New Construction in Costa Rica: Modern Methods to Consider

Rebecca Clower new construction in Costa Rica

Building a home has always been a challenge, anywhere – an enjoyable challenge, but a challenge nevertheless. New construction in Costa Rica is no different, especially when you add the element of novelty: If you’ve never built here before, then you may not even know what you don’t know… yet.

That’s where modern construction methods (and this post) come into play: Leveraging the latest in tropical building and paired with energy-efficient technologies, frontline structural engineering, and other well-researched, time-proven techniques and systems that have revolutionized the way we build in Costa Rica. 

Let’s discuss. 

Discerning Site Selection

Discerning Site Selection

If there’s one method of new construction in Costa Rica that has revolutionized local homes, it’s a more professional, highly discerning, technology-aided, engineer-advised site selection. This is incredibly important because, as you prepare to build a home, the very first decision you encounter is a twofer: first, selecting your desired location, and second, finding the perfect building site within that locale. 

Choosing where to build is a more intricate task, as it involves more than simply pinpointing a neighborhood or a building site. Given Costa Rica’s small yet diverse geography and array of climates (and microclimates), finding the right spot involves many factors – some of which, a layperson (even one with experience) simply is not equipped to see. 

Once you’ve settled on a general area, it’s time to pinpoint a specific building site. This step is more complex than it seems because the site you choose will significantly impact construction costs. Beyond the obvious factors of location and views, consider your lot’s topography: Steep terrain, for instance, could necessitate costly retaining walls, potentially influencing the type and size of the home you can build. 

Hiring a structural engineer can come in absolutely clutch during this time. Not only will they inspect your home site, but they’ll be able to advise on whether your dream home design is possible for a given building site. Cliff’s Notes version: It’s not always, so it’s better to ask first!  

Steel-Frame Construction 

Steel-Frame Construction

Concrete block construction used to reign supreme in Costa Rica, but I’m a huge proponent of steel frame construction, which is steadily (and luckily) gaining popularity. There are several reasons why I prefer steel framing, especially here at the beach. Let’s break it down:

Speed: Time is often money and steel-frame construction offers a quicker build compared to concrete block and other methods. And even if we’re not talking money – specifically, possible five-digit savings for most homes – in a setting where construction timelines often range from 6 to 12+ months, a shorter timeframe is a valuable asset.

Energy Efficiency: Here’s one that’s incredibly important, especially if you’re building in an area that necessitates air-conditioning. Opting for steel framing enhances energy efficiency. My approach involves using waterproof DensGlass sheeting at ground level and drywall higher up, with batt insulation between interior and exterior walls for a higher R rating. This insulation helps to effectively keep heat out and cool air in, even when relying less on air conditioning.

Flexibility: This lightweight, imported product is ideal for construction, as it provides flexibility in design and seamlessly accommodates various architectural styles. For anyone who dreams big – and outside the box, literally – you’ll appreciate the creative liberties that steel-frame construction affords. 

Earthquake Resistance: While seismic concerns may not be a favorite topic among builders (or expats), it’s a reality in earthquake-prone Costa Rica. Steel frame construction offers greater flexibility compared to concrete block and rebar, meaning it’s less susceptible to damage from Costa Rica’s not-infrequent tremors. 

Ease of Renovation: Making repairs or alterations, such as installing new electrical outlets or fixing plumbing, can be a headache with concrete blocks. Conversely, steel-frame construction simplifies the task, thanks to the ease of cutting through DensGlass and drywall, thus facilitating easy access and maintenance. 


Insulation new construction in Costa Rica

I’ve touched on insulation above, but it truly deserves its own callout.

Here’s why: While insulation might traditionally be associated with colder climates, in Costa Rican homes, strategically integrated insulation – placed into walls, ceilings, and roofs – acts as a shield against both heat (or escaping a/c) and noise, fostering a serene indoor environment.

Additionally, and especially in beachfront locales, insulation is synonymous with energy efficiency. It’s the key to slashing your electricity bills, maintaining cool interiors during the day, and ensuring restful sleep at night. Moreover, it’s a gesture of stewardship towards Mother Nature, whose breathtaking beauty draws us to Costa Rica, which we are proud and lucky to call home. 

Yet, insulation offers more than just energy efficiency. As mentioned above, it’s a shield against the cacophony of Costa Rican life. Whether it’s the vibrant rhythms of neighbors dancing salsa, the reverberating cheers from holiday festivities, or the natural symphony of howler monkeys and squawking parrots, tranquility can be an elusive ask.

