90 mm (3.5”) SIP panels skinned in MgO Corp’s 8mm high density MgO (Magnesium Oxide board) with EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) core with R14 insulation value. First story of two story homes will require a beefed up panel using thicker skins to support the extra weight load. Connecting panels are splined together with 8mm material sealed and glued creating a monolithic skin using Manus Bond SIP Seal. Corners, joining walls, door and window bucks, base plates and header plates are Bitter Cedar, or glu-lam (laminated) Acacia, all sealed and glued to panels. This species are selected as being termite resistant as we have witnessed that insects simply will not even eat the cuttings left in the plantation due to its natural protection.

2. On grade floors – 10 cm (4”) floating slab over 6” gravel base separated by plastic membrane from the 3,500lb concrete reinforced with wire mesh and #3 rebar to reinforce the thickened perimeter of 20 cm (8”). Polished power trowelled finish on all floors. Note: the concrete floor option will only be suggested where there is a tight budget necessitating the savings of $10 per square meter or if we can’t elevate the floor.

3. Foundation Protection – Where ever we encounter a higher risk home location, which means one with a steep drop off as is often found on view properties overlooking the ocean in particular, a foundation protection of pilings will be recommended.  For this we use Ram Jack who will install steel pilings (helical coils) which are basically huge screws that are screwed into the ground to ensure that if there is ever any earth movement caused by earthquakes your home will sit up high and dry on these pilings.  This is indeed least expensive option when they think this extra insurance is warranted. The point is to be informed of the available options and costs during the budget process and never be able to say “if only I had known!”

4. Elevated floors – will also use glu-lam joists to make up the floor structure with an ultra high density, high fiber content MgO T&G (tongue and groove) floor sheeting product also produced by MgO Corp. This will be glued and nailed down to create a very solid squeak less floor at half the price of any elevated concrete floors. Note a concrete floor doubles to triples in price once it is in the air versus being poured over a gravel base. Worse than the excessive cost the fact is that concrete just does not make a human friendly floor being that such is very hard on knees and feet especially as we get older, plus brutal results befall when anyone falls on such. The hollow floor cavity also provides a dryer floor, a much quieter floor and one that allows us to place electrical and plumbing runs in the cavity, plus it provides much more accessibility for any future maintenance issues that could come about.

5. Floor finishesWhere a tiled floor is desired, porcelain will be the standard finish due to its extreme durability, being way beyond ceramic types of tile. Where a hardwood floor upgrade is desired, the floor sheeting will be eliminated and the T&G flooring will be glued and nailed directly onto the joists. Using this method to upgrade from porcelain is only $10 to $20 per meter depending on the selected hardwood. Such floors will be finished with Tung Oil so as to eliminate all future need for sanding once the floor needs a new lease on life.

6. Roof Structure – In the interest of tropical living comfort our standard roof design always employs a vaulted ceiling so as to give space for the heat to rise to above our living environment. Our minimum roof slope is 3/12 or .25 meters rise per meter of run. This provides both excellent roof drainage hence removes 90% of leaking problems plus a more spacious appearance in the home as well as visual appeal from outside of the home. Rafters will be glu-lam as well with 2 1⁄2” T&G hardwood ceiling installed above these. Where desired bamboo (Caña Brava) can also be used. Above this will be figerblass insulation with a reflective foil which has a combined R40 value when the reflective value is taken into account. This combination provides both a massive heat barrier as well as a noise barrier when the tropical rains start to hammer down upon your roof.  A minimum of ½” air space is left between the reflective foil and the roof cladding in order for the system to work to its optimum level of protection.

7. Roof Cladding –The most basic is Metalco ribbed steel roof cladding that comes prefinished in red, blue, green and white enamel. It is reliable and low cost, but be advised it in no way qualifies as an eco product due to the huge carbon footprint at 1.8 tons per ton of metal produced. This cladding requires and is supported by wood strapping every 90 cm (36”) so that it will withstand workers on the roof. The much smarter alternative is a reflective roof panel from our MgO producer which is a 5mm MgO base  with laminated aluminum foil then a baked finish in blue, red or white over top of that.  Since this eliminates the need of insulation it is lower cost than metal while also not rusting or transferring roof noise.  For those wanting the tile roof look there is also a totally recycled plastic roof tile, which is a $13 per meter upgrade.  This tile fools most people into thinking it is real clay tile yet without all the leaks, massive weight issues or total destruction in an earthquake.  Conversely the plastic is nearly indestructible, easy to transport, fast to install, quiet and cool.  Wood shingles or asphalt shingles are other options at the same cost factor as the plastic tile.

