This website has three purposes for you the visitor:

#1 – To Educate those for whom an average home just is not good enough

#2 – Supplying Unique Materials as well as Consulting to other Builders and/or  Owners

#3 – Assemble an education source to assist Home Owners in avoiding common pitfalls that lead to notoriously low quality and high maintenance cost housing in Costa Rica

#4 –  Consulting with owners and doing periodic inspections to insure the builder is using the best methods and materials.


#1 We design & build the very best

Green Homes in Costa Rica!  

We do not expect you to blindly believe this!

To confirm the reality go to our home diaries & videos,

then come visit one of our homes to prove  to yourself

how our mission is brought into reality

in all aspects of the building process.


This is accomplished using local materials

as well as specialty imports where required

along with a heavy degree of respect for

International Building Standards combined

 with sound research & building science.  

Our passion is for building green homes using 

cutting edge materials and best methods available in

the world, yet still respecting old school quality

that owners can appreciate for 100+ years!


All of these are indeed an extreme

rarity amongst our contemporary builders.

Study here then look around to confirm this as fact. 

Green Building Emphasis 

Part of being the best is

building with a Mindset where all materials are selected

 based on environmental impact while minimizing

 maintenance and operational costs.

Energy conservation is a term rarely understood

in the tropics yet where electrical charges are sky high.  

That combo is not only BIZARRE but dam foolish.

Be aware in our tropical environment building cheap will = dam expensive 1 to 10 years down the road  as you witness your climate caused maintenance and energy costs have come home to haunt you as the home owner.  This always changes that cheap budget into one very expensive one indeed.  Our goal is to guild our clients into how to build economically but with a minimum of a 10 year mindset.  This is of particular relevance since most of you are building for your long term retirement enjoyment.

I have witnessed time and time again  when someone’s home in paradise has turned into another version of the oh so common


The videos posted below provide a summary of what goes into our homes, that is also supplemented  with the above page links to our New Home Diaries that shows us putting these materials and standards to use in the real.   I take you onto our job sites as a digital inspector to witness the construction of every home piece by piece, detailing what is done, why and how to avoid the all to common problems that few consumers are even aware of until they get bit.

We trust you will find your visit both interesting as well as informative.

Note we have our own You Tube channel where I post videos from the construction site for our clients.  You can view those videos by going to our channel.  Note these are not polished videos rather raw video right from the job site.


Trevor Chilton 

Further details covering our main purposes here…

Purpose  #1 – Providing a Source for Great Homes

This site is first and foremost all about our passion for creating along with you in a unique partnership not just a good home but  a GREAT Eco minded home of enduring World Class Quality.  All of this along with low maintenance costs while maintaining affordable pricing.  One thing I do have to caution all visitors on is price shopping by the square foot or square meter, this is so totally irrelevant as well as most confusing.  There is dozens of ways to price out different homes as well as different living spaces as well as what is included and what is not,  when comparing different builders can go on forever.  

We always start off with rough estimates so as to avoid a client wasting their time when a budget and dream fail to meet in the middle.  In Costa Rica the variables are nothing less than horrific hence quoting square foot pricing is often a total waste of time and often completely irrelevant to making any kind of sane decisions.  I have seen homes delivered to unsuspecting consumers at $140 a square foot following standards that would not cut it in a hog barn back in Canada nor would they have a hope of passing any building inspector anywhere in a G20 country.  Yet at that price you should be receiving a top quality well dressed home.  Hence lets understand that such price comparisons are nonsense so that leaves you with being diligent on fundamental quality issues as the first priority then actual costs as a secondary item.  With that said I can categorically state the following:

“We design and build the best homes in Costa Rica!” 

If you care to stay with us and do your own extensive research in reading our one of a kind e-book and posts as well as reader and client comments you will find out just how and why we do that.  The New Home Diary button on this site will also take you into the real time inspector  that will show you each of our homes being built step by step.  This also provides a running documentary showing exactly the why and how’s of great tropical home construction.  If you are in pursuit of the same goals then I assure you of this, you will be in for a most interesting and informative visit today!  

Equally, just to be crystal clear, what you won’t find is any dancing bears or polished graphics designed to entertain or smooze you in any way.   Nor will you find any BS just the relevant facts on building a new home in the tropics based on a ton of experience as witnessed hundreds of photos and a mountain of constant research in an effort to be the best of the best in the game of Tropical Home Building.

To serve that end we only build with Eco driven or Green building materials and methods that come from our extensive and constant research and construction experience in order to provide our select clients with the desired results.  Hopefully this also describes your desires as well.

One of our clients, Mel Stevenson from Samara had this to say, “Also the fact that you itemized all of the materials and labor costs made me feel comfortable with your price. It showed me where the money would go and that there is nothing left out.”  (Note all quotes can be found below in the comments section.)

We seek out truly symbiotic relationships where we can work with you to achieve these ends.  Here is a perfect example of that in another simple quote from another one of our clients.

Location of your dream home is not particularly relevant as our client base now covers pretty much the entire country where ever foreigners happen to choose to hang their hats with the majority of such following the entire Pacific Coast in particular with second being the Lake Arenal area and the Atenas/Grecia hills.

