Worldwide, the travel industry is a $7.6 trillion market (2014), representing 9.8% of the world GDP. The industry employs more than 270 million people, or nearly 1 in every 11 jobs on the planet. It’s no wonder that for many regions of the world, new luxury developments catering to the travel economy continues at an accelerated pace.
Many sought-after tourist destinations, particularly those in the Caribbean and Central America, are beloved for their rich ecologic diversity and cultural heritage. While ecotourism has grown significantly in countries such as Costa Rica and Belize in the past decade, so too has the pace of commercial and residential development.
The places we treasure for their innate beauty are also the most at risk for being over exploited for economic gain. These gems are located in coastal, tropical, and ecologically sensitive regions of the world and are as susceptible to the visible blow of a bulldozer as they are to the less direct, but perhaps more damaging impacts of climate change. So how do we protect and conserve the places we love? How do we grow and not exceed ecological limits? How can we preserve the past, prosper in the present, and protect for our future? The challenge and opportunity of sustainability has taken center stage for the globally expanding resort development industry.
On the heels of COP21 and increased global awareness and commitment to reduce carbon, development with a purpose has finally found paradise. A powerful and much needed kinship between pioneering real-estate developers and cultural heroes has begun to converge to temper the negative impacts of tourism with more lasting, balanced and sensible sustainable lifestyle solutions.
Take for example the Chileno Bay Club in Los Cabos, Mexico, where the developers have integrated LED lighting and solar panels to deliver cost effective energy efficiency and carbon reductions for homeowners.
And in Park City Utah, developer Sean Kelleher’s Echo Spur project is marrying functional design with advancements in building materials, water management, energy efficiency and solar in an effort to deliver more affordable sustainable living options for buyers. The “eco-sensitive” Echo Spur project appeals to both the ecologic and economic impact of the development on the local environment and on buyer’s pocketbooks. The project is said to have lower monthly ownership costs because the homes use less energy and are constructed to have lower maintenance costs.
This past month I caught-up with Colin Hannan of the Foundry Collective, a development group and operator of experiential hotels and resorts, about how his firm is accelerating residential solar projects in Belize through their new developer financing option for buyers.
Mr. Hannan’s second luxury development in Belize, Itz’ana Resort & Residences (named after the Mayan god of Day and Night), will be comprised of 66 luxury waterfront cottages and villas once completed. Located in the coastal village of Placencia, Belize, Itz’ana Resort and Residences is nestled on 16 miles of Caribbean peninsula bordered by sea on one side, and lagoon on the other. Itz’ana’s cottages and villas feature architectural design by Boston-based architect, Roberto de Oliveira Castro, who is native to the Central American region.
Mr. Hannan remarked, “…Sustainability is a common thread in all the work we do at the Foundry Collective. At Itz’ana we saw an unmet need to make solar a more accessible and affordable opportunity for our customers. Local-level banking and financing in Central American countries like Belize is challenging, often requiring more time and cost than most investors are willing to tolerate. So we created our own developer financing model as a solution to accelerate the solar opportunity at Itz’ana. It provides an immediate finance option for our customer, it deepens our commitment for sustainable development in Belize, and it aligns with our long-standing values and commitment at the Foundry Collective to be a premier developer of sustainable luxury real-estate.”
Mr. Hannan noted that many of their buyers frequently asked for other sustainable options. In response, and to make carbon-reduction technologies more attractive to buyers of luxury homes, the Foundry Collective team created the developer financing option.
Mr. Hannan added, “We work hard to bring a progressive mindset to all of our developments. We’re committed to incorporating sustainable value into the design, operation and complete experience for all of our properties. We get inspired by the local community and our customers. We listen to their needs and goals – and work hard to reach mutual, dignified outcomes. We take our responsibility very seriously and have discovered that buyers and communities are responding very favourably to our shared values.”
Colin Hannan and his brother Ronan grew up in a small rural town in central Ireland. Perhaps it was there, deep in the Emerald Isle, where their strong values for the environment and sustainable development were shaped. Like Belize, Ireland has a strong sense of place, culture, and character that permeates its landscape and people. The Hannan’s personify the preservation of cultural integrity with a social purpose. Their growing portfolio of resorts and development properties including the Itz’ana and are designed to deliver memorable experiences and sustainable value.
And those shared values and buyer-friendly finance options are resulting in sales. Phase one of Itz’ana, which included 39 residences ranging from $295,000 to $1 million, is 75% under contract. The Foundry Collective has launched the second and final phase at Itz’ana, which will include 27 additional residences ranging from one-bedroom cottages to five-bedroom villas.
But for Mr. Hannan, his journey is about much more than simply making the sale. Everything in real-estate is local, as someone once aptly noted. And responsible real-estate development at the local-level is gaining momentum throughout the world. It’s not only about building “greener,” more efficient structures. Leading practitioners of progressive real-estate development have come to understand that sustainability is also about assessing (and addressing) all facets of where and how people live, play, work, entertain and rejuvenate. As principles of sustainability have infiltrated the business of real-estate, forward-thinking developers like the Foundry Collective have realized that it’s about enriching the entire ecosystem.