Bottom Line: If you’re yearning for moments of peace, cool temperatures, and energy efficiency, insulation – coupled with high-quality doors and windows – will be your lifeline. 

High Ceilings 

High Ceilings

I know, I know – high ceilings are nothing new in the realm of high-end construction. And yet, in Costa Rica, high ceilings can pull double duty in the luxury space and home design, transcending mere aesthetic appeal to offer many practical benefits.

In our tropical climate, where heat and humidity reign, high ceilings draw up the air, serving as conduits for natural ventilation, allowing hot air to rise and escape, and drawing in cooler air from below. This passive cooling effect not only helps keep your indoor environment fresh, but also reduces your reliance on air-conditioning, thus boosting your home’s energy efficiency (and reducing your electricity bill). 

And, of course, beyond the practical and the functional, high ceilings lend an unparalleled sense of grandeur and spaciousness, making your home feel larger while creating openness within your living space. High ceilings are the epitome of form and function, blending with your design and décor to create comfort and refinement.

Cross Ventilation 

Cross Ventilation

Imagine the breeze in your hair, the wind on your face… yes, cross ventilation is a little like that. Only, with many more benefits! 

When it comes to tropical home design, cross ventilation is on the vanguard of Costa Rica’s new, most coveted luxury amenities: In regions where heat and humidity prevail – for example, in almost all beach locations – the artful integration of cross ventilation is absolutely paramount.  

Harnessing natural airflow thanks to the strategic placement of windows, doors, and louvers to facilitate breezes throughout your home, cross ventilation welcomes the near-constant influx of fresh air, helping keep your home from going stale or building high humidity, while offering a respite from most people’s reliance on air-conditioning.

As with so many other items on this list, cross ventilation represents a symbiotic relationship between architecture and natural elements, to enhance your living experience, foster environmental stewardship, and reduce costs – a trifecta for anyone building a home.

Solar Panels

Solar Panels

Let me guess – our year-round summer(like) climate is one of your primary reasons for residing in Costa Rica. Indeed, the sun and warmth are tempting propositions, indeed! And yet, with our climate in mind, it’s no surprise that Costa Rican homes are ideal candidates for solar panels and solar electricity. 

I highly recommend that, before embarking on any new construction project, discuss solar panels with your architect to incorporate south-facing roofs into your design. Similarly, your site manager or architect will need to speak with your builder or site manager to initiate any necessary permitting procedures. Taking these steps early on will prove invaluable upon project completion.  

Bottom Line: Solar panels will represent a relatively small fraction of your total project cost, yet they’ll yield significant long-term benefits and cost savings, potentially halving (or more) your electricity bill for over 20 years with high-quality panels.

Advanced Water Storage & Treatment

Install Water Cisterns

Modern new construction in Costa Rica has improved leaps and bounds, when it comes to water conservation, water treatment, water storage, and other related topics. Because, in a world where water is an increasing concern – and especially at many of Costa Rica’s beach areas, where development can outstrip availability – it’s critical for each of us to do our part.

Install Water Cisterns

Modern construction methods, especially for new construction in Costa Rica, prioritize installing cisterns for reclaimed water – a true, to-its-core hallmark of luxury and sustainability in tropical home design, offering a seamless blend of environmental responsibility and guaranteed access to this important resource. 

Installing a cistern, or gray-water capture, at your home ensures a reliable source of water for irrigation, landscaping, and even non-potable household uses. This approach not only reduces your reliance on municipal water supplies (and your water bill) but also minimizes your environmental impact, as it relates to groundwater extraction, and demonstrates your commitment to environmental stewardship.

Mini Wastewater Treatment Plant 

Mini Wastewater Treatment Plant

You can take your cisterns to the next level by installing a mini wastewater treatment plant, which offers an innovative solution for water conservation and environmental stewardship. In regions like ours, where water scarcity is a pressing concern, these advanced systems provide a means of treating wastewater at your home, thereby reclaiming and repurposing it for various uses. 

By effectively closing the loop on water consumption, mini wastewater treatment plants not only reduce your dependence on freshwater sources but also mitigate pollution, preventing untreated wastewater from being discharged into rivers or oceans. They can also supply your other lifestyle indulgences, such as lush landscapes and water features, without guilt. Welcome to luxury with responsibility.

Water Tanks

Backup water tanks are an essential and prestigious amenity here in Costa Rica, as a safeguard against water scarcity, ensuring uninterrupted access to this vital resource, even during the driest of dry seasons. What’s more, backup water tanks provide a sense of security and self-sufficiency, which, when it comes to something as essential to life as water, is a luxury unto itself. 

