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Frequently Asked Questions

We know our website has lots of information for your review.  We try to portray information in a clear and concise manner, however at the same time we realize that deciding to embark on a new design project may be a process that many of you are not familiar with, as maybe you have never built from scratch before, and if you have, maybe you have never built abroad before.

If you still have questions in your mind, then read on.

Hopefully you will find your answers in some of the questions below that have been sent to us by many clients or potential clients.  We have decided to turn these into this Frequently Asked Questions section.  Hope you find your answer here !

Do you work exclusively doing design-build?

Not exclusively.  We are first and foremost an architectural design firm.  Our clients are not tied to hiring us to a design and construction contract.  One phase comes after the other.  We will first help our clients designing their project and providing our services for delivering an extremely detailed and well-documented set of drawings ready for construction.  

On the projects where we can offer our Design-Build services, sometimes it’s simply a natural progression, as our clients get to know our attention to detail, organization, and knowledge, and they simply then want us to continue and provide our construction management services and build their project.

you present your design proposals offering services packages. can i select a package and then later change my mind and choose a different package?

Yes and no.  If a client selects a premium package then from the beginning we are already providing more services, as detailed on the scope of services detailed to the client.  Therefore, you can’t really downgrade as we are already working on a more comprehensive basis.

If a client selects a lesser package and then decides to upgrade, it can be done, but we may have to adjust the fee somewhat, as then the work may have been done to that date without integrating other services such as interior architecture and lighting design, etc.  

Also, the overall timeline will also need to be adjusted so that we can incorporate and “get up to speed” on the services that were not originally contracted and then were added on at a later time.

does your design fees also include all of the necessary engineering trades?

Yes.  When we quote a design fee for your project this will include the work in the complete set of phases for your project.  The schematic design phase usually does not involve the engineers yet, it is mostly our architectural design work.  However, once the schematic design is approved and we move onto the construction drawings phase, we quickly involve the engineering groups as needed.

We typically involve structural engineers, electrical engineers, mechanical and HVAC engineers onto the project. When the client wants us to, we can also include in our fee the landscape designers as well.

do you provide construction services on any type of project?

Not really.  Managing the entire construction is very demanding from a time and an on-site presence aspects.  It doesn’t make sense for us to manage projects spread all throughout the country, so we prefer to be selective in which projects we can offer our clients the full construction service.  Also, for smaller projects the indirect costs associated to traveling to the site continuously can add on.  

Therefore, on smaller projects it usually makes better sense to try to find a local builder that can be hired for the construction, and then we are engaged for supervision and oversight of the project.

why do you provide interior architecture services in one of your proposal's services packages?

A well-developed project needs to have lots of design work and documentation on the interior elements in order to obtain ultimate results.  In our experience, many interior designers simply do not work at the same pace as required by the overall project development workflow.  This results in information coming in late or sometimes never coming at all, creates faulty coordination with MEP engineering, and makes the process frustrating for the client, not to mention likely considerably more expensive due to either higher fees or by extra fees charged by architecture or engineering due to the improper coordination of information.

To solve this a provide our clients with a seamless and integrated project delivery approach, years ago we integrated interior design into our scope of services, so that when we are developing a project, decisions are taken in-house in a coordinated and integrated manner.  Also, since our interior design work is completely integrated within our BIM workflow, all project members can visualize and understand the interior design aspects and respond accordingly.

By integrating the interior architecture services as part of our scope of services that we offer our clients, we are able to provide a more comprehensive, detailed, overall project design without the need of hiring a separate company for interior design. This eliminates the usual coordination problems of working with a separate consultant.  This also saves our clients substantial amounts of money since we are able to offer the services as part of our overall workflow and offer the services at much lower costs as compared to hiring a separate interior design firm.

Sarco Architects is an international design firm. what about the construction aspect?

We only offer our construction-related services for projects inside Costa Rica.  For projects abroad, we provide our clients our design expertise and offer the architectural design, interior architecture, architectural lighting design, etc, services and help our clients evaluate and select a suitable local builder for the construction part.  Usually our clients want us to remain involved during the construction phase and provide supervision and inspection oversight on the project.  We can come up with a suitable visit schedule and travel abroad quite often to the project location for site visits.

what levels of project oversight do you offer in case your company does not handle the construction directly?

We can offer our clients different levels of involvement.  Since our clients are mostly international, they trust us to be their eyes and ears on the project and guide them in all local aspects.  We usually offer the following options for project oversight:

  • Project supervision and oversight of the builder.
  • Project supervision and oversight plus billing review and approval for disbursement.
  • Project supervision and oversight, billing review and contract management of all major trades.

Each option provides further protection for the client.  For example, in the case of the contract management, all major trade subcontracts are taken off the builder contract and we manage the hiring, payment, etc., to those vendors.  This ensures the best pricing as this way everything is transparent for the owner, and also makes sure that money arrives to those vendors and suppliers and not dwindled elsewhere.

other architects say they can deliver quicker, why do you need longer time for the work?

We will only provide work in a completely analyzed, resolved, and properly detailed manner. Usually this results in that our sets of drawings are much more comprehensive than our competitors’ drawings.  This of course requires more time dedicated to the project to properly figure out, resolve, and develop and document solutions for each place.

This results in huge benefits once the project is underway in construction.  Our comprehensive approach makes sure there are no undefined areas, things left to interpretation, or things simply not even indicated at all.  The project advances smoother, much more efficiently and without costly time and money lost due to waiting for answers, or even worse, deciding late that something needs to be corrected once it’s already built.