8. Eaves troughs/ Gutters – Our own custom designed 18” baked enamel troughs are guaranteed to send any overflows of excessive rain into your garden instead of your home are provided in a matching color to the roof cladding. Down spouts are also included to get those tropical rains away from your foundation. There is also the option of eliminating this method all together to avoid that constant cleaning required by using a ground drain system.  This is where the water falls directly from roof to ground where we cut a trench below the drip edge of the roof fill with crushed rock that is surrounding a tube with perforations in it.  The water filters down through the rock going into the tube which then carries it as far from the house as is required to ensure it exits completely away from foundations and driveways.  Note you cannot put grass or plants over these trenches as roots from such will only invade and hinder the speedy drainage that is so critical in our tropical downpours.  Yes it will be visible but it requires zero maintenance.

9. Overhangs – Our standard overhang is a minimum of 1 meter (39”) to provide adequate protection from both rain and sun. Our sun exposure here dictates this as a minimum in order to keep the sun off of the window surfaces. Heat gain throughout the day rises dramatically when this rule is ignored. Our goal is to eliminate any need for A/C when we both design and select materials appropriately for a tropical environment. This is both critical in lowering home operating costs as it is for reducing unnecessary draws upon an overtaxed electrical grid.  Where ever glass cannot be shaded by the roof then the much more expensive high tech glass options should be considered.

10. Electrical Service – All electrical components are GE brand.  Meter box and disconnect rated for 125 amps up to 10 meters (33 feet) from the main service panel with 1 1⁄4” EMT entrance conduit and #4 cable. Should distance to ICE connection require longer, hence larger cable, there will be an up-charge on cost. 14-circuit panel for less than 80 m2 or 860 ft2 home and 24 circuit panel for greater than. Serge protection and GFI (ground fault) breaker included. Arc protection breakers can be upgraded at a cost of $35 per breaker. Maximum of 8 plugs per circuit using standard Bticino plugs and switches run on #12 or #14 Romex cable circuitry. All electrical WILL follow NEC and IBC codes.

11. Plumbing System – All sanitary lines will use a minimum schedule of Durman SDR 32.5 PVC pipe and connections. All fixtures will have P traps installed without exception. The entire system will be vented as per UPC code through the roof or into the eaves. Any septic tanks runs that are more than 3 meters from house will be an up-charge.  Septic tanks are a two unit system with main settling tank and then a bio-digester as a second tank both being constructed out of fiberglass due to its longevity and resistance to cracking.

12.Water lines – All potable water lines shall use Raypoly PEX 5/8” tube with no unions.  Stainless steel manifolds and brass fittings will provide a dedicated direct line to each utility with the only exception being toilets that will be teed off from the sink. Where at all possible, running water lines under concrete will be avoided.

13. Windows – Our standard window is a locally produced PVC slider in white or cream-colored PVC, single glazed with window screens included. Upgrades are available for casement and awning windows as well as an imitation wood sash that is quite convincing in its wood look. Nana doors, large sliding doors and wood windows are all available as upgrades for the client that demands more than the basic for both a question of style and functionality features.

14. PaintAll paint finishes interior or exterior will use either SUR or Lanco high quality paints or acrylic stuccos depending on the home style. The durability factor of low-grade paint just does not pay off when the labor component of recoating comes home to roost.

15. Plumbing Fixtures – We have a preferred supplier of good quality fixtures that we quote as standard, however any owner can choose to upgrade if they want more luxury lines of fixtures and an up-charge will be applied above the amount we budgeted. All toilets are low volume dual flush toilets to conserve water and not overtax a septic system’s efficiency. Gas instant-flow water heaters will be included as standard since electric ones cost more to buy and more than double to run, plus they carry a much higher maintenance cost. These will be plumbed with a Pex line along with a BBQ outlet, clothes dryer and stove outlets as well.

16. Electrical Fixtures – The same applies to electrical where we set a budget based on decent quality but the owner has the option to upgrade further according to tastes and budget priorities. We do not assume to be using crap quality at any point in your home but when it comes to finishes, the sky is the limit, as well as the choices possible.  All fixtures will be installed with LED bulbs.