Of all the water-related home amenities, backup water tanks are my top recommendation. Be sure to discuss your liter needs with your architect and/or builder, as it will depend on your home’s size and number a family members, among other factors. 

Functional Aesthetics 

New construction in Costa Rica increasingly incorporates advanced design elements that are inextricably linked to energy efficiency, your home’s function, and other practical matters. Here are two of the most important right now:

Bi-Folding Sliding Glass Doors

Bi-Folding Sliding Glass Doors

Here’s where we cross from function and practicality into more of an aesthetic realm: Sliding glass doors epitomize luxury in tropical home design, seamlessly merging indoor and outdoor spaces while offering many other benefits. 

This is important because in tropical regions, like here at the beach, modern design increasingly blurs the line between interior and exterior living. And bi-folding doors are very in vogue at the moment, allowing you to fully open your doors – they almost disappear, frameless – and create a combined indoor-outdoor living space.

Beyond their aesthetic appeal, sliding glass doors welcome in natural light, flooding your home’s interiors with warmth and sunlight, to create an ambiance of serenity and connection to nature. Moreover, they help create more cross ventilation; afford panoramic views of Costa Rica’s lush landscapes, azure waters, and green mountains; and transform your living spaces into immersive sanctuaries that celebrate the beauty of your surrounding environment. That’s why you chose our region, after all!

Automated or Manual Sunshades/Blinds

Automated or Manual Sunshades_Blinds

If your home has sliding glass doors, then you’ll also need sunshades – either automated or manual. Personally, I prefer automated in the areas that get the most use, while we use manual sunshades in other areas around our home. And they’re absolutely essential if your home faces west (the sunset) or gets flooded with midday sun. 

Their function is two-fold, offering comfort for you and your family – bare eyes don’t love staring into the sun! What’s more, these sophisticated solutions not only shield your interiors from excessive sun and glare but also offer a cooling effect, thus further reducing indoor temperatures, your reliance on air-conditioning, and your electricity bill. 

Whether deployed automatically based on preset schedules or manually adjusted to you’re your family’s personal preferences, sunshades also deliver a custom balance between natural light and privacy, creating a serene and comfortable indoor ambiance year-round. They are a fusion of comfort, style, and convenience, elevating your living experience while serving Mother Nature herself.

Download Profit In Paradise: The Investor’s Guide To Costa Rica

Download Profit In Paradise_ The Investor’s Guide To Costa Rica

If you’re seriously interested in Costa Rican property investment or development, or simply seek to future-proof your build (and ensure a great resale price, when you’re ready), then you’re also looking to maximize your profit through smart building decisions. 

That means you’re just the type of person for whom I wrote Profit in Paradise: The Investor’s Guide to Costa Rica, my newest free eBook. This info-packed guide covers all the basics and beyond – from investment incentives and market indicators to the various types of investment, including property investment, businesses, and development opportunities.

Bottom line: There’s no one way to do Costa Rican investment – but there are wrong ways! So, whether you plan to retire here, manage a vacation rental property, invest in development, or dedicate your hard-earned cash to anything in between, your purchase is more than just a lifelong dream to fulfill: It’s a strategic investment decision. This eBook will help you make it wisely.  


Want to Discuss New Construction in Costa Rica?

Want to Discuss New Construction in Costa Rica

Whether you’re a buyer/seller, an investor, or a developer, you’re on the right track and in the right place. Researching the market, understanding Costa Rica’s new luxury, and getting into the minds of prospective luxury buyers is an essential aspect of the decision-making process. 

Hi, I’m Becky Clower, and the answers to your questions are what I do: I’m a real estate broker, agent, and owner of Blue Water Properties, as well as a real estate investor and developer. I’m also your expert and ally in this red-hot market.

I have the credentials – the HGTV appearances, the personal experience, the business prowess – to put me on the map, but what really sets me and my company apart is my expertise: I don’t learn from others; I learn for myself. I’ve built over a dozen homes, including two spec homes, and after selling out my highly successful Mango Walk project in just five months, I began developing two more projects: a 16-unit condominium development and a 12-unit commercial project in highly competitive Playa Flamingo.

Bottom line: I offer real, honest advice and expertise. So, if you’re looking for a broker, an agent, an investor, a developer, or simply a trusted advisor to stand by your side as you navigate your Costa Rican journey, however it manifests, then please get in touch. Let’s get started!

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