Friday, August 16, 2019

Guest Blog - Top 10 Things to Know While Building in Belize...

We are very lucky to have Sonia Alvarez of Latitude 20 Architecture  on the peninsula in Placencia, Belize. She is a very impressive architect and as a female entrepreneur, has started Latitude 20 Architecture. She has a fantastic resume including some of the most impressive designs and projects in Belize, including Naia Resort and Spa, Palm Reef Resort, and recently - the new Margaritaville in San Pedro - among many others. She has a vast range of knowledge about the building and designs that work best in Belize - there is some unique knowledge needed in building here because of many factors including the infrastructure, materials available, (relatively speaking) small number of skilled workers, tropical climate, and more. Sonia's breadth of knowledge makes this blog very valuable for those looking to build in Belize, and we are fortunate to have gotten the following insights about building here!!
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Top 10 Things to Know While Building in Belize...

1.) Select an experienced and qualified architect who is working legally! They should also be a member of the architectural association. There are many unqualified, illegal architects working in Belize so be sure to ask for credentials. 

2.) Don’t assume you can build your home because you were a builder/developer in your home country. Without knowing who the qualified, reliable sub-trades are you WILL lose money and have countless headaches.

3.) If you are not in Belize while building your home, It is strongly recommended to hire an onsite project manager to ensure the builder is building according to the plans. A good architect can provide this service and manage construction funds. They can also send weekly reports with photos and drone video to show progress. This is key!

4.) The government will not provide you with an onsite inspector to make sure that things are done properly. They don’t inspect buildings during construction, they just stop to construction sites to make sure you have your construction permit. You just cannot assume that anything you build in Belize will be built to the North American standards, even when the government approves it.

5.) In the past, the only building codes in Belize have been those imposed by local municipalities. The country has developed a national building code calling for nation-wide standards of construction. The Central Building Authority (CBA) has now taken a tougher stance to ensure that builders follow the building code.

6.) You will have a limited selection of finishing and fixtures in Belize so you may want to import from the US or Mexico which means shipping and import duties which will add to the cost. Many people move to Belize believing all goods and services are pennies on the dollar. Labor is less than in the US but if you are importing materials the cost will be comparable to the US.

7.) Construction is cheaper in Northern than Southern Belize. Overall, building costs (wood and concrete) in Belize range from around US$120 to $150 per square foot, not including the cost of land.

8.) Wood expands and contracts, absorb and releases moisture, warps, twists, cracks, moulds, and rots. Most of the problems mentioned can be limited by kiln drying the wood at some point prior to your purchase of it. Because kiln drying is not available in Belize, wood will be cut to order, and it will be delivered green. You have to allow months for it to dry if you don’t wish to have some of those ghastly possibilities.

9.) It is very exciting to design and build your custom home to your specific needs and lifestyle. Although you may believe you will have this home for the rest of your days, unforeseen circumstances may force you to sell your home which can be difficult if it is an obscure or impractical design. For this reason, it is a good idea to design your home that will be appealing to a buyer if you have to sell.

10.) Some areas do not have municipal water so most houses have water cisterns to catch rainwater. Belize has few industries and a small populace which means low pollution and clean rainwater, and in many places, drinkable tap water. If you build in areas such as Plantation in Placencia, you may need two or more cistern or water tanks for a large house to collect rainwater.

***If you like sustainable living, Belize has some construction systems available that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient like solar panels, solar water heater, rainwater collection, water treatment system plans, bamboo flooring, spray foam insulation.

Here are some of Sonia's other amazing designs, more can be found on her website and Facebook page!
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  1. What about pressure treated wood. Is it available and effective for construction purposes?

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