17. Cabinets and Counters – Our standard cabinet is a melamine case with a Melina face and doors with standard hardware included. Once again, upgrades are unlimited in scope and options. The standard countertop is a porcelain tile with zero grout line and a hard wood nosing. Very functional and durable but those that desire a higher or more luxurious style (granite) can easily get what they want at an up-charge.

18. Doors and Moldings – All doors will be raised panel Laurel or Acacia wood doors and frames with matching moldings. Various designs are available up to 5 panels per door. Any custom doors can be provided in a number of woods at an up- charge depending on what wood as well as complexity of design.  We have access to incredible doors at a fraction of the price as would be the case in USA or Canada.  Exterior doors will be heavier with security jambs installed.

19. Energy Self Sufficiency, ideal but optional – Those trying to free themselves from electrical bills can neutralizing such with a Net Zero system. (Bills from ICE end up being zero once what you sold to the grid during sun hours offsets what you took from the grid at night). To economically achieve such you must drastically reduce electrical consumption hence anything with large electrical elements must be replaced.  The first and easiest priority is all water heating must go solar.  This is also where our house designs and material selections become critical since you must eliminate any need for A/C as it will cause a massive increase in system capacity hence capital input by double to quadruple.  High consumption appliances like stoves and dryers also have to be replaced with alternative gas appliances.  All such heavy draw items require a massively larger sizing of alternative electrical production hence the budget required to get to Net Zero results grows exponentially if consumption issues are not dealt with.

Also two answers exist here one for on grid homes and those for off grid.  Those off grid need to spend a significant amount more for battery banks to store energy for nighttime as well as rainy periods. For those on the grid the best method is to avoid battery banks by sending surplus power to the grid during daytime peak output of solar then take back from the grid during the much lower cost night time hours.    Normally being off grid means much cheaper land costs hence those savings can easily offset the higher system cost.   It really comes down to a lifestyle election.

Due to the extremely high cost of electricity in Costa Rica ($.25 kwh and ever increasing) along with the dropping cost of PV cells the normal payback on a Net Zero system will run in the 4 to 5 year range hence it is easy to capitalize into the construction cost of your new home even with the lack of any subsidies.  A leasing option is currently in the works as well with an 8-year pay back.  This system is an up charge to the basic home package so any owner electing this option can expect to pay $6 to $20 more per s.f. of construction but with the obvious expectation of an excellent payback and the lowering of fixed living costs.  WE are now working with a supplier who has all the contracts with ICE and CNFL in order to sell back to the grid as well as financing packages with various banks.  The cost savings from the system is greater than the monthly payments to the bank so it makes it a bit of a no brainer especially with the rates relentlessly going up.  Besides that a truly ecological home cannot actually consider this system as optional.  Without it you are talking about an ecological half measure if you remain grid dependent.

In summary I again remind the reader if you want to know exactly why these standards exist then you must go to our e-book to find out the how and why such standards came about from our experiences in Costa Rica.  None of these selections have been done lightly all are backed up by experience. Building science and examples from what goes wrong in homes here to point much better solutions.  This is what it takes to build a GREEN low-energy, low-maintenance, economical, but stylish dream home in today’s environment. We build with the idea that you never need to call us back to fix something that should have been built right to begin with.

Trevor & Michael


Comments

New Home Standards — 18 Comments

    • Dave,
      Thank you for both your interest and your question.
      Yes we most certainly could.
      It is interesting you should ask such a question at this moment. As I state in one of our ads “we can build using our system pretty much anywhere.”
      Well as it turns out I am really having to put my money where my mouth is as our third house under contact that was just settled is in one really tough location.
      It is going to be located well up a mountainside in the south Pacific area near Coronado and Cortez. The owner has as yet to build the road going up into this retreattourism project. Hence we are going to have to pack all the materials in for the first cabin in by horse back going up a foot trail a few hundred meters.

      To say the least tough going! But only even remotely possible due to using a light weight system.

      Needless to say any heavy construction would be impossible to achieve this!

      This relates to your question as obviously your location is not easily accessible as it would amount to replacing the horses with a boat ride. At any rate indeed doable and only practically doable with such more technically sophisticated materials. I am sure not saying it would be fun and easy entertainment but yes most possible. In fact I would say SIPs is the only system that can achieve this at a much better cost than anything else yet providing a very high quality home. Actually the cost savings on the shipping and successful landing of materials would be huge as compared to all other alternatives.

