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New Construction

Lease / purchase

Phase 3: The construction of the remaining 11 residences.

Scheduled to begin in November with completion expected
by January 31.

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Progress Report

Nov. 15-21, 2004 // CONSTRUCTION LOG # 6

Earthquake: Sat. 2:10 AM:

All is fine. I was actually raiding the refrigerator at 2:07AM looking or something non-alcoholic when the quake hit. The 6.2 quake lasted perhaps 4-5 seconds (plus numerous smaller after shocks) --hard to tell time when everything is shaking. There was no damage to anything that we've been able to determine, not even any cracks. This seems to have been the strongest in some 10 years or so and certainly the strongest one I've ever experienced. The center was at Quepos, a city on the beach. As the crow flies, not too far from us. The new seismic code upgraded the size of reinforcing steel to be the equivalent of 1/2" and 5/8" and when you take a look at the photos you'll see that we are using a lot of steel.

As in previous weeks, several new people are being added to the mailing list this week. If anyone, doesn't wish to receive this, then let me know and I'll remove you from the list.

The container arrived and was unloaded. I'm now able to include pictures to those who have mailbox capacity. The government did open and unload the container. It was completely repacked and was delivered on Tuesday morning. Everything appears to be there and nothing appears to be damaged. The shipping company did a fine job; the people on the front end and back end here, did a lousy job. If anyone plans to ship anything here, I will tell you who I would NOT recommend at this end-there are too many unanswered questions and as I said before, a number of non-transparent charges which I question-and this was not a CR or Tico company but operated by North American.

Pictures

I'm including pictures form Wk 5 and the current week. For those of you wanting a more complete picture history of the project, let me know and I'll send it to you starting the the first excavations, septic and rainwater, layout and early footings (exiting stuff).

Construction

Correction: In Log 5, I stated that we paid $113 Cu Meter for concrete and pumper truck. That was incorrect. We paid $90 cubic meter.

On Sunday we experienced a couple showers but other than that, it has been dry and unusually cool (for here) around 23 or 75 degrees during the days. Perfect for building and living. We've started irrigating.

This week saw the rapid advancement of the house framing. Monday the footing forms were cleaned up, temporary anchors to hold things vertical were removed, and vertical guides at wall junctures were installed in preparation of laying block. We started laying block around noon on Monday. By Saturday noon, we had probably laid around 3,500. The equivalent of 5 houses have all the walls laid up to the first collar tie. I expect that by the end of next week all the columns and collar ties on these 5 will be poured and the equivalent of the two remaining houses will also be up to their first collar tie. (A "collar tie" is a poured in place reinforced concrete beam which ties the walls and corners, and structural columns together).

For those of you not familiar with construction methods here, I'll describe a couple things I found interesting the first time I saw it:

Laying block walls is only part of the job. Finishing them is a major task in itself. The traditional way is to form vertical level lines every meter or so and then use these as screed board lines for the"repello". Repello consists of several steps-first a very wet mixture of course sand, cement, and water is thrown by trowel onto the walls. This dries and the next lay is applied. This layer is a finer texture of sand, cement, and water and is again thrown onto the wall by trowel and built up to a thickness which will result in a smooth vertical wall. This is a messy process and has to be wetted for a week or so such that it dries slowly and adheres to the wall. This layer is then overlaid with a finishing material which makes it very smooth and ready for painting.

This time, we used a product for finishing which was wonderful, fast and not very messy. It took less than 1/2 the time for this stage than using traditional materials. This same company has a product for rapid build and is designed to be applied as the first coat onto blocks. It goes on fast, does not require slow curing so therefore no water, and with minimal waste. Using this material, we should save about two weeks by using this material. What is the product? I don't know exactly. The provider of the material, only says it is a cement based product and maintains the formula like Coke-it's great but I'm not going to tell you how to make it. We've got 300 - 50lb. Bags coming next week.

They do not have "mortar" here. They use sand, Portland cement, and water- no other chemicals or ingredients. Normally the sand is not uniform enough to be used. (As a matter of note, the sand is absolutely black.) It has to be screened such that the larger grains are eliminated. This is done by creating a rigid form over which a certain size screen is placed. This frame in turn, is placed on an angle against which shovels full of the raw sand are thrown against the screen; the smaller grains go through and the larger ones do not. The smaller particles are then used for "mortar and the larger ones are either used in concrete or in forming the final lawyer of gravel before pouring concrete. We were using two people to do this work. We have subsequently upgraded the sand (not normally done on job sites) and now have those two people mixing what passes for "mortar".

We bought an additional cement mixer from our neighbour who is nearing completion of his construction project and also bought a "jumping jack" compactor. We will need both over the next five months and I believe it cheaper to buy and then resell vs. leasing for that long a time. One of the electric cement mixers we bought burned a motor as soon as a load was put on it; $75 to rebuild it. Fortunately, from my previous experience I knew exactly where to go to have it done.

The vertical wall rebar (#4 or 5/8") which goes into the center of the hollow block wall, is approximately 8'-10' hi. The blocks have to be hoisted up on a "T" type of tool they make, the block is then speared by the re-bar and then lowered and set into place. Following which the cavity is filled with a wet mixture of concrete and tamped to ensure no voids.

