FROM THE SOIL UP

Costa Rica 2018 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Héctor Lee, Director General of Edificadora Industrial, S.A., Geopier in Costa Rica, on replicating best practices in Costa Rica, providing unique solutions, and bringing development outside the capital.

 Héctor Lee
BIOGRAPHY
Héctor Lee graduated as a civil engineer in 1979 from the University of Costa Rica. In his early years he worked as an engineer at the Institute Costarricense de Electricidad. He later moved into private practise, and has almost 38 years of experience in the construction sector.

How did the company get started?

This company got its start in the US 30 years ago. Geopier is part of Tensar Corporation, another big company in the US. It has licensing companies in almost all of Latin America. We solve soil problems, such as trying to make it harder and more resistant when building. In 2009, Geopier was trying to find a partner in Costa Rica, so it approached me. I did not begin until 2012 because I was using the intervening time to teach construction companies and engineers structural design. From 2012 to date we have been doing projects and have demonstrated that we can solve problems with less money. We provide the solutions. During that time, we have also tried to invest in many machines.

How do you see the construction sector evolving?

Our company has been growing over the years, but construction in Costa Rica has not increased at the same pace. We are working with businesses in the free zones and San José area. However, there are not many projects outside of San José, which will be a future challenge. We try to do developments outside San José; however, most of the construction is for exporters of goods or services. We are already doing some commercial centers, but there are still many opportunities to build more.

Why did you decide to take over the business after Geopier approached you?

I like to try and explore different things. I am not young, but I have a great deal of experience, and everybody needs to innovate. I started with construction in the 1980s; when you grow old you need to find different things. In my case, I like to visit places and see what is happening in the world and replicate that in Costa Rica.

What makes the solutions Geopiers offers in the Costa Rican market unique?

In Costa Rica, the soil is soft, which means there are usually several solutions. One is installing pipes, which is a high-cost depending on how deep they need to be. The other solution is to remove and replace the soft soil. We are between both of these solutions. We have a technique at Geopier that consists of expanding the soil with a short pipe that is enough to support the building, a unique solution in Costa Rica. The cost is cheaper and the solution better and quick.

What are some of the projects and developments where you have offered your solutions?

We have done various commercial, office, hospital, and infrastructure developments, including Citimall, Cafetal Office, Zona Franca Lima, Costa Rica Convention Center, several data centers, residential condominiums, and part of the access road to the APM Terminals.

What is the profile of your clients?

Right now, it is construction and design companies. Our clients look to reduce their costs and make savings on their projects. We are the best solution in terms of cost and efficiently. We have worked with Garnier & Garnier, Van der Laat & Jimenez, Edica, Proycon, and MECO, among others.

Construction costs in Costa Rica are increasing. How will this affect your business?

Everything is increasing, but we are part of the solution for saving. It is not going to affect us because it is an opportunity to be there for people. However, we need more opportunities and different kinds of jobs. New projects are built only in the metropolitan area, and we need to export some projects out of it. At the end of the day, there is nearly nothing left to build here, and we need to explore more things outside the area; that is going to be the future.

Will the sector improve in the next five years?

Around 25 years ago, Costa Rica was different in terms of construction methods; now, it has become more professional and will only continue to grow all the more so.