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Construction Noise Could be Bad for Business

By Arianna McKinney

Photo for illustrative purposes by Pinar Istek

In Costa Rica, the work day begins earlier than in many countries. Instead of 8 or 9 a.m., workers often get going as early as 6 a.m. And while most people simply accept this as part of life here, it can be a problem for those who runs hotels or yoga studios next to constructions sites who receive complaints from their clients and worry that it could affect their business.

The Regulation for the Control of Noise Pollution (Reglamentopara el Control de Contaminacion por Ruido), Number 28718-S, defines the diurnal (daytime) period as 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. and stipulates that the acceptable level of noise in residential or commercial zones during the day is up to 65 decibels.

At night, in residential areas the acceptable level drops to 40. The regulation designates the Ministry of Health as the competent authority for monitoring noise pollution.

The regional direction of the Ministry of Health in Nicoya reported that during 2012 and 2013 they didn’t receive any complaints for noise related to constructions. Generally complaints received about noise are from manufacturing or from events such as karaoke, according to Mario William Acosta Cortez, coordinator of guarantee of access to health services.

When they do receive complaints of excessive noise, Acosta explained that they process the complaint and they have a sound meter to measure the intensity of noise.

The reason why many construction workers like to get started early isn’t so much to beat the heat, but rather to beat the rain, explained Alberto Lopez Briones, master construction worker in Samara. In this zone, especially during rainy season, he said they like to start early and end around 4 p.m. because of the risk of rain in the late afternoon.

In general, Lopez said his crew starts work at 7 a.m. during the week, taking into consideration the noise factor, but on Saturdays he starts at 6 a.m., although at that early hour he focuses on tasks like cleanup and collecting nails, waiting until later to use power tools. In his 17 years of experience in construction, he said he hasn’t really received any complaints because of noise.

On the other hand, multiple complaints were received regarding noise during the
demolition of Las Olas Condominiums in Guiones
. Reese Langston, who coordinated the demolition work, said that the initial work schedule for the demolition was from 7a.m. to 6p.m.daily but on Sundays they worked from 9a.m. to 6p.m.In addition, as a result of complaints, they began with non-noisy work from 7 to 8 a.m., as requested by John Johnson III, who purchased the property, although the adjustment in working hours caused them to go nearly $10,000 over budget, according to Langston.

“We continued to receive complaints, with some neighbors wanting us to work from 10a.m. to 4p.m., and only on weekdays. I offered to them that we could certainly do so if they were willing to pick up the extra costs and were willing to draw demolition out until mid-July, but received no response, and complaints stopped,” said Langston.

Richard Walker, a member of the Guiones community, expressed his annoyance with the construction work schedule, considering the legal starting time of 6 a.m. to be outdated. “I know that from my water board days as president, many neighbors and hotel owners get very frustrated by the loud noise beginning at 6 a.m. When they try to address this to the compassionate owners, they are stuck with their contractor’s unwillingness to comply with a reasonable starting time of 7 a.m. since the law does not require them, like most of the civilized world.”

Walker recommends that people who are planning to build negotiate the starting times with the contractors at the time of signing their construction contracts if they want work to begin later in the morning.  

Grettel Sanchez Zuñiga, secretary for the municipal engineer in the department of construction permits, affirmed that construction workers in Costa Rica have the “free right to work the hours that they want,” noting that there is no law that regulates work hours, but rather the schedule is determined by mutual agreement between the employer and the employee.


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