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Real Estate Investing : Costa Rica


Business and Finance Magazines


Costa Rica Real Estate Investment

Costa Rica, the country where ecotourism was born, may well be the country where ecologically sustainable building becomes the standard. Not only does this make good environmental sense, it is increasingly what prospective buyers prefer.

“My clients are looking for properties in Costa Rica that help preserve the very things they fell in love with in the first place here: the natural beauty, and the incredible variety of plant and animal life,” says Diego Quesada, co-owner with Mike Fonseca of the Intl-Investors Group (www.intl-investorsgroup.com).

This growing market preference generates momentum for the routine implementation of measures by private developers to protect and even improve Costa Rica’s rich and diverse ecological heritage, to be good stewards of Costa Rica’s natural “golden goose.“ That, in essence, is what “sustainable building” or “ecodevelopment” is: a strategy to lessen the negative impact of human habitation on the natural world that incorporates a comprehensive series of considerations into the planning and execution of housing and other facilities.

How? Some of the measures make obvious good sense, such as minimizing the energy costs associated with the routine use of the building over time through insulation and the incorporation of natural means of lighting, heating, and/or cooling; protecting and restoring air and water quality and indigenous biological diversity; and designing with an eye to the relationship between the building, the contours of the land, and the habitats that surround it. Other recommendations are more subtle, such as choosing building materials based on the environmental impact of their production and installation; supporting non-fossil-fuel-dependent activities by installing hike, bike, and horse trails and even adapting the project to the livelihood and development aspirations of the local community.

Experts on sustainable building agree that ecodevelopment makes good economic sense for everyone involved. “Most green buildings are high-quality buildings; they last longer, cost less to operate and maintain, and provide greater occupant satisfaction than standard developments,” says Dr. Sam C.M. Hui, a leading researcher and author of Sustainable Architecture. “Sophisticated buyers and lessees prefer them, and are often willing to pay a premium for their advantages.”

This doesn’t mean, however, that sustainable buildings must be more expensive. According to Olivier Luneau of the United Nations Sustainable Building and Construction Initiative, "To achieve improved energy efficiency in buildings you often do not need to use advanced and expensive high-tech solutions, but simple solutions such as smart design, flexible energy solutions, and provision of appropriate information to the building users."

More and more area developments are incorporating principles of sustainable building into project design. Says Robert Irvin, developer of The Oaks in Tamarindo, “We began our conservation effort at The Oaks with something simple. Instead of clearing the site for construction like so many developers, we preserved over 70% of the trees…providing natural shading for the buildings and preserving as much as we could of the pre-existing landscape. We then designed ecological corridors, or bridges, over the site so that internal roads would not disrupt the habitat of the howler monkeys that live on the property, and they could move from one feeding area to another without having to leave the trees.” Green areas occupy 7 of the project’s 31 acres and include an aviary as well as orchid and butterfly farms.

Many of today’s developers are already taking steps in the right direction with features such as a wastewater treatment plant that restores all water from domestic use to over 95% purity where they then use that water for irrigation. Rainwater capture systems to conserve excess water from the green season along with other measures such as the use of low-water toilets, front-loading washers, and compact fluorescent light bulbs show how simple and easy it can be to produce significant energy and water savings

One of the area’s largest developments, Hacienda Pinilla just south of Tamarindo recently earned certification as an “Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary” in recognition of its efforts to preserve the local ecology, including leaving large tracts of tropical dry forest on the 4500-acre property undisturbed. The nearby Sea Breeze Mountain, a low-density gated community between Tamarindo and Junquillal, features its own well and windmill-driven water delivery system. Nature trails wind through a 60-acre “reserve” of undisturbed forest.

The 2300-acre Reserva Conchal Beach and Golf Resort has set aside 700 acres of forest and 95 acres of mangrove wetland as a wildlife refuge and research center in association with the Costa Rican Ministry of the Environment. Landscaping in the resort, residential areas, and on the golf course favor native plants, this translates into lower maintenance costs and less dependence on year-round irrigation. Buildings have been designed to take advantage of features such as shade, wind, and sun for natural lighting and ventilation, and riding and hiking trails are part of the project’s 25-year plan. Reserva Conchal Beach and Golf Resort has reached out to the local community by organizing volunteer fire brigades, environmental education courses, job training, and programs for youth.

Tierra Pacífica Environmental Estates in Junquillal is similarly ambitious in pursuing sustainability, even linking the project’s design and implementation to an ongoing series of on-site courses offered by the University of Vermont on issues related to local ecological restoration and entrepreneurship. Members of Tierra Pacífica’s management team include Tom Peifer and Will Raap, respected leaders in the sustainability movement. The development features a wetlands-based storm water retention system, the organization of a farming cooperative for organic fruits and vegetables, and an on-site nursery for the regeneration of local flora.

“It’s exciting to see these important innovations already in the market, and setting a precedent for future development.” says Diego. “After all, keeping Costa Rica beautiful and healthy is in everyone’s best interest.”


Mike Fonseca, http://www.intl-investorsgroup.com



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