It matters not to us where you actually prefer to build since our system and methods can be delivered anywhere there is a desire for a great home.  Generally the more remote the location the  more limited your choices are hence even more critical that we are capable of entering any location like a swat team and leave a matter of weeks later with your dream home completed.  

The materials and system we use are everything in achieving extraordinary results.  Another quote from our architect and friend Oscar Villavicencio of Plaza Viques, San Jose, ” SIP´s are an excellent option for building in Costa Rica. Fast installation, modular panels, simple and impervious to humidity and insects make this system ideal for residential and commercial construction.”

Purpose #2 – Providing Unique Materials and Consulting

Often we are approached by clients who are already in the build process or those who are building themselves or where they simply won’t fit into our demanding schedule.  In any of these situations we do and can assist home owners in providing the exact same materials that we import or otherwise have the supply chain set up for.  Much of the materials we use just simply are not available out in the typical rural/beach locations or are over priced or the owner and builder simply have no experience in how to use or incorporate such into the overall home design.  Also our experience has done all the testing in real life builds as to how to order, ship and install all of our unique products hence it avoids the owner from experimenting and making some bad choices.  

Just contact us with your requests and details of your situation and we will assist you however possible.

#3 Providing Education for the Tropical Consumer

Our third purpose is to provide any consumer with truthful information, guidance and consultancy regarding proven tropical construction materials, methods and principles regardless to whether we ever do any business together.  I have witnessed more horror stories here than I care to count so in order for you to avoid  similar experiences please accept our gift of the free education contained in our book and diaries.  Such will help you make way better decisions as well as to be forewarned before the shit really hits the fan.  I will let a reader best describe the value of this from Debra Curry of Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, “Your experience is always so valuable. You have such a vast knowledge of realties of building in Costa Rica and Central America is priceless. Thanks again!”

In essence how to avoid the problems before they happen.  Our intent is to aid anyone that truly wants to elevate the standards of their home to well above the Costarican norm that has been seriously out paced by both price and quality expectations of the 21st Century consumer.  The typical new home is both low quality as well as overpriced due to the common bad habits, strange methods and questionable material selections.

Your particular objective will dictate where you want to go from this page.  The menu above can guide you into the area that best suits your needs and/or interests.   Our e-book How Not to Get Ripped Off by the Construction Industry is a huge leap forward in being better informed as well as helping you clearly understand why we do what we do and how that would affect how you should build your home.  Our fans tend to want to talk to us once they have experienced the in-depth knowledge that we share on our site here.  You will not find more information on good construction practices versus the examples showing why the bad ones are just that, on any site about Costa Rica.  This is the first and only book dedicated to learning how to build a world class home in this country. If you think I am wrong in this assertion please come back and correct me.  


As you may note in the comments section at the bottom of the page quite a few people have found our information most helpful in getting them to where they want to be.


I will try to keep this down to a Reader’s Digest Version.

20 years ago I arrived in my new chosen home.   Then in 2007 I went full force into building a 46 unit vacation condo project in Jaco.  Although it was an interesting project and I considerably expanded my professional contacts and experience on this one it was doomed to failure.  We got our admin building up to lock up when unbeknownst to us we were standing in front of a financial tsunami.  We got our full project permits as a Christmas present in 2008 however all the prospective clients died back in Sept. when the sub-prime mortgage fraud broke loose.  Those who had signed sales contracts started bailing like rats from a sinking ship and new clients were non-existent.  During that time you could set off a cannon down the main street of Jaco and not hurt anyone.  Since then the Jaco market has to say the least floundered with over 400 condos sitting moth balled in various stages of construction.  Actually the good news was that we were not in full stage construction or the blood bath would have been far worse than it was.

Several years after the shit royally hit the fan there and after a period of mental recluse from such a disaster I started doing renovation work in the Escazu area.  This was a real eye opener in seeing the results of generally low standard construction lacking in any kind of meaningful inspections.  Hence I started off by writing a 10 page report on how construction should be done in Costa Rica.  Well that kind of took on a life of its own until it hits today’s mammoth size of a 286 page e-book.  Meanwhile with the thought that some day the real estate market would recover so I started to prepare for that eventuality.  I went off in search of and researching what we would deem as the ideal building system for the tropics.  In this process I stumbled onto  SIPs (Structural Insulated Panels).  The system was new to me but Michael had 27 years under his belt since his first use of SIPs with an outfit from Regina, Sask. who had built several buildings on the island of Antigua that survived a Category 5 hurricane without damage while most of the island was leveled.  After that he set up two metal skinned SIP production facilities and managed one in Airdrie, Alberta for 2 years. 

I am to say the least most excited about what the future holds for this product as well as the system that has been specifically matched up with local products in a unique blend of a Tico construction system.  This combination is in effect a revolution to what has been thus far offered to the consumer of Central America.  We look forward to sharing that revolution with you and the prospects it opens up for your very own version of this revolution.  It is indeed  refreshing change from my experience inspecting homes and projects over the past 20 years and being dismayed with the lack of quality and standards that are offered to the consumers in the Tico market and all too often at very high price to value ratios.  My mission was and is to build high quality homes for affordable yet extreme quality and serviceability along with low energy costs.


