Before you start it helps to have an idea of what you would like to build. A good start would be with a visit to a local realtor. Have them take you around and see what others have built and what is available, to give you some insights as to what is feasible and more important, what fits into a realistic budget. You may luck out and find your dream home already exists.


Our region has Spanish style haciendas, Mediterranean style structures, Southern Californian, Modern styles, typical Costa Rican style homes and even a castle or two.  Structural materials include steel beam, poured concrete, concrete block and timber frame homes. Recently there are builders using SIP panels and light gauge steel structures. By far the most common structural materials used here in the NW is structural steel, poured concrete, and cement block with large overhanging roofs providing shade over windows and wrap around covered decks for use during both the rainy season and helping to keep the exterior walls cooler by keeping the sun off the walls. Also remember we are prone to occasional earthquakes so structural integrity should be a paramount consideration.

Structural Building Choices

We chose to go with light gauge steel for our project a few reasons, mainly that it was the most familiar to us, similar to framed homes in Canada, using steel in place of wood framing. The exterior is insulated and can be covered in concrete board, plaster, stone, tiles or Hardy board and interiors are covered in gypsum or similar materials.

You are able to find these materials available almost everywhere in the country, although light gauge steel is normally imported on a project to project basis adding significantly to the costs and subject to delays with shipping and customs clearances. Pricing for structural steel beams can vary significantly as the global market dictates, but some architects have managed to source materials from South America at a good price. Concrete is now available regionally but high energy costs keep pushing up the price of concrete and block.

Another consideration is the building site location. Getting a truckload of concrete blocks up a winding road to your ocean view property can be costly if you need to transfer them from a long bed transport truck to a smaller delivery vehicle or if the road to your site is a bumby one you can lose a percentage of the blocks to damage during delivery. Considering that block construction is the most familiar to local workers a mix of structural steel and concrete block is still the most economical.

There are only a few builders with experience working with light gauge steel construction, and this can result in unforseen delays if the company you choose has several ongoing projects, or worse, if they utilize inexperienced workers. You are also limited as to who can do renovations or repairs in the future. If going this route choose a company with a track record, such as Bildtek and ask for references. We chose a local builder and visited their job sites but didn't get in contact with their clients until after we ran into difficulties. Due diligence is priceless when having work done in a foreign country.

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