By Eduardo Hernandez Ochoa
The State of Quintana Roo is virtually covered with dense vegetation such as high or medium jungle or mangroves, and a rich variety of plant and wildlife make their home there. So, the construction of new, large-scale developments–even though necessary–has often led to a vigorous difference of opinions within the community.
Which leads us to a vital question: if these new developments are needed to house a growing population, how can we make them so that they nurture nature while still offering an attractive product and reasonable price? It is crucial that developers include the following points in their projects, and that buyers consider them when deciding where to buy:
Sustainable development does not mean just caring for nature, it also includes:
- The ecological aspect: what most of us understand by the word “sustainability”–the care and conservation of the ecosystems and biodiversity.
- The social aspect: involving inclusion of the local community and their culture in order to have a positive impact on them and their quality of life.
- The economic aspect: includes fair trade practices and preference for local producers and businesses, all founded on maintaining and conserving natural resources.
It is vitally important to ensure that the new developments have a positive impact on the place where they are constructed. This is achieved by offering social programs to benefit the community that is already established in the immediate and surrounding areas. It also requires creating master plans for development projects that include integration of existing on-site ecosystems (for example, leaving existing trees instead of cutting them down to plant grass and palm trees). Today, this ecological awareness is in fact highly prized by the final consumer, and it increases the perceived value of the properties. Cancun is a good example, since in the southern section of the city we see developments that have almost no green areas, and on Huayacan avenue there are others that have successfully differentiated themselves by integrating parks and paths while still preserving most of the native vegetation. We see something similar in Playa del Carmen, where most of the west side projects have very little or no vegetation, while developments such as Playacar and Ciudad Mayakoba have maintained a significant percentage of green and ecological conservation areas.
Moreover, today there is a strong trend toward inclusive living. Although we may not be aware of it, this already happens in many environments: residents still living in closed, security-gated developments go out and interact with each other in “common areas”, such as shopping centers, restaurants, and supermarkets, etc. The difference today is that the new developments now umbrella everything inside a grand project with the same name, so what was before perhaps known as “neighborhoods”, or “barrios”, has today become a “planned community”.
It must be remembered that ease of mobility of residents, visitors and service staff is vital; merely conducting traffic studies and complying with municipal code regulations is not enough anymore. Developers must understand their social commitment so that, together with the community and the authorities, they can find new and better ways for people to travel to and from to their homes. This becomes even more important when the distance from the security gate to inside the development is several kilometers. A system of on-site bike paths has already become the norm in the Cancun and Riviera Maya region, but there is still an even greater opportunity to create connectivity between residential developments and places of interest, such as cultural centers, malls, and schools, among others. Pedestrian walkways can be easily integrated by creating a natural, attractive urban landscaping design.
Without a doubt, the use of eco-technologies has been on everyone’s wish list, but the prohibitive cost has made it impossible for them to be included in most developments. However, the availability of more efficient, cost-effective products has made it so that they can now be included on the required scale, even in middle-income residential developments. Long-term non-renewable energy savings are the greatest benefit of using the new eco-technologies.
QUALITY OF LIFE
Certainly, the most important goal is to improve the quality of life of future residents by offering shorter travel times, extensive green areas, more social interaction spaces for different age groups and, in general, better master plans for developments.
We are moving away from developers who once made decisions on a spreadsheet based on profitable financial models, to today’s environmentally and socially-conscious developers who understand that sustainability of their projects is a fundamental part of their profitability. In fact, sustainability is just as important as profitability, since it is essential to achieving a better quality of life for homebuyers and social integration within the ecological environment of the community and city. With these factors in mind, first-rate, innovative developments are being planned for the different market segments, and developers who do not make the change soon will surely be left behind.