Here we are at another work week. This time I am going to tell you just a few tips on how to save time and money when you’re building a new home in Costa Rica, after all “time is money”, right?

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As a first subject I am going to let you know why I picked steel as a structural construction material, as we start to rise the columns of this compact floor plan house.

Well it’s easy: sustainability, design flexibility, labor savings, better construction quality, minimal disruption and probably the most important, speed.

All columns and beams that you see on the picture above, have been mounted in only 4 days, manually! Steel buildings can be erected in much shorter time as compared to concrete buildings.

Time saving in the construction period can be up to 40%. This fact, turns steel right away into a money saver. Structurally speaking metals also can be used in the form of slight pieces so that less material is needed for the same purpose!

We bought quality 4″ x 4″ and 6″ x 4″ sections as columns and beams, 4″ x 2″‘s as joists and we used some of these as scaffolds, just welded to the erected columns. (We didn’t; have to rent them! These sections will be reused as diagonals later). This flexibility let’s us work quickly.

Here goes picture 2 and 3: Columns will have a concrete ring covering up to soil level. From there, columns will have zinc chromate as a corrosive resistant finish. Two layers.

Our 4″ x 4″ column in this case, is going deep into the footings of the house, welded to the metal plate located above them, and from there it elevates up to 7 meters. We will pour concrete around it so the earth will never touch our steel, in order to avoid any corrosion issues.

Why is this sustainable?

Well, we are avoiding using wood to form concrete beams, columns or walls. Have you ever walked into a construction site without seeing all that wasted wood all over? We are using steel instead, a 100% recyclable material that generates little waste and has excellent low waste credentials during all phases of the building life cycle.

Steel offers a clean efficient and rapid construction method that reduces the impact of building activities on the environment. Less noise, less dust and shortens construction periods.

Do you know that the U.S is buying much of our country’s scrap iron to recycle it and turn it into steel sections?

Steel sections and joists are all manufactured according to international standards of strength and consistency under closely controlled factory conditions, resulting in uniform quality. They are also thinner in thickness and no re-working is necessary at site.

Why is it cheaper to build this way?

No change orders on site, and besides, the lighter self weight of steel means that for a similar size building, footings can be reduced as much as 30%, resulting in savings in the cost of foundations.

We have had less site work, because of the buildability of steel. As you can see in the picture, our site is pretty much clean too. Lightweight steel framing systems are generally simpler to erect that other conventional systems.

Once the workers are experienced with steel, just like ours, labor savings and costs will be reduced considerably. High quality welders in this case, are needed. Due to our budget, we are welding all our unions, but the most recommended practice to reach a higher level of sustainability, would be to design all your unions to be fastened with screws. And if it’s available in your country, try to use recycled steel.

Remember that steel is a very durable construction material, resistive to insects too which makes it very appropriate construction material for the tropics.

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Written by Costa Rica Architect Gloriana Mejia who focuses tropical modern architecture and believes in following very basic principles: simplicity as a guide for good design, compact areas as a solution for space, passive solutions for sustainable architecture and context as a main character of the frozen music that architecture is….

For more information, please email Gloriana Mejia using the simple form below:

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There are 4 comments:

  • Judy Macri at 3:21 am

    I own a lot near Tambor, Costa Rica, and would like to build a home on it. I am looking at using steel frame construction as I have heard it is very economical. Could you please send me information on any companies that deal with steel framed homes in Costa Rica? I would greatly appreciate it.
    Thank you,

  • Bonnie Rogers at 12:09 pm

    I am looking into building a 30 x 60 pool with a steel frame for a covered roof to hold solar panel

    Also looking for creative financing that might be available here in Costa Rica

    Would appreciate talking to somebody in English to brainstorm ideas with

    Thank you for your time I look forward to hearing from somebody

  • Ariel Gomez at 2:08 am

    I’m looking at building my house in Puerto Viejo and
    I’m using the American steel framing and drywall system.
    If anyone knows anyone they can recommend who’s familiar
    with the system I’d appreciate it.

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