You describe your workflow to be 100% based on bim. is this more expensive?

Working on BIM is very different than working on simple, obsolete 2D programs.  Having your project developed in BIM software should not be more expensive per se, but it is important to differentiate between the two types of systems.  The value that will be provided for your project as it is developed in BIM is much higher, the difference is night and day.  The level of visualization that you will have during the design phase is not possible in 2D programs.  

With normal plans you will have to imagine your project from a drawing, but with BIM you will be able to see it yourself, no imagination required.  Then later on in construction stages the teams and people handling the construction can also benefit from the clarity of visualization to avoid mistakes.  Our type and level of work brings a level value to your project that is simply not comparable.  Architects still working only on 2D plans will likely offer lower fees, but the work is not comparable at all.

What is BIM? BIM = Building Information Modeling.

BIM leads to virtual reality.

Seeing is believing, so click here to see a sample 2D drawing.  Now click here to see a sample BIM model.  Don’t you think the difference is tremendous?

other architects offer some quick initial floor plans. do you work similarly?


 An architectural design is so much more than a simple floor plan.  The floor plan is only the layout of the spaces, general sizing of rooms, etc., but you can’t get much more information from that.  Developing a real schematic design is an integral work where you are thinking of the layout at the same time as you are starting to create the massing, designing volume, textures, surfaces, openings, etc.  

Being able to represent all of this creation in a BIM model takes a lot more work and time than someone who simply draws up some lines for a floor plan but that has not even begun to think about the rest yet. When we present a design draft for review, our clients are able to get a comprehensive set of drawings that show the floor plan, elevations, sections, etc., together with the BIM model to fully understand the design.

As we mentioned before, BIM leads to virtual reality.  Our work method and philosophy allow our clients to fully immerse themselves in their projects and truly see and feel the design before it is built.  Clients often have big challenges visualizing architectural drawings. It’s like trying to read a foreign language, and often they can’t really understand them.  With virtual reality you can truly understand things in full clarity in ways that a quick floor plan can never provide.

is it important if your staff is permanent or hired per-project?

Yes, it is hugely important.

When considering other professionals do ask them if all people involved in their project are on staff or if anyone will be involved as a freelancer or subcontracted drafter/modeler. Developing a truly high level of quality in the work that we perform takes years of training our staff to be able to deliver at the high standards that we do.

Many other competitors focus on keeping their expenses to a minimum and have little staff and hire drafters and/or modelers on a per-project basis.  In that scenario, there is little quality standards, as the one actually doing the work on the plans and documentation will be the drafter, using the same work standard he/she applies to everyone else.  

External freelance drafters are only focused on drawing up what they are told, not more not less.  We work exclusively with architects and interior designers on permanent staff.  We do not have drafters.  

Our team is trained in being able to identify and solve issues on our projects, not to simply draw things up.  They are constantly looking at all elements of all our projects, working closely with suppliers and our engineers to make sure everything we indicate on our documentation is true to life to how the project shall be built in real life.

do you handle the electrical or structural plans yourself?

No, we work 100% with the engineers specialized in each of their fields for the corresponding designs and plans.  

In Costa Rica, the system allows architects to design the structure of residences up to 2 stories themselves, without involving a structural engineer, as long as the structural details comply with certain minimums set by our local seismic code. We will not work this way.  

We will only do projects where each of our engineers does the designs, calculations, detailing, etc., for each of their specific specialties.

i see that you offer virtual reality but most other architects don't. is this really necessary?

I think you can answer that question best by thinking of an analogy.  If you’re thnking of buying a new car, will you make your decision of purchase simply by looking through the catalogue and the spectacular pictures of the car in it, and maybe by browsing the auto brands’ website?  Very likely you will not.  

You will want to be able to sit in the driver’s seat, feel how the cabin fits you, how the seat feels for the long drives, and take it out for a drive and test if if you like the car’s ride, the engine, and the user-friendliness.  You will probably never decide to buy a car without testing and driving it first.

Consider this analogy and now think of your new project.  Very likely you will decide to spend easily ten times the amount of money you would on a car.  If Virtual Reality is the equivalent of a car test drive, then is it really necessary?

The real answer is…. It’s priceless.

give me an example why i should insist my architect use bim

Very simple. Imagine a scenario that likely happens in over 75 to 80% of projects.  

You are in the middle of construction, and the foreman or supervisor is stuck because of conflicting information shown on plans that when trying to execute in the field things simply don’t work out.  It could be a clash of MEP systems with structure that doesn’t allow A/C ducting to be run as the drawings show, or it could be structure that if built according to structural drawings ends up sticking out from the ceiling in a very bad way.  Or even worse, you may have a staircase that when going up you hit your head against a beam that is too low?  All of these examples are far too commonplace on construction sites.

By working with a BIM expert architectural firm, and one that has long-standing experience in construction, careful thought and review is given to a fully detailed 3D design model where all of these elements are part of the model, and the architect can truly identify, address and resolve all of these design issues during the design development phase of work.

Working in this level of detail reduces the project’s potential issues on the jobsite.  From that point the math is very simple:

BIM Experts + Construction Experience = Better Designs = Huge savings by eliminating errors and downtime.

And remember, BIM is not a software program.  It is a work and design philosophy. It is a deeper and integrated approach of project design and solution. Using a BIM program is nowhere near the same as being a BIM Expert, as SARCO Architects  is.