Important Information about Our Methods & Materials

For those who may consider moving from just investigation to serious consideration of having us build you a home please be advised of the following criteria in order for synergy to best work for the benefit of both parties in creating a win/win situation.  

1. We are not here to convince you of anything only to enlighten and guide you into better decisions based on our team’s years of experience along with excellent design and product knowledge.  You will note that many of our fundamental products are rarely seen in a typical home in Costa Rica.  However you can only expect the best decisions for your situation if you know your options, the how’s and the why’s.  This is about building you “your” dream home, not about us building testaments to ourselves.

2. We do not cater to the mass market where the lowest level of acceptable performance will do just to get along with those that will accept second rate results!  We have a specific profile in mind as to who makes a great client who seeks a great home using our kind of cutting edge methods.  Those that seek what we offer love us and those that don’t just go away!

3. If you have little or no interest in eco driven practices then please don’t waste your time or ours.  Under no circumstances will we build a new home with concrete or block structure, so don’t ask.

4. We tell you what you NEED to know to make better decisions which may well not be the same as what you want to know but never the less that  never changes our message.  I in particular have little patience nor time for subtleties so do not be surprised when I am blunt and to the point.

5.  We do not compete with other builders!  We do not care what they do or how they price their homes because we know of no one that will put our quality of practices and materials above all other considerations.  Or who will open up their cost sheets to all perspective clients in the pursuit of building you not just a great home but one also based on total transparency!  Maybe someday I will meet another builder that meets this criteria but thus far it sure has not happened.   

Should the above criteria be compatible with your mission and purpose in visiting us today then we would be only too pleased to help you achieve your dream home in any way possible!  Just drop us a note in the comments section below or call us and we will discuss how this can become a reality as well as what steps we take in order for all of us to know if this is the right fit for both of us.

If not well then lots of luck to you in what ever path you may take.

Trevor Chilton 506-8691-7575

My photo cr


Home — 40 Comments

    • Pat you are most welcome. Yes there is hope which won’t require dynamite to fix your problems just a better plan and particularly better materials that pay a whole lot more attention to life cycle cost as one should never have to do this kind of repairs to what is in essence a new house. Cheap materials like PVC and drywall especially are not a good answer especially near the beach.

    • You are welcome Rosaria.
      I am a bit surprised with your location we sure don’t get responses from down under but then much of our construction advice does apply to anywhere on the planet and not just Central America.

  1. After over a month and a pile of work and many hours the website is 90%+ complete with the big job of getting all the information as well as 130 pictures and images loaded into the e-book. All the bases are now covered with all there being left now is the new information and situations that come to light that will be added as life moves on. All in all certainly not a little job but I trust the visitors will find a lot of information that they have not had access to prior to this site’s birth. Hope you all enjoy it and find it helpful as well as informative.


  2. Really liked what you had to say in your post, Monta̱a Paraiso and Techos Siglo 21 S. A. | Green Housing Project in San Antonio de Escazu creating Homes for the 21st Century РMaterials, Methods and Designs. Proyecto de Casas Ecologica en San Antonio de Escazu que uso Siglo 21 Metodas, Materiales y Dise̱os., thanks for the good read!
    — Shila

  3. Trevor,

    Thanks for your quick reply on my question about the SIP company in Nicaragua!

    Your experience is always so valuable. You have such a vast knowledge of realties of building in Costa Rica and Central America is priceless. Thanks again!

    Yes I do want your newsletter… I shall look for the sign up spot.

    Warm regards,
    Debra Curry
    Red Deer, AB

  4. Trevor,

    Thanks for the info on the Tung oil. We are currently searching for something to use as a finish on our wood house. I am also looking for a product to remove water stains from a laurel ceiling. While building the interior ceiling was put on first and then we had two good rains before the roof was put on. Sanding is near impossible because of the vigas and the watermarks are so deep. Any idea’s on how to keep my natural wood look and not see the water stains? Thanks – Kim

    • Well an oil finish might hide the wood stains as yes sanding them out could be most tedious and worse yet if you find that something will hide them instead of trying to sand them out. If you do need to sand them out I know the tool that would really kick ass to do so but few people know about oscillating tools here. I am about to bring in a cube and will be bringing tung oil in as part of that order but to order only for work I have booked or for clients who want to book ahead. I do not plan on inventorying much to speak of Hence if you are interested give me a call at 2100-1616. What ever you do please do yourself a favour and stay away from polyurethanes and film finishes in general as none of them do a very good job of enhancing the wood and bringing out its natural beauty. In fact they all tend to hide the wood to one degree or another. Sorry the plastic look is not a wood look no matter how you slice it. IMHO

      Thanks for the inquiry.


  5. whoah this blog is great i love studying your articles. Keep up the good work!
    You realize, a lot of people are searching around for
    this information, you can help them greatly.

  6. hopefully my first draft was lost not sent.

    read your e book, great, I have experienced much that you document.

    what is the maximum length of your hardwood gluelams?

    if you ever want to discuss conventional septic systems and their design and construction failures, I have worked as a soil scientist and lastly as a county health inspector in a difficult area of California, specializing in septic systems, and would be glad to discuss my experiences.

    we live in Puriscal.

