Building in Costa Rica
By law, all applications for construction permits in Costa Rica must be filed by an architect or civil engineer who is a member of the Costa Rican Association of Engineers and Architects. These experts will review your plans to ensure the building meets seismic, electrical and other regulations standards, it is, therefore, advisable to contact a reputable, licensed architect or civil engineer to guide you through the construction process. A word of advice, we highly recommend to work with a bilingual architect or civil engineer or have your agent/interpreter with you at all meetings of construction projects.
Here are the minimum rates charged by members of the Costa Rican Association of Engineers and Architects:
The involvement of a licensed architect or civil engineer in a construction project is divided into two phases A-Construction plan and permits. B- Control and execution.
Construction Plan and Permits:
1- Preliminary study of construction plans and permits: 0.5 percent of the project cost. These studies may or may not be required, depending on the project.2- Pre-project design: 1 percent to 1.5 percent of the price of the project cost. The architect or engineer and client will meet to discuss construction details and requirements. 3- Construction plans and technical specifications: 4:0 percent of the project cost. Once the client and architect or civil engineer agreed with the layout and design of the property, then the plans are drawn. In Costa Rica, a complete set of the plan include a site plan, distribution plan, elevation, transversal, and longitude perspective, roof design, drainage, mechanical and sanitary system design, design of footings and support beams, structural plans, electrical design, interior finishing, and construction.4- Budgeting: 0.5 percent for global budgeting, 1.0 percent for itemized budgeting. He or she will provide you with a list of materials necessary for the project and will prepare a construction budget.
Control and Execution
Construction and project supervision.
The regulation authorizes three kinds of supervision:1- Inspection: 3.0 percent of total construction cost. The engineer or architect visits the site weekly to inspect and make sure that the plan is being followed by the general contractor, they verify and informs you of the quality of materials being used, and checks the invoices submitted by the general contractor. 2- Supervision: 5.0 percent of the total construction cost. Engineer or architect visits the site daily and is more directly involved with the construction.
3- Management and Administration: 12 percent of the total construction cost. The architect or engineer is complete responsibility for the execution and completion of the project.
Before you sign any of these contracts, be sure to have a thorough understanding of its contents, (i.e. fee structure, what is included in the fee, architect or civil engineer responsibilities, etc.)
You must get a construction permit to build a house of more than 70 sq./m. (750 sq./ft.)
The permits are the file at the Permit Reception Office. The plans will be review studied by representatives from the Roads and Transportation Department, Housing and Urban Development Department, Electricity Department, Water Department, National Electrical Services, Costa Rican Architect and Engineer Association, the Health Department and the local municipality where the property is located.
You will need the following:
1. Four copies of the construction plans
2. Four copies of the property cadastre plan (Plano Catastrado)
3. Two copies of the property deeds
4. One copy of the architect or engineer’s consulting contract (Contrato de Consultoria)
5. Approval from the water department regarding the availability of water
6. One copy of your electrical design plan approved by SNE.
You will also need a construction permit from the municipality where your property is located. Each municipality creates and enforces building codes for the construction project in its area.