      Hope you find that answer helpful as well as news to your ears.

      Regards.

      Trevor

  1. I am interested in building on a lot that I purchased 3-4 yrs ago. It is located in Manuel Antonio.Interest in a building a 3 br 2baths.
    Would you be able to build in Manuel Antonio?
    Thanks

    • Chris,
      Thank you for your inquiry and your visit.
      Gee you are fortunate as there is so little land available at Manual Antonio but great location and even better investment territory due to that scarcity of land around the park.
      Sure we would be most interested. In fact most of our contracts and many of our recent enquiries have come from south of you and Dominical. We have another coming up early next year at Parrita. Our system and interest in working with anyone hinges only upon the client and their interest to build in an efficient and ecological fashion. Physical location is of little to no importance to us. Also our architect Oscar has worked quite a bit in that area over the years so has dealt with the muni there that can be quite difficult hence in more difficult areas it is indeed helpful when we have someone who knows the players as it were.

      Look forward to hearing more from you and your specific plans.

      Regards,

      Trevor

  2. I am in the process of buying a property in Playa Guiones. Do you offer your services in this part of Guancaste? I am interested in building a home that is as green a possible so your construction profile interests me. However, I do have some questions. Can you go higher than 2 stories with your construction process? My design is for 2 stories of living area above garage and service buildings. I want to supply all electric needs using a solar system but will connect to the ICE power system. I will also do rainwater capture for purposes of storing landscape water and water for the swimming pool. I am also considering waste handling systems that do not require septic tanks. I reviewed your basic specification and know that I will require some higher quality windows to reduce solar isolation inside the house as there will be a large amount of glass.

  3. i have my own plans …..i would like to see if you can convert them to metros and come up
    with a cost estimate …i will be building in Domnical…..please reply soon. txs

  4. Please could you send me a price list just to buy your materials especially any larger diameter Glulam beams, SIP panels, Mgo flooring etc.
    Thanks
    Chris

    • Sure can do Chris once we know what you are doing in essence the bigger picture. We do not just supply SIPS to anyone to do anything. We are not Home Depot or EPA order takers so when our products go to someone else other than our own projects the buyers have to have a trained crew to install such. Even though we have what we consider the best building material in the world it still must be installed correctly anything other than that serves no one in the long run neither the buyer or the provider. Plus there is more than enough horror stories of Tico construction we most certainly have no desire to be part of any new ones. You or your crew will be supervised or trained in the proper applications as per our contract until we know that all affected are competent. With those that set up a long term relationship with us for future projects we will from time to time do spot inspections when I am in the building area. Since I travel throughout the country this will be periodic when I find myself in the area of any build.

  5. I will be looking at building a 3 bedroom 2 bath home on a piece of property that i am buying in Nuevo Arenal above Lake Arenal.
    I hope to start in the next 12-18 months.

    Regards,
    Chuck Major

    P.S Any sample of house plans you may have on a rambler style home would be great.

    • Chuck thanks for contacting us.
      So how did you find us it is always good to know how people stumble upon us so we know what is working.
      Great area especially if you like cooler temperatures than the beach areas that attract many. Plus it never gets browned out in summer time.
      The following is our kind of basic suggestions with regards to initiating the design phase of a new home and how to start.

      First off if you have more specifics of the type/style of home you are looking for would be a big help in this process.
      Number of rooms, special uses or any special needs and what hot buttons you have as everyone has them!
      Often people come to us with a simple hand sketch and then Michael takes that germ of an idea and builds upon that.
      Another common way is looking a home designs on any of the dozens of home plan sites that are out there then once again
      Michael uses that as the starting point. We need some parameters to start with. I assume you did look under the Model Homes button on the site which does give a small sampling of what Michael has in his library as ideas that make the starting point of a custom home which by the way is all we build. We broke our cookie cutter hence do NOT do cookie cutter homes. . Also critical to this is what is the terrain of your land like. The options at the beach as you describe can go from a table top to a cliff hence we do need to know what kind of terrain would we be designing for.
      Since you are in the design phase you may also find the posting I just did today most interesting on the top right of our sidebar under Posts. This is all about a real story with one of our latest clients demonstrating what happens when such a process comes off the track especially when incompetence can be out in full force the affects on the owner can be rather devastating if bad situations are not corrected on paper prior to a shovel going into the ground.
      I would suggest we get some basic parameters and ideas set prior to your arrival here in December so that this phase is in progress. When here we have to see your lot with you as once again the post I previously mentioned

      is a vivid example of how critical it can be for a real designer to actually be on site in order to create a dream home for anyone. It is all about harvesting any special features of your property as well as diminishing negative ones then marrying those up with what you want your home to look and feel like.
      So there is some ideas and directions to head in to initiate the process.