    • Well we could go up to 12 meters using two 6 meter presses end to end but that is a mighty rare need to put it mildly.
      The more common is up to 6 meters from both a practical application standpoint not to mention the handling logistics of extremely long material.
      Yes John I would be most interested in hearing about your experiences in septic systems since they are all we have to work with here.
      In fact I would certainly welcome you as a guest blogger to add experience to our growing library of construction information.
      Especially in an area of concern that no one but no one can escape. FYI we got the first Biofilter approved by Salud for our project in Jaco
      just prior to the crash which sadly negated its construction. Michael had experience of using such on a property of rock on Vancouver Island where
      they had a 146 unit trailer park that could not have existed without such methods.
      Since we don’t have our shit together it would be great to have someone contributing that does. :-)


      • ok, 60 year old septic design, It is useful to view the conventional septic system as a fluid compost (composting organic and inorganic materials) and water dispersal system that may contain human pathogens, is hidden from view, and difficult to service(other than pumping (empting) the tank).

        It starts with 1.5 to 2 inch drainage pipe from sinks, 3 inch from toilets all with 2% slope to septic tank and ideally every p-trap(especially the toilet) with a nearby vent.

        the septic tank is ideally two or more compartments typically constructed of acid resistant concrete, poly ethylene plastic or fiberglass, with at least 2 horizontal meters between drop inlet and outlet pipes, with a depth of over 1.4 meters (for storage of sludge and scum) and volume that yields a couple days of retention time (minimum, more is better) (typical for calculation is about 180 liters per person per day). lids at both the inlet and outlet.

        discharge from tank in at least 2 inch pipe to a distribution box with equal flows going to each leach or weeping trench (note all trenches about the same length). clean gravel(no Fines)in trench of about 60 cm wide and 75 cm deep, about 6 to 12 meters long per person, based on perk tests. 30 cm gravel then 7.5cm leach pipe surrounded by gravel, topped with a soil barrier of small grain straw or uncoated paper and 30 cm of backfill soil(mounded to allow for settling, do not compact). each trench level bottomed and on slope contour (note each trench level bottomed but there is no need to make the bottom of all the trenches the same elevation).

        So, can you violate some of the above and still get adequate performance? of course, just like Russian roulette. but similarly you get a mess when it doesn’t work.

        When I noticed that buildings in cr had no roof vents, I asked how they flash roof penetrations and got either the doe in the headlight look or ‘use silicone seal caulk’, so I vented the disposal pipe after the last fixture which was about 3 meters before the inlet of the tank, topped it with an activated charcoal filter and tucked it under the eave, near the beginning of the run i installed a vacuum relief valve, the kitchen sink drainage is before the either the vac relief or the vent and has slow drainage, otherwise the system functions as it should.

        so what are some common avoidable mistakes here?

        drain lines not strong enough, use only sch 40 or sdr 17 or heavier pipe, clean inside pipe burrs, use pvc primer or sand joints before applying pvc glue. if you need to compromise 2% rule to 1%, use one size larger pipe. use long sweeps, 45’s and ‘y’ junctions not hard 90’s. flow wise plastic pipe is more forgiving than the case uron, clay , cement or steel pipe that was in use when many of the codes and practices were developed.

        Septic tanks, there was a Canadian building and delivering precast concrete septic tanks in 2007, I don’t know if his operation still exists. other wise build a poured in place tank or block tank, or use a series of amanco’s little hort poly(?) tanks. avoid vertical cylinder tanks, their inlet/outlet separations are terrible. jet sand or pea gravel backfill and incrementally fill poly tanks at installation, it is a good idea to anchor lightweight tanks, even some concrete tanks will float when empty. immediately refill poly tanks after pumping, poly is tough but not rigid. use a defector between compartments. install an effluent filter at the outlet of the tank. triangulate from known and durable points to septic tank lids or attach a colorful nylon rope to the lids, so you can find the lids when needed.

        distribution box needs to be installed fairly level then each outlet pipe absolutely level with the others. ‘speed levelers’ quickly level the pipes. install a tee fitting vertically if there is more then a few meters elevation difference between the tank and the box. omitting the box on a passive gravity system is a fatal flaw, it leaves the system without a brain.

        the leach trenches typically are gravel filled with river rock of varying size, instead use quarter stone free of fines, it is the space that is created between the rock that is the point, to handle the surges. don’t use the corrogated flexible pipe with slits, too week and the slits are prone to plugging with slimes, rather drill 75mm pipe with two rows of 15mm holes on 15cm spacing with 120 degrees between the rows. again this is the conventional way there are other ways that are better. install a vertical perf pipe at both ends of each trench for observation if there are problems, also marks the extent of each trench.

        leach trench suitability and sizing will have to be another day.

        operation, use aerators on faucets, space loading, don’t have wash days, do a load a day, 2 if you must, use front load washing machines as they use less water and laundry supplies. minimize chlorine use.

        web resources: orenco, tuf tite, delta whitewater, geoflow

        question: what is the general design of your biofilter system? if open air is it sized for maximum effluent load as well as maximum precip?

