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How to Keep Your Building in Costa Rica Cool & Comfortable

Costa Rica is a beautiful country, but it has a unique climate that can be difficult to contend with for builders. In this article, we will discuss some of the construction methods that are used in Costa Rica to keep buildings cool.

Climate is a huge factor when it comes to construction, and it’s something that should be taken into account when planning any building project. If you’re looking to build in Costa Rica, make sure you are aware of these construction methods so that your building can stay cool and comfortable for its occupants!

  1. Building Orientation
  2. Thermal Mass
  3. Windows & Shades
  4. Height Ceilings
  5. Green Roofs
  6. Ventilated Facades
  7. Fans & ACs
  8. Water Features

1. Building Orientation

One of the most important construction methods to keep a building cool in Costa Rica is orientation. The way a building is oriented can have a big impact on how hot or cold it gets throughout the day. In Costa Rica, it’s important to orient your building so it’s not fully exposed to sun and it takes advantage of the prevailing winds. This will help to keep the building cooler by allowing the wind to flow through it.

2. Thermal Mass

Another construction principle that can help to keep a building cool in Costa Rica is thermal mass. This is the ability of a material to absorb and store heat or cold. Materials with high thermal mass, like concrete, can help to regulate the temperature inside a building by absorbing cooling from during the night and releasing it at in the morning till midday. Also if you are planning to install a AC, concrete will make the building due to this effect more efficient.

Thermal Mass Diagram

While building in concrete might be slower and a bit more expensive, it can be worth it in the long run if you’re looking to keep your building cool and safe on electricity costs and on future maintenance work in general.

3. Windows & Shades

Another important factor to consider when constructing a building in Costa Rica is the windows. Windows are a key part of any building, but in Costa Rica, they need to be carefully considered in order to keep the building cool. The right type of windows can help to keep the heat out while still letting in natural light. Additionally, using shades or blinds on the windows can help to further regulate the temperature inside the building.

Windows in Costa Rica are in general of lower quality compared to other countries. However, their price is usually also significantly less as most of them are built on simpler principles and less usage of materials like slimmer profiles. Yes, they do not insulate as well but their reduced price and taking into consideration other construction principles as well as the fact that in Costa Rica you can use outdoor space all year long makes that fact almost negligible.

4. Heigh Ceilings

Another construction method that can help to keep a building cool in Costa Rica is to have high ceilings. This allows hot air to rise and be dissipated more easily, keeping the building cooler overall. Additionally, high ceilings can make a space feel larger and more open, which can be beneficial in tropical climates where space can feel cramped. So while high ceilings help to dissipate hot air easier, they also give a subjective feeling of more space which definitely helps.

Careful though! If you are planning to build a loft with a high ceiling and a second-floor mezzanine space, the mezzanine can be extremely difficult to cool down. Make sure you revise your AC positions.

5. Green Roofs

One of the newest construction methods being used to keep buildings cool in Costa Rica is the green roof. Green roofs are a type of roofing that is covered with vegetation. This vegetation helps to regulate the temperature inside the building by absorbing heat and providing insulation. Additionally, green roofs can help to reduce stormwater runoff and improve air quality in more populated urban areas. Have a look at our Pumas Residence Project where we took advantage of a green roof.

Los Pumas Residence by Studio Octava

Besides green roofs also green facades and living walls are being used more often as they have a lot of the same benefits. They help to regulate temperature, improve air quality and also can create a very nice looking visual effect on the building itself. Check our Beachways Project to see an example.

6. Ventilated Facades

A method that is less common in Costa Rica is the ventilated facade. This type of facade has an air gap between the outer wall and the inner wall of the building. This helps to create a thermal buffer zone that can help to keep the building cooler. Additionally, the air gap can help to reduce noise pollution and improve the overall energy efficiency of the building.

Ventilated Facades Diagram

While this method is less common in Costa Rica, due to the higher construction cost, we like to use timber facades as they provide many of the same benefits. Timber is a naturally insulating material that can help to keep the building cooler in hot weather. Additionally, timber facades can add a nice visual look to a building and makes the building blend into nature even better.

7. Fans & ACs

Finally, a more conventional way to keep a building cool in Costa Rica is to use fans and air conditioning units. These can be used to regulate the temperature inside the building and keep it at a comfortable level. However, it is important to note that using these methods will increase the overall energy costs of the building.

For using ACs its recommended to design the spaces in units that are not too large in area to minimize the electrical consumption. In order to find the right size AC for your space make sure you first calculate the BTU necessary which is a unit that measures thermal energy and can help to size your unit. If you want to reduce AC usage, make sure you can cross ventilate which brings us back to the topic of windows.

8. Water Features

Another way to keep a building cool in Costa Rica is to use water features. Water features can help to regulate the temperature inside the building by evaporating and cooling the air. Additionally, they can add a nice visual element to the space and create a more relaxing atmosphere.

So there are various construction methods that can be used to keep a building cool in Costa Rica. By using a combination of these methods, you can create a space that is comfortable to live in and looks great too!

Do you have any questions about construction methods to keep a building cool in Costa Rica? Get in touch with us via project@studiooctava.com

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We are Matt & Rhina, the founders of Studio Octava. Studio Octava Is building residential and hospitality projects all over Costa Rica, This blog is about what we’re are working on, what tools we use as well as about our experiences as architects & developers.

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