      Chuck I hope this was helpful information for you on your Costa Rican learning curve.

      Regards,
      Trevor Chilton

  6. Andrea,
    Thank you so much for your inquiry.

    So where are you from exactly I could hardly fail to notice your telus address so I am expecting BC or Alberta?

    I have my home office and live in Escazu so that is up the mountainside looking down on San Jose.

    I have never heard of this project but then there is hundreds of them hidden in them thar hills of Costa Rica.
    We can play this by ear as to where I am and what is on the go when you are actually here.

    Note I am going to be out of the Central Valley more than in it for the next year. We are incredibly busy and are already booked ahead almost a year. Our current home contracts are concentrated in the south Pacific near Dominical, Manual Antonio and then way up north to Playa Grande. That is part of why we are so busy in that location and our methods restrict us not in the least plus the fact that we build the best yet most affordable home in Costa Rica. Our approach has really resonated with our type of client that comes looking for such. Of course it helps that what we do is about as common as the Rough Riders winning a Grey Cup :-)

    You are one of over a 1,000 visitors we receive each month and your message I get 1 to 4 times a week so it appears we are hitting a nerve with our prospective group of potential home buyers looking for our approach.

    One thing that would be good that since you are getting things lined up while you are here the sooner we meet the better as my 13 years of contacts and friends can help you accomplish a lot of things safely and efficiently. I kissed more than enough frogs you don’t need to too. I open my rolodex to our clients and help them in a myriad of ways that all deal with setting up a new life. I assume you read chapter 15 of my book and if you have not stop right now and do so as those are some of the most critical lessons and cautions in the book. The things that can and will really bite you in the ass. As you said “a whole new ball of wax” is a gross miss understatement when you have to go back and start and ground zero or unlearn a whole pile of your Canadian assumptions. You do know what assume will get you.

    Up until Christmas I will mostly be in the Dominical area minus a bi-weekly trip back to San Jose.

    Also prior to your trip I would recommend we have a skype conference so that we can become better acquainted as well as to test out the waters as to our chemistry as well as to learn more about your dreams and plans.

    Trevor Chilton

  7. Hi guys building just south of Tamarindo in Avellenas on a ridge 1900 feet overlooking ocean. I need a small guest house built (600-800 sq feet) 1 bdrm 1 bath small kitchenette. Dirt road makes the property accessible for materials etc. Can you really build out at $60 a sq. ft. ??? Do you have any pics of past constructions ??

    Thanks,

    Mark McCulloch

  8. Hi, I am a carpenter who has experience building custom homes in Western Canada (1000-8000 sq.ft). As you know, winter is brutal, and while I’m framing a bungalow in -38C weather tomorrow, I’m going to be daydreaming about working in Central America next winter. I have experience forming, framing, and finishing. Would you be willing to open a dialogue either to help me directly, or to point me to an appropriate direction? Any information would be appreciated. Thanks for your time.

    Mark W.

  9. I own a piece of property in pacific lots Suenos del tropicos. I have an architect and am looking for a builder. Do you build in developments?

  10. HI,

    I have a lot in Matapalo (between Tamarindo and Flamingo) that we are looking to build asap. Please advise how we can get the ball rolling in order to meet with you. I will be in Tamarindo June 15th-29th In San Jose June 13th-15th will you be available?

    Kind regards,
    Aileen Rodriguez

  11. Hello Trevor, it was great to meet up with you in Uvita last week and to see a house under construction. We were really impressed with what we seen, the Mgo panel construction was very impressive. I also noticed that your crew seemed to be a happy bunch of guys. Thank you so much for taking the time to explain virtually every aspect of how you construct homes. We are truly looking forward to having you construct our home in Parrita in the very near future. Take care, John Newton

    • John thank you for your kind comments. It was an equal pleasure to finally meet you and show you in person what was going on in Jason and Sarah’s house. I also find it interesting your brief comment about my employees some of which have been with me for 5 years by the way. Yes that is part of our formula is for our employees that make it possible to build you a home get treated well and most certainly above average for the construction industry.

      Regards,

      Trevor

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