        • John thank you so much for the quick reply and valuable addition to our information base here. Obviously you know more about systems than I do but just the same we certainly very similar recommendations about fundamental rules not to break yet are seldom ever adhered to here. So many plumbers and contractors here appear to think these laws of physics just don’t apply in “Pura Vida” land that somehow it is different here. Talk about effluent. At any rate good to hear that we are indeed on the same page.

          Yes our biofilter was open air and designed for these conditions but of course we never got to move it into reality so the ultimate proof cannot be garnered.

          Any time you feel like adding for to the discussion please feel free to type away.

          If coming into Escazu give me a call and when I head out your way I will do the same.


        • John,
          I got an interesting question from a new client yesterday that is well worthy of discussing even if it is a bit messy. Mind you we are talking about sewage here so I guess that hardly qualifies as polite after dinner discussion does it? :-)

          TOILET PAPER???

          What affect does this have on tanks?
          Is the Tico habit of the waste bin a good idea or not?
          Most expats find this far less than a desirable habit so can we avoid this and is there special measures to take in design and construction of the system.

          I am certain there is quite a number of especially ladies out there who would love a definitive answer versus following a custom.
          Thank you so much for addressing this thorny issue.

          Have yourself a great day.


          • OK, toilet paper in the system or in the basket. Using a basket is unsanitary; if someone has an infection of a dangerous disease the exposure risk to others is high.

            What design/construction details will lead to success of a septic system that handles black water including tp and gray water? TP does add to the load of organic material that needs to decompose. Please read my long rambling from June.

            Buy a better model of a quality toilet, they flush better. Use aerators on faucets where possible to introduce more oxygen. For waste line, use pvc sch 40 pipe, 3 or preferably 4 inch for the toilet and at least 2 inch for sinks. Do not double trap, toilets have a built in trap; don’t install a “master trap” on the waste line. Install vents at every trap if possible, otherwise at least just ahead of the septic tank (use carbon filter if odors are emitted from vents). Deburr, prime or sand and glue every joint, deburr so stuff doesn’t get caught, prime and glue to stop root intrusion (primer is hard to find, EPA carries it). Slope horizontal pipe at about 2%, pvc is very forgiving on slope, usually 1 to 5% will work fine, if more elevation drop is needed or turns, use 45’s, sweep 90’s and y’s, not short 90’s. Install clean outs at the exterior wall and elsewhere that they might be handy if a plug happens.

            Enter the septic tank with the pipe/tank joint tight to exclude roots, use a y to extend a vertical pipe about 0.5 meters into the tank with the top of the y at the very edge of the lid hole, leaving the maximum room for the pump truck hose or possible human entry. Use multi compartment septic tank with at least 500 liters capacity per person and a minimum of 3000 liters. Install a vertical outlet similar to the entry pipe and if possible an effluent filter. Have the tank pumped when the sludge (heavier solids) or scum (lighter stuff-oil/grease and tp) pump the tank when 30 cm or so of sludge or scum accumulates. Also, try to avoid using a garbage disposal and rinse heavy mud off people and clothes outside of the septic system.

            Minimize tp use, minimize large loads, such as multiple loads of wash, minimize the use of cleaning products, do not use the system to dispose of oil/grease, paint (including painting clean up), poisons, drugs, cloths, paper towels, etc.


          • John thanks once again for all your detailed know how on this wonderful subject.
            I am certain many readers will have a huge sigh of relief after reading this.
            This is one habit that they will never have to become accustomed to in their adjustment to life in paradise.
            Will have to get you in the agenda to meet with you in Puriscal.


  7. MgO SIP´s is an excellent option for building in Costa Rica. Fast installation, modular panels, simple and impervious to humidity and insects make this system ideal for residential and commercial construction. It is also an excellent option for multi story buildings due to it´s fire proofing capacity.
    Trevor, as careful as he is on details and quality, will make sure to use the system to it´s full capacity and won´t leave any detail unsolved.

    No doubt MgO SIP´s will soon become a popular system in Costa Rica.

  8. Hey Michael and Trevor,
    I really appreciate what you have done with my floor plan. Its nice to finally work with professionals. I guess with all of your experience it just comes natural to you and Trevor. There are things that I just wouldn’t have thought of even after having been a plumber for 10 years. The fact that you were willing to do an overnight drive up to Samara to see the building site before you designed the home showed me you care. Also the fact that you itemized all of the materials and labor costs made me feel comfortable with your low price. It showed me where the money would go and that there is nothing left out.
    I can’t wait for us to break ground on the community center and guest houses at Montana Samara Estates. After doing a lot of checking around I feel comfortable that you are building with superior SIP panels. That MgO Board is the way to go.
    Thanks for your efforts on this.
    Mel Stevenson
    Montana Samara Estates

  9. It´s too bad we didn´t know you guys before our project got off the ground, but you certainly work miracles. It was a constant battle with previous contractors just to get what we needed and wanted. Thanks for being sensitive to what we needed to make our restaurant a reality.

