Unique Features of Construction
We built these apartments (Canadian) for our own long term (into retirement) use and never meant for sale. Therefore, we put care into the construction of this building that you are unlikely to find in typical Costa Rican construction or in houses built for resale.
First, strength in the construction.
This building is constructed using Superblock material and methods. This means that the blocks used in this construction are stronger and larger than regular blocks. In fact, they are 1 meter long. Using this method of building requires that a rebar cage and concrete column is placed every meter along a wall, whereas these support columns in regular construction can be up to 4 meters apart. Using Superblock means less cracking of walls, less movement, and less damage during earthquakes. In fact, the large earthquake in 2009 that destroyed the municipal building in Alajuela and brought down a number of houses did nothing to this building.
Second, proper wire is used in the electrical wiring.
I know this sounds really obvious; however, after building 7 houses here we found that electricians and builders do not like to use the proper wire gauges (thickness of wire) as enforced in North America. It is considered over-kill, unnecessary and cuts into the profitability of the house resale. Since we built this house for ourselves, we specifically over-saw the wiring and ensured that they meet or exceed the regulations for wiring in Canada. Plus, the green ground wire is seen as unnecessary by Costa Ricans, we have ensured that all outlets in this construction have the ground (third) wire.
Third, higher quality ceilings to moderate the temperature from the roof.
Hot tin roofs create a lot of heat, heat that passes through ceilings into the house. While many homes here use a thin material called Fiberlit and newer homes use drywall panels, we paid much more to put up decorative ceiling tiles made of a mixture of cement, gypsum and rope fiber. These 1 inch thick tiles add a touch of elegance and, functionally, moderate the heat that is created just under the steel rooftops.
Fourth, smooth walls.
Typical Costa Rican construction practice is to build a block wall, then splatter cement onto the wall to cover the blocks, and the splatter plaster to create the inner finish. This leaves a very course textured wall. We too had the first layer of cement sprayed onto the block, but then we had the course cement sanded near smooth, followed by layers of plaster built up and sanded until we created a completely smooth finished wall.
Fifth, and finally, we have put a 1,600 liter water tank under the patio.
While living in Costa Rica before we built this house, we noticed that the water supply was often interrupted and for days we would need to go out and fill pots, buckets, and bottles of water from a truck that delivered water until the water supply was restored. Some houses have a tank of water on the rooftop that gravity feeds the house – good solution for when the water system fails, but the water heats up while in direct sunlight. To provide for a continuous supply of cool water we put a subterranean tank under the patio that is fed by the community water supply. When the supply is interrupted, we continue to receive cool water pumped throughout the apartments by a high pressure pump.