The idyllic town of Tulum has long been known as a bastion of environmental reverence and preservation. When the municipality was founded in 2008, legislators were quick to file environmental impact statements and establish construction regulations. Former President Peña Nieto even worked in his final year in office to develop Tulum as Mexico’s first Sustainable Tourism Development Zone (ZDTS). Setting low-density construction guidelines for both residential and commercial zones was a necessary component.
The nature of Tulum
The town of Tulum is widely known for its luscious jungles, pristine white sand beaches, and an array of terrestrial and aquatic flora and fauna. Just three miles south of downtown Tulum is the northern border of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. One of the most diverse regions in all of Mexico, the zone was protected by the federal government in 1986 and established as a UNESCO World Heritage Site the following year.
Sian Ka’an is home to thousands of species of plants, birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish and other marine animals, including many species designated vulnerable or endangered. The extensive and complex aquatic ecosystem of the region is perhaps one of its most unique characteristics. In addition to the Caribbean Sea, there are also wetlands, lagoons, mangroves, and marshes. A section of the Mesoamerican Reef lies along the coast within the Reserve’s border. With more than 80 species of reef-building coral, it is the second-largest barrier reef in the world. The reef supports more than 400 species of fish and an abundance of other marine life. Additionally, there are two fragile underground river systems of freshwater that include cenotes, or sinkholes, that have unique biologic and cultural significance.
Low-density construction guidelines
Once Tulum became an independent municipality, construction and development norms were enacted to protect these vulnerable ecosystems and the biodiversity that is synonymous with the region. Today, there are several low-density construction regulations. Ground coverage limits and height restrictions are pervasive across all development sectors, coupled with minimums for maintenance of existing foliage and landscaping. Preserving the urban forest serves both as environmental stewardship and esthetic enhancement. Light pollution is also a consideration. Restrictions on light illumination not only reduces the impact on electrical infrastructure but allows people to remain connected with nature and the night sky.
A low-density construction community
Lúum Zama is a prime example of sustainable development design within the exclusive residential zone of Aldea Zamá. The master plan of Lúum Zama calls for no less than 60 percent of the natural habitat to be maintained. This means that no more than 40 percent of the land will be constructed. This reduction in clear-cutting helps to minimize the potential impact to the ecosystem while also reducing the impact on residents’ privacy. There will be ample space between each of the single-family and multi-family homes, with numerous walking trails among native plants. The use of sustainable or renewable construction materials is also recommended. The natural environment is a crucial design consideration both within the structure as well as the surrounds of each residence in Lúum Zama. Puerta Azul, Essentia and Templia are three developments situated on this community that follow the low-density construction guidelines.
Living the dream
Living in a low-density region doesn’t just mean that you are living in a place that will never get over-crowded. It also means that you can do your part to contribute to environmental stewardship and protection. It means that you can live in harmony with the natural environment.