    The knowledge in construction practices and the quality of work is far beyond what other contractors have provided us. After 3 years of disasters and sub-par work, we owe a lifetime of gratitude to you and your team. If we didn´t have our hearts in our restaurant, we would have given up years ago so it´s refreshing to say the least to know someone with the same passion for what they do. In the few short weeks that you and your team arrived on the scene, previous mistakes were corrected and we were provided with a space that is functional and attractive.

    I believe it´s far too common here for contractors to take short-cuts and use poor quality materials (which the owners would be paying for in more ways than one years or just months later). We are not experts in construction and don´t profess to be so we appreciate all the guidance you´ve provided us.

    We were originally sold on a system (¨multiformas¨) that was supposed to be superior to regular block construction. Theoretically it could have been, but in practice is entirely different. It left us with a leaky roof and walls that were…less than straight. The previous contractor used PVC pipes (buried in cement) which we now know are nowhere near the standard that should been used. No provisions for vents were provided, which would have been a headache waiting to happen in a commercial kitchen. Your insistence on not using anything less than perfect is a breath of fresh air. Not only that, but you clearly and succinctly explain why you prefer to use the materials that you do. This is one aspect that we very much appreciate in comparison to others. You treat our restaurant as if it were your own, rather than others who wanted to treat it as a monument to themselves.

    Your suggestions on gas systems and LED lighting are phenomenal. It turns green construction into something that is affordable and realistic. It proves the point that green construction does not need to have an astronomical price tag. Less cement would also make a difference, which we are eager to see in the SIP panels.

    For some, a building may be just that, but to others it means much much more. We´re glad to know that you and your team understand that fact. We will never be able to thank you enough for your compassion and patience with us. The restaurant is everything we had hoped it would be and more. You and the entire team will always be in their home at Aroi Thai Restaurant. As always, thanks from all of us.

  10. It´s still hard to believe that after years of problems with contractors and materials, we´re looking at a dream come true. We owe everything to your team for making this possible. The entire project was orderly, well thought-out and completed in a very reasonable time frame.

    The quality of the work is not what´s commonly found here as the team discovered when they first showed up on the scene. The issues were quickly identified and corrected, however, and the ugly, leaky, dysfunctional “parking garage” was transformed into the beautiful restaurant we had always wanted. We still have strangers telling us every day how stunning the building looks.

    The counseling provided concerning materials and procedures was priceless. We learned it´s not impossible to have world-class installations in this tiny country. The PeX plumbing system is resilient and functional with no chemicals leeching into the water via the usual plumbing cement for PVC. The versatility of the product is amazing, being put to use in the commercial kitchen including the gas lines. The electrical and lighting system is better than we had hoped for. For once, we´re happy to receive our electric bill which is a fraction of what it could have been.

    We look forward to the SIP system being applied, its properties and applications are leagues above what is commonly available.

    The help you provided us will never be forgotten, we appreciate the personal attention and understanding that is absent in most constructions (as we´re well aware). Thanks for caring for our restaurant as if it were your own, it makes all the difference.

    • Steffen,
      Thank you so much for your kind comments.
      It has indeed been a pleasure in getting your dream back on track after is unfortunate detour into insanity, incompetence and financial ruins.
      As we have both commented it is just too bad we could not have known one another two years sooner so that you could have avoided the painful part of the experience.
      Something that never fits into a balance sheet or set of books is the value of the pride and pleasure one receives from completing a successful project.
      This project has been one great example of an exceptional metamorphosis to bring this ugly brute of a concrete box into something of style, class and functionality.
      It will always be a pleasure to return to your restaurant to see you and your clients enjoying the fruits of our teams labors. That is one of those priceless pleasures of life.
      I would be remiss in not adding to all this that in my 35 years of business I can think of no one who has been a greater pleasure to work along side of to bring a project to life.
      Of everyone I have ran into in 13 years in Costa Rica you probably had the greatest reasons to be resentful and bitter about the abuse you received at the hands of the three stooges, architect, engineer and contractor yet you have never said much instead you just forged ahead until you got to fulfill your dream in spite of all of these odds against you.
      That speaks so much as to your fine character!
      I pass on my greatest wishes for you and your family to have a great restaurant for many years to come.

      With greatest of respect,


  11. Trevor. We have purchased a house in Atenas which we plan to use as a base to continue to look for a property to build on or possibly fit to our needs. I read your E-book and am very interested in connecting with you. We are presently in the process of getting the house we purchased in shape for living and renting. We have been to Costa Rica several times and finally decided to get a foothold in Costa Rica. We have seen multiple houses, and have seen many of your “tip” issues. We are not professionals, but have done multiple renovations in the US (much of it ourselves). I realize that costa rica is very different and thus we were reticent to build. After reading your web site and e-book, I am encouraged to more aggressively pursue the building option. Prior to the bigger project, we need to fix the present project. I know you are busy, but would you be able to look a renovation project? We are flying down to make some decisions for a few days (all the time I can get away this time of year). We are arriving on the evening of Dec 18th and leaving on the 22nd. If you can swing it, I would love to hire you to consult even if you can not help me with the renovation. Let me know and we will make ourselves available any time that we are in Costa Rica. Thanks, Don

