Architect and Construction

By M.G. Appel S.A

Building a home in Costa Rica can be a memorable experience enhanced by the selection of a quality Architect and professional construction management consultants. The work of the Costa Rican architects begins with a client meeting followed by specific studies designed to define the parameters within which construction may be completed.

Preliminary studies of your property development must be performed to identify available resources, demands and needs to be satisfied, and definition and coordination of basic studies needed. Preliminary studies include analysis and gathering of available information, conditions established by existing regulations or rules, and consultations with Costa Rican government institutions linked to the real estate development project.

Basic studies are specific studies needed to determine physical, environmental, sociocultural and economic conditions and characteristics of an area or place, without which the planning and developing of a project cannot be done. Basic studies include: surveys, architectural studies, soil mechanic studies, material analysis and existing structures determination.

A building project is divided into two phases, 1) Project Design and 2) Construction. The first phase is the elaboration of plans and documents, which include the following services: Preliminary design, and Construction Design and Specifications. Optionally the client may choose to contract for Consultation for Bidding Process.

Preliminary design is the space, technical and functional proposal that define the identity and character of a project. A preliminary design must meet established needs as well as current regulations and rules. The preliminary design will include an estimation of the project’s cost. It should also include all graphic and iconography elements needed to express clearly the conceptual technical and functional aspects of the project.

Construction Design is the group of graphic and written elements that define clearly the character and purpose of a work and permits needed to build the project under the guiding of a responsible professional. According to the type of project, these designs must include several aspects: distribution, structural and installations, supported by respective calculations. Technical specifications must be included in the construction designs, either in the set of plans or as an attached document. Construction designs usually consist of: architectural design, structural design, and electromechanical designs.

Consultant’s fee for the biding process is understood as the service provided by a professional in order to recommend best procedure to select the work contractor as well as the contract conditions. When the contract procedure is performed through a biding process, the service is given in two stages. The first stage is the consultation service on all the biding processes such as preparation of the documents needed to publish the biding, invitation to the contractors, response to doubts and questions and reception of offers. In the second stage the bids received are studied and analyzed and the recommendation to choose one is provided the client.

The second phase of a building project refers to the construction execution control with the following services: inspection, technical direction, and administration.

Inspection is the surveillance performed by a professional while the work is in process, to assure that the work is done according to best working norms, construction designs, technical specifications and other documents belonging to the contract. Even though the professional in charge of the inspection is responsible for it, his role doesn’t release the constructor of his contract responsibility. Inspection service consists of periodical visits of the professional to the works. It doesn’t imply professional’s constant presence or residence. If a client requests a resident professional to perform inspection labors, the service must be submitted to a special contract, and independently to the professional rate hour indicated in the official rate list.

Technical direction of a work is the service of a consultant firm that includes inspection, programming and control of such work. Through this service, the director becomes the professional responsible for the work.

Work administration is a consultant’s professional service, in which the professional is the representative of the client’s interests. Under the administrator’s responsibility and his inspection, the work has to be performed according to construction designs, technical specifications and rules. Besides, the work administrator organizes and programs the work advance in every phase, elaborates budgets and cash flow during the construction process, and manages financial resources through establishment of accounting systems, controls and reports in order to guarantee to the client an adequate use of economic resources.

It is understood that in all this administration process, the professional will not have any special economic advantages, besides the corresponding consultant’s fee. All the savings, discounts and benefits obtained by the administrator, will pertain exclusively to the client.

Myths and realities about squatters

Costa Rican law recognizes rights of possession with regards to land in Costa Rica. If a person has established themselves on a particular piece of land in Costa Rica for a specific period of time, even if this land isn’t registered under his/her name, he/she could claim possession of that land and apply for legal ownership. The process does take some time and if challenged, does not guarantee the “possessor” will become the legal owner. It should be noted that this process is subject to very strict and limited regulation, and several conditions must exist for a person to claim any rights to land that has not been acquired through legal transfer. The general conditions are (1) the “good faith” of the person claiming possession and (2) this person has to be acting before others as if he/she were the legal owner of the property in Costa Rica. In productive land (e.g. a plantation or a small farm), different regulations apply, and besides the general conditions, this person must have worked the land and made it productive for as long as he/she has been living on it.

Additionally, for a person to claim possession, he/she must have been living on the land in Costa Rica with all the conditions met, for at least one year on productive land, or for at least three years on any other type of land in Costa Rica.

According to those conditions, it is very unlikely that a person can claim “good faith” and “acts of ownership” on any land in Costa Rica acquired legally by the purchase procedure explained in this Costa Rica real estate guide. Even less probable is that these conditions could be met for three years without your knowledge.

The easiest way to prevent potential squatter issues is by living on the property you are acquiring. If you are going to be traveling back and forth from your homeland, we recommend that you have someone you trust keep an eye on your property in Costa Rica. If squatters appear on your property, the Costa Rica law gives you the right to evict them provided that you initiate the eviction within three months of the appearance of the squatters. If this process is not initiated in time, there are other legal procedures that will help you maintain your rights of ownership of your land.