Building Regulations: COS and CUS

The Coeficiente de Ocupación del Suelo (COS) (Soil Occupancy Coefficient) and the Coeficiente de Utilización de Suelo (CUS) (Soil Use Coefficient) are two of the most important factors that should be considered during the initial stage of any architectural and urban project, as they have a direct impact on the way you can build on a certain property. These mathematical factors are part of the regulations that each state of the country establishes within its programs of urban planning and territorial order and are applied by each municipality.

To better understand their differences and implications, we spoke with architect Enrique Navarro López, who belongs to the Colegio de Arquitectos de Puerto Vallarta del Estado de Jalisco and serves as president of the Colegio de Ingenieros Civiles y Arquitectos de Bahía de Banderas. From 2004 to 2007, he was deputy director of Planeación Urbana (Urban Planning) of Puerto Vallarta, so he has extensive knowledge about these and other issues that indicate the way in which you can build on a certain terrain or area.

Soil Occupancy Coefficient

“This is the factor that, multiplied by the total surface of the land, will give us the maximum extension of the property on which we can build,” says Navarro.

That is, the COS is the arithmetical relation that exists between the surface constructed for the first floor and the total surface of the land or property where the project is located.

To illustrate, Navarro explains, “If we have 100 m2 of land and the regulations establish a COS of 0.8, we multiply 100 by 0.8, resulting in 80, so we can build on an area of 80 m2. In other words, it will be built on 80 percent of the area, and the remaining 20 percent should be left free to be used as green or open areas.”

Soil Use Coefficient (CUS)

“This is the factor that, multiplied by the total area of the land, will give us the maximum number of square meters that can be built on a lot, covering all the levels you have,” he explains.

So, the CUS is the relationship between the total area of the property and the total surface area of the project, covering the ground floor and the upper floors.

For example: “If in the same lot of 100 m2 we have a CUS of 1.6, we multiply 100 by 1.6 and obtain 160. Therefore, we can develop a building with a total area of 160 m2, distributed in the number of levels it has.”

Enrique Navarro

How to Learn These Factors

The COS and CUS vary according to each area of the municipality. It is not the same to develop in a popular area where the coefficients are higher than in a residential area with lower coefficients, where an attempt is made to maintain a lower density. The use of land (commercial, residential, industrial, etc.) also comes into play in this regard.

For the COS and CUS of a property located in Puerto Vallarta, you need to submit a Dictamen de Trazos, Usos y Destinos Específicos to Dirección de Planeación Urbana del H. Ayuntamiento. The requirements can be found at In Bahía de Banderas, both factors are indicated in the Constancia de Compatibilidad Urbanística, managed by the Dirección de Desarrollo Urbano, Ecología y Ordenamiento Territorial. The requirements for this procedure can be found at

Building Regulations: COS and CUS

Other Aspects to Consider

Navarro explains that both the Dictamen de Trazos, Usos y Destinos Específicos and the Constancia de Compatibilidad Urbanística contain information, rules and additional restrictions that must be considered in the design of a project. These factors are divided into Transformados (covering the number of levels that are allowed in that area, maximum number of homes, notifications of public infrastructure such as roads, pipelines, hydraulic lines and electrical, as well as other types of limiting factors to the front, side and rear) and Natural (covering information concerning endemic vegetation, beaches and federal areas and runoff, streams or bodies of water in the area).


“The COS and CUS are important to harmonious development and guarantee a suitable density for each area of the city. Investors are especially interested in knowing these factors because they indicate the potential of a plot and, of course, translate into an economic matter. However, it is important to mention that anyone interested in developing should be aware of this issue, and if they undertake an architectural project, that they should seek advice from professionals who can support them and take the necessary steps for the project to be built in accordance with the regulations. If a construction does not respect these guidelines, it can be shut down and, therefore, put your investment at risk,” Navarro concludes.