Below the floor, horizontal #3 rebar (1/2") is used between each layer (row) of blocks. Above floor level, this horizontal re-bar is placed in every second row. It is wired to each of the vertical re-bar and at the structural poured-in-place columns, the re-bar is fastened first to the rebar reinforcing cage and then all is formed and filled with concrete to form structural beams (collar ties) and/or columns.

The net result when all is finished is a structurally integrated, strong wall.

On Wednesday we had to alter the hours of work. CR and Honduras were scheduled to play soccer at 5pm, the normal quitting time. So we started a half hour early so they could get to where ever and watch the match. Starting time and quitting time here are punctual. There is no personal "clean up" time at the end of the day; people begin putting the tools away and cleaning up when the whistle blows at 5pm. Other construction sites shut down entirely. (The game was actually a 0-0 draw but for some reason CR got the credit and can advance.)

We currently have 46 people on the payroll. I think we could use some additional people once we get working on the remodeling of the older units and when we start the three additional houses-121, 122, and 123.

West gate

On Monday we started work on the west gate. The gate itself was made off site by a welder and brother who worked for us before and will probably work on renovating the original units. It is now ready for installation; final painting (antiquing) will be done once it is installed. The columns will be poured on Monday and ready for the installation on Wednesday.

Two more telephone lines

A follow up: after Mike, the property manager, having spent about 5 hrs. at ICE begging for additional phone lines and being told that none were available in the country, the installers showed up the following week and in stalled two additional lines.

The year end accounting is virtually done. In CR, all corporate year ends are Sept. 31 and filings have to be made in November. The accounting system we had this past year underwent continual improvement but still lacked some important elements. I wanted to get it into a useful information, reporting and tracking system for the new fiscal year. I have settled on an accountant who will work with the bookkeeper when required; both are located in Santa Ana. Hopefully the new accounting system for the property management side of things will be fully operational soon and we can begin to get experience with it such that when the condominium corporation takes control, it will have a record and a system in place. The construction side of the accounting system is in place; we just need time to get things reported -they are being recorded and printing a statement will not be difficult as soon as the bookkeeper gets the government fillings taken care of.

Internet service upgraded

We have upgraded our internet service from 512 to 1 mega bite by switching from Cable Tica to RACSA ADSL line which wasn't initially available either but subsequently seems to have become available. We didn't get the service we order initially and had to go back several times but now we seem to have the full speed. The reason why we switched is that we were advised that as more people sign on to our LAN, the network speed will degrade. In addition, I wanted to ensure that the system could handle VOIP service and bypass RACSA.

Changing door's company supplier

We have experienced warping and swelling problems with some of our doors which were installed in the previous five units. I knew this issue to be a problem here so I made a particular effort to search out a company which could demonstrate how they addressed this problem and provided a guarantee. The result of my research was a company (Portico) which said they had solved the problem and had great story to support their claim. They also provided an excellent guarantee. This company's doors were / are expensive but this was an important issue to me so I was willing to pay. In the States which is their primary market, their room doors sell for about $600 and the entry door we purchased sells for about $1,800 installed. They supplied 280 doors to the Four Seasons 5 Star development in Papagayo, Guanacaste; so far, they have replaced 260. We have a slightly better record than that but it's still very high. I can give them credit for honoring their guarantee; I understand the production manager has been canned and they now have their problems under control.

Unit 124

We have resolved the safu with the original site plan not working for units 121 and 122. This has resulted in having to tear down the existing, older unit (124 on the site plan on the website) and replacing it with a new unit. It seemed not quite right to have an older unit sitting on a prime location especially when the original configuration did now work and the redesigned configuration works very well. We will reuse some of the components of the older unit in the remodeling and in the construction of the warehouse.

Our life

Hugo: he's now a successful "bat" hunter. He didn't say if it tasted good or not but I didn't have a lot of feathers around afterwards. The bats are small. It's the only thing he's caught that flies. I keep hoping he's going to get the parrot one day.

The parrot: no change in her mean, nasty disposition. I've been busy getting motors fixed, saw blades sharpened, tools repaired, buildings located, and renovation plans finalized so I really haven't been around much to observe the parrot.

About two weeks ago, the local people started their annual love affair with mostly Nicaraguan made fireworks-guess they have a lot of gun powder there. As soon as dusk hits, (5:30) the cherry bombs and the roman candles start. While this is all small scale and informal, it drives the dogs MAD-barking by all -a total cacophony, our guard dog included.

The Christmas lights, mangers, and seasonal decorations are beginning to appear. Within our area, there are several homes which really have very intricate and extensive lighting and decorations. People from all over drive by to look at these. Lots of hard work and $$ has gone into them -I'm sure the electricity company (ICE) loves them. The reward is from the heart.

Lita's karaoke machine is still with our friend in Toronto. It can't be repaired there but could be replaced for $300 only to be dropped a few more times and be in the same situation. I'll try to have it repaired here by soldering some connections together and if successful, wrapping the whole thing in foam.

We had a wonderful dinner at our friend Terry's on Friday night only to be rudely awakened by the earthquake at 2:10 am. -that was a very moving experience.

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