    • Don,
      You certainly put yourself ahead of the crowd in grasping the severe differences. What anyone has done elsewhere has so little to do with the challenges in Latin America and how they would survive the experience. It can and is often one painful experience! Certainly I can do the inspection for you and give you guidance as to what, when and how much you can roughly expect keeping in mind a renovation is much like Christmas, lots a wrapping with no idea as to what is inside. Depending on what is needed we could possible do so as on our front we are in a temporary lag waiting for our container with our first two houses in it to arrive with 4 homes contracted and several more on the threshold. In essence we are verrry busy once our supply chain gets all ironed out. So my answer will be dictated by the shipping and customs Gods as well as how they are affected at Christmas here as well. To be honest after our panels are here I have neither the time nor a whole lot of interest in further renovations and rescue missions. Just recently I advised two of my big projects from this past year that I would not likely take on their type of work in the New Year. The reason is very simple, renovation can be a royal pain in the ass at the best of times then throw in all the wild cards you see here on a regular basis it can get down right ugly. Hey but these jobs sure did give me lots of material to fill up my e-book so I guess not all is a loss.:-) Now compare that with new construction where you know exactly what was done and why and where and how hence it is massively easier to do the work and especially to price it.

      So my answer is a definite maybe depending on the scope and timing but for certain if we were to do anything it would need to start immediately upon your arrival. So lets set up the inspection for the 18th and by then I will have a better idea of our schedule as well.

      Thank you for your comments and I am glad you found the book enlightening enough to reconsider new construction. You hit the nail on the head here though if you can get new construction done right it is far better than inheriting someone else’s blunders where the sky can be the limit.

      Oh how did you find our site? Do you remember? I always like to know what is working.



  12. Trevor & Michael,

    Kudos to your building methods and your openness to share your knowledge, especially your experiences here in Costa Rica.

    I very much enjoyed and benefited from your ebook, which combined with your visit to my property with Michael prompted me to comment on your site… something I have never done before.

    Previously I was an electrician and in the construction industry in Massachusetts and have been in Costa Rica for the better part of the last 20 years. I love Costa Rica, have Citizenship, plan on staying for a while, but what I don’t like is the all too common sub-standard building practices.

    For an extended period of time I have been wanting to build my get-away / vacation home, but I refuse to have my home be “another brick in the wall” built to sub-standards, no bang for your buck, “I wish I never did this nightmare”!

    I’m optimistic but also realistic and previously did not think I would be building my vacation home to acceptable standards without committing myself to overseeing all phases of the build process, which A, I do not have the time due to a very demanding job and B, even with a substantial background in the construction industry, my lack of knowledge in specific areas of the build / design process, my home would probably have resulted in subpar results.

    Michael, you are one of the few architects I have dealt with that asked all the right questions from the get go.
    Your inquisitive attitude, awareness to my concerns, your technical knowledge and understanding of how structures work, specifically your clear explanation of how you will provide functional design solutions within the designed environment and criteria I provided.
    This and your understanding and consideration of my future plans left me more than pleasantly surprised.

    You make a great team and I appreciate both of you taking the time to make a site visit to my property, which accomplished much more than I expected in a short period of time.

    I know I will have countless important decisions to make as the home owner and all too often, these important decisions are forced upon the builder resulting with a dissatisfied homeowner or the need for expensive changes.
    Obviously your past building experience, time spent in Costa Rica, contracts and master costing sheet, leaves little for surprise.

    I look forward to meeting at length to provide my thoughts and desired requirements to be contributed towards the design of my home and proceeding to build my get-away / vacation home in Playa Hermosa.

    (I love where I live, but looking for an investment and a break from my everyday routine)


    Bill Kirby
    Director of Marina Operations
    Los Suenos Resort & Marina
    Playa Herradura, Garabito
    Costa Rica

    • Bill,
      Thank you so much for the kind comments to put it mildly. Yes with Michael being my partner for a long time I often take for granted just what he can do to bring a plan and a home to life with relative ease. Yet it is most interesting to hear it from the other side of the fence as to how you perceived the differences. Especially considering the nightmare design I encountered on the lot we visited right after yours.

      Of all the people I have met in Costa Rica you are probably the one most qualified to actually build your own home so your comments most certainly are not taken lightly.

      We do indeed look forward to turning the lot into a very special home and escape for you.

