It is important to study the different factors which affect building plans and costs for your Costa Rica vacation home…

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Taking into consideration the distance, the quality of the workmanship and the available technology at the time of building, building a Costa Rica vacation home requires careful consideration about climate, topography, your own specific needs and the surrounding landscape.

You may wish to consider the following when building your Costa Rica vacation home near the beach:

  1. The main floor plan should be oriented towards the predominant wind directions, therefore ensuring a constant air circulation.
  2. The width should be no more than eight meters. The height of the walls should not exceed two meters fifty, in order to insure better ventilation and isolation from the heat of the roof.
  3. The whole front should include windows that allow “cross-ventilation“in order to dissipate heat.
  4. The roof and the ceilings should be thermally insulated against each other to prevent heat from seeping into the housed. It is also recommended to leave vents, protected against rain, in the roof to avoid overheating. These vents should be sealed off with wire-mesh to avoid the entry of bats and other animals. There are also special lights to fend off bats.
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  6. A combination of walls and windows is recommended to protect against the heat. Glass is a good heat and cold conductor towards the interior. Which implies that many windows in an east-west direction without protection will heat up the house more quickly. If this is the case, wide awnings, sunshades and other protective measures are recommended. Terraces act as well as thermal cushions. Pools should be oriented towards the predominant wind directions, and, together with the shade of wide awnings, helps reducing the air temperature that flows into the house.
  7. Use light colors. This helps reduce solar irradiation and the heating up of surfaces. And light colors help to harmonize the house with the surrounding landscape. Give the paint of the house a regular maintenance, even with “cover-up”colors.
  8. Last, but not least, don’t forget the floors. In a beach house ceramics are recommended due to the cooling effect of condensation.

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Costa Rica Vacation Homes at Higher Altitudes:

Mountain homes have their own specific design requirements. Some recommendations differ from those given for beachfront houses:

  • Compact floor plans with many walls in order to conserve the heat within the house.
  • Excessive use of windows cools a house. More wall surface is recommended.
  • The awnings should be shorter than those of beachfront houses. This way the sun can infiltrate better into the interior.
  • High structures make the heat dissipate more quickly. Therefore the height between floor and ceiling should be less.
  • In very damp and humid climates, ensure there is good ventilation throughout in order to avoid mold and fungi.
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  • If you plan to install a chimney, look as well for the best heat distribution for the whole house, not only for the specific room.
  • Floors should be laid out in wood or in carpeting, since they conserve the heat.
  • The materials used to build should be good absorbers and able to maintain the heat (bricks, wood and concrete).
  • Roofs should be steeper than usual in order to drain rainwater quickly. Remember that most of our mountains are of the rain and cloud forest type, except the areas in the dry Pacific region. Be aware of erosion in mountain areas. The free fall of rainwater erodes the soil and can lead to structure failures.

Remember that each specific place has its unique characterisitics which may require a specific solution in its design.

Our thanks to Arch. Carlos Alvarez and our friends at La Nacion – Costa Rica’s largest Spanish circulation newspaper for their permission to use this article…

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