      Highest Regards,


  13. Trevor and Michael: My wife and I would like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy work schedules a couple of weeks ago to meet with us during our most recent trip down to CR. We enjoyed discussing with you both the design stage and home building process of our future home in Costa Rica.
    As you both recall when we first met in Uvita, things were chaotic to say the least. Unexpectedly, we were in a midst of a personal crisis and needed your help most desperately. I won’t bore your readers with the specifics, however, I will say that thanks to your assistance Trevor, the matter was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.
    We felt our time spent with both of you went very well and was extremely informative. As you know, we’ve purchased land in the southern zone of Costa Rica and are in the process of looking for an architectural designer and a home builder. We have previously built a home in the states, however, we are aware that building in Costa Rica is a completely different process due to relaxed building standards, tropical environment, terrain conditions, daily seismic activity, lots and lots of rain, etc., etc., etc. In other words, this task is DAUNTING!
    If I may regress for a moment, it was my wife that came across your very unique and informative web site while looking for home design ideas and home builders in Costa Rica. We both read your e-book and were extremely impressed in your experience and knowledge. I contacted you to schedule a meeting with you in Costa Rica and you both agreed to meet with my wife and I on our most recent trip. Prior to our meeting, my wife and I had researched the popular building methods in Costa Rica. We found that despite the various building options available, most builders used cement block. Your site peaked our interest about the MgO SIP’s that you use in your construction. We had to learn more about this innovating building method we knew very little about.
    During our meeting in Uvita, both you and Michael took a personal interest in our proposed project. You drove with us to our property site so that you could get a firsthand view of where our future home will be. Michael very quickly assessed the dimensions of the lot, wind patterns and direction and even asking us what type of views we were interested in capturing. He informed us that this is important to know for the ventilation and the positioning of the house due to the extreme heat we will face on a daily basis.
    From there we visited one of your houses currently under construction. You and Michael personally walked us through the whole house pointing out each detailed process you use in the construction. From the SIP panels already erected, PVC plumbing run to the kitchen, the PEX lines installed in the panel, etc…we earned a lot about your construction methods and why you are such a proponent of them. You clearly explained your architectural standards and used this home as an example of what you have been referring to on your web site. You thoroughly explained the different materials and techniques used to install the plumbing and electrical work as opposed to most builders. We had a chance to inspect and see firsthand the MgO SIP’s and how these panels uniquely fit together. Your building crew seemed highly trained and skilled in using the SIP’s. You even gave us a small piece to take with us so that we could have it checked out and tested ourselves if we wanted. You were that confident of the product you use. We also had the pleasure of meeting the home owner – he was very pleased with the ongoing construction. He informed us he was happy with the pace of his project and your attention to detail. He spoke of your quick response to any of his questions or concerns, or to any changes that he wanted-only if they made sense of course!
    In our observation of the project, we concluded that SIP’s would be structurally superior to using concrete. The construction would go much quicker. There would be little or no site waste. And it would be extremely durable. We can’t wait to see what Michael comes up with for design ideas based on the information we sent him!

    • Mike,
      Thank you for all your kind comments as well as your valued observations.
      With any luck you will not need another rescue mission when visiting but if need be no problem.
      We most certainly enjoyed meeting you both and visiting your lot location where we had never been before.
      It would indeed be a pleasure to count you as one of our home owners when the time comes about.

      Highest Regards,


  14. Hello Trevor,
    Thanks for the information on the roof tiles “very exciting products”. I will talk to my partner Rene regarding the possibilities of going with the upgraded roof covering. Your research of new and better building materials is really impressive.
    We are looking forward to you constructing our home in the near future.
    Take care, John Newton

  15. Trevor,

    My wife and I will begin building our home soon, we are in the planning stage right now. I was in construction for years and was going to build it myself. I am leaning towards using shipping containers as the basic structure with the roof cut out or buy “open top”, then using the glu lams as you have on your jobs. The wood on the floor of shipping containers is treated against insects due to international regulations. I was going to insulate with some kind of closed cell spray foam. I would prefer to be in a steel box, designed for rough seas when there is another earthquake. I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions. Thanks.

    • Well Gabe that is just one bad idea all way around!
      Romantic maybe but effective not!!

      Various people have come to me with the same concept yet my answer has always been the same.
      It is not cheaper than SIPs and it is not stronger either.

      A remodel or repurpose of any structure is never cheaper than starting from scratch and without the challenge of trying to build something eye pleasing when restricted to two sizes of building blocks. I personally find the final results of all the container homes I have seen to go from being basically butt ugly to simple utilitarian. When I compare that to a pile of panels that I can turn into anything I or a client desires to be a much more favourable formula for positive and economic results.

      Add to that the fact that low ceilings are a kiss of death in tropical construction where the final result is a pizza oven. Also panels are more than strong enough to withstand earthquakes and hurricanes throughout the world we do not have to resort to giant tin-cans to have protection from those elements.

      You are perfectly welcome to disagree with me and think I am trying to sell materials but I stand behind this opinion and have done for years. It has only gotten more firm with the more building I have done here and the more I have seen this romantic but impractical solution being brought to a miserable conclusion of expensive and low functioning living environments.


  16. Trevor,

    Thank you for your response. I was interested in containers for modular construction, and the time savings that it seemed to offer. The idea was for “open top” containers to avoid the pizza oven issue. As our plans solidify, I’d like to meet up with you and compare, maybe we’ll do it the way you suggest.

  17. Hola, i build log furniture and do custom post and rail as well as treehouses and cabinas for clients throughout costa rica. I am really interested in your building techniques and would certainly like to know more. I am in the process of starting a property in nearby cuidad colon with initial stage requiring 3 buildings . Thanks Woody

  18. trevor, we spoke today about septic system design. I recommend that you visit , and the “D-Box” page. Any questions, give me a call.

    thanks